If they dished out Oscars for cuteness, the adorable Topolino would surely be head of the queue. A masterpiece of minimalist engineering, it was the brainchild of Fiat boss Senator Giovanni Agnelli who, in 1934, envisaged a small mass-produced ‘people’s car’ capable of carrying two people in comfort with 50kg (110 lbs) of luggage. The task was entrusted to 29-year-old Dante Giacosa, an ace engineer who had cut his teeth in Fiat’s aeronautical department and was now a fast rising star of the car division (by 1946 he was director of engineering for the whole company). Launched in 1936, the resulting Fiat 500 (quickly dubbed the ‘Topolino’ or ‘Little Mouse’) was an instant classic, bristling with space saving ingenuity and engineering subtlety. The coachwork was largely the work of chief stylist, Rudolfo Schaffer, and not only looked gorgeous but also endowed the car with great strength when bolted to Giacosa’s chassis. It was powered by a 569cc four-cylinder, side-valve, water-cooled engine mounted ahead of the front axle, with the radiator located behind the engine where it doubled as the interior heater. Although it developed a modest 13bhp, it could still reach 55mph and cover 50 miles on a single gallon of petrol. Transmission was via a four-speed gearbox, with independent front suspension, 12-volt electrics and Lockheed hydraulic brakes. Best of all was the roll-top canvas roof which turned it into almost a full convertible.
Add in the low price of just 120 at launch and it’s no wonder that the little mouse was a huge success, selling over 120,000 units before a major redesign in 1948. Dating from 1937 (the second year of production), this is an original right-hand drive example.
Surely one of the earliest surviving examples, and in superb condition all round this wonderful Topolino has been with the current vendor since 1992.The interior has been expertly re-trimmed in red leather while the folding-roof frame has an additional summer time accessory which acts as a sun shield. Charming.
An insurance valuation from the Fiat Motor Club GB states that the car should be insured for 25,000. It comes with the aforementioned restoration file, and a variety of bills and receipts. The car has won numerous concours awards and trophies over the last 5 years. Being an early 500A model, it is also on the eligibility list for the prestigious Mille Miglia event. Altogether a delightful little car that is guaranteed to melt hearts and win friends everywhere it goes.