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History of the Fiat 500Back

This week, the 500,000th Fiat 500L rolled off the production line at Fiat’s plant in Kragujevac in Serbia.

The landmark car was a Fiat 500L Cross 1.6 MultiJet 120hp in Sicilian Orange sporting a black roof. Launched in 2012 and given a facelift in 2017, the 500L has remained top of its segment in Europe for the past 5 years.

To celebrate the overall success of the iconic Fiat 500, we’re taking a look back at its history, from its initial launch back in 1957, through to its latest model produced in 2015.

1957: The Fiat 500 is born

The original Fiat 500 was originally launched in July 1957 and was first known as the ‘Cinquecento’. Designed by Dante Giacosa, the Cinquecento was created by the Fiat company to provide a cheap, functional and economical town car to the people of post-war Italy.

Measuring just over 9 feet long, the Fiat 500 or ‘Bambina’ as it was commonly known, was considered one of the first real city cars. Built to satisfy a demand for economy cars in a post-war market, the rear-engined Fiat 500 followed the concept of the Volkswagen Beetle. Such was the success of the Fiat 500, it was used as a template for other car makers across Europe and proved to be enormously popular during the 1960s and 1970s.

The first cars were made as economically as possible and designed with as two-seater vehicles with suicide doors and a 499cc engine with 13hp, providing a top speed of just 53mph. The initial vehicles did not prove a huge success so Fiat introduced two new versions in December 1957 known as the Economica and Normale.

Fiat 500N & Fiat 500 Sport (1958-1960)

It wasn’t until production of the Fiat 500N (Nuova) in 1958 that the car became hugely popular, thanks to a host of improvements to include an opening sunroof.

From 1958 to 1960, Fiat also produced a Sport model of the 500 which was white with red bands on each side. It also featured a 499 cc engine, but with 21.5hp and an all-in-one metal roof (standard Fiat 500 versions had a fold-back canvas tops).

Fiat 500 D (1960 – 1965)

In 1960, due to popular demand, Fiat produced a new model known as the Fiat 500 D which looked very similar to the 500N but sported some subtle differences such as an ashtray, padded sun visors and a washer pump. It also had suicide doors and sported a rear badge Fiat 500 nuova in joined-up writing and rubber floor mats.

Fiat 500K (1960 – 1975)

As well as the coupe, the Fiat 500 was manufactured as an estate known as the ‘Giardiniera’ or Fiat 500K. Features of the estate version included a full-length sunroof, larger brakes taken from its predecessor, the Fiat 600, and an engine that was laid on its side under the floor in the boot area to create a flat loading surface.

Fiat 500 F (1965 – 1968)

In March 1965, the Fiat 500F was introduced which eliminated the famous suicide doors (doors hinged at the rear) due to safety aspects. The silver trim on the bonnet disappeared and the lights were more square with the windscreen made larger to improve driver visibility. The speedometer was also modified up to 120km/hr.

Fiat 500L (1968-1972)

The Fiat 500L, known as the Lusso, was mechanically very similar to the F, but its key difference was its bumper. The L had an extra chrome nudge bar at the front and two at the rear as well as a more modern interior, a new black steering wheel and an almost square instrument panel with a plastic revised dashboard, a speedometer up to 130 km/he, reclining seats and carpeting.

Fiat 500R (1972-1975)

The Fiat 500 R or Rinnovata was produced with a larger 594cc engine and an output of 23hp. It also came with a syncromesh gearbox, which allowed for smoothe driving. The unique chrome nudge bars from the L models were taken away, and the interior was very similar to the 500F models.

1975: Production ends

Production of the Fiat 500 finally ceased in 1975 following the launch two years earlier of its replacement, the Fiat 126. Despite its small size, the Cinquecento proved highly popular with almost 4 million cars produced from launch.  Some of the engines from the original model are still used in Fiat 500 classic cars of today as they are well known for their mechanical durability, higher bhp and enhanced fuel economy.

2007: The Fiat 500 is reborn

In 2007, more than 30 years after the Fiat 500 ceased production, the Italian makers decided to reinvent one of their most iconic cars. The new Fiat 500 was a modern interpretation of the original vehicle but will some notable changes. The rear mounted engine was replaced with an engine in the front, in line with most modern cars. Based heavily on Fiat’s Panda, it sported many of the popular features such as the centre dash and gearshift lever.

One of the biggest changes in the new Fiat 500 was that buyers could now choose from over 500,000 personalisation combination options to make their car unique, such as exterior and interior colours and trims, in line with rivals such as the BMW MINI.

2015: The second generation Fiat 500 goes on sale

In September 2015, the face lifted Fiat 500 was released which offered a host of design tweaks and a range of new engines with low emissions. The interior was also uch improved with upmarket materials and upholstery and a refreshed dash. A new ‘Uconnect’ infotainment screen was introduced with six speakers and a USB/AUX connection, with options to update this to include Bluetooth, DAB and sat nav with certain trim levels.

The Fiat 500 has become one of the biggest-selling small cars in Britain, successful due to its style and looks as well as its on road performance and practicality.

Posted by Leana Kell on 28/02/2018