When the word iconic comes to mind it’s usually describing something that has stood the test of time so when you mention 'The 4th of July’ many will think of the USA but actually it marked the 60th birthday of a car that fits this word perfectly, the Fiat 500.
The Original City Car
The cute, pint-sized car was launched in 1957 designed by legendary doodler Dante Giacosa. Having put his mark onto most of Fiat’s models up to that point, including the Topolino, it actually didn’t get off to the best start for the 500 model.
The Italians were looking for a small family car but upon launch it was too expensive and lacked the luxury they were looking for. It only had two seats for a start, but the more chrome a car had on it in those days, the more luxurious they thought it was.
So back to the drawing board for Giacosa and a new version was brought out with a rear bench seat, suicide doors and a rear-engined, air-cooled, two-cylinder engine which produced 15hp. And a bit more chrome... Italians flocked to buy it and in piled families off to the seaside or on journeys up to the Alps. A star had been born.
A Car For All Tastes
As the years went by suicide doors were replaced by front hinges, a sport version came out, as did the station-wagon ‘Giardiniera’, the gardener’s car, the ‘Furgoncino’ van and the ‘Jolly’, the ultimate beach car.
The car was making its mark not only in Italy but all over the world as over 80% of them were sold outside of Italy in a total of 100 countries.
Nearly 4 million cars later production came to a close in 1975, but that wasn’t to be the final chapter.
On July 4th 2007 Fiat saw the demand for city cars and released a ‘new’ Fiat 500. The quirky car was back in a big way. It had retained many of the original 500 features including the ‘moustache’ front, the round speedo and the simplistic dash.
With a variety of bright colours and personalisation options, Fiat produced a model to stand out on the roads making it an instantly huge hit. They were everywhere with city dwellers flocking to buy them as they were so ideal for zipping around the streets, getting into small parking spaces as well as being economical.
With a refresh in 2015, two million have been sold in 10 years making it one of the best-selling modern city cars.
Celebrating the Fiat 500
With the birthday celebrations in full swing, Fiat have released a special 500 to mark the occasion, the ‘Anniversario’. In two contrasting colours, Riviera Green and Sicilia Orange it’s available as a hatchback or a convertible and takes styling cues from the sixties with retro touches, chrome accents and unique vintage alloy wheels, similar to the ones seen on the original model. They are priced from £14,265 and available to order now.
A special stamp has also been issued by the Republic of Italy, the Museum of Modern Art in New York has bought an original 1967 Fiat 500 F to add to their collection and the actor Adrien Brody also makes an appearance in their latest advertising commercial ‘See you in the future’.
And what of the originals? Nearly 400,000 are still on Italian roads today and they are worth a lot more now than the 490,000 Lira (£222 nowadays but just under £3000 in those days) they were selling for in 1957, with people keen to own a slice of Fiat’s rich history.
60 years ago in Turin a legend was created but the Fiat 500 will be around in another 60 years time, rest assured.