Better equipped than many cars twice its size, the FIAT 500 – soon nicknamed ‘Topolino’ (mouse) – brought a degree of refinement hitherto unknown to small cars when launched in 1936. Lockheed hydraulic brakes, independent front suspension and 12-volt electrics were all features while an engine mounted ahead of the front axle helped maximise cabin space for the two occupants. The 569cc, four-cylinder, sidevalve motor produced a modest 13bhp but as the Topolino weighed little more than half a ton it could nevertheless manage a respectable 50mph-plus under favourable conditions. For most buyers though, the frugal (up-to-50mpg) fuel consumption would have been the major attraction. Introduced in 1946, the 500B featured a more powerful (16.5bhp) overhead-valve engine that would be carried over to the Topolino’s final incarnation – the restyled 500C of 1949, which was the first FIAT model to offer a heating/de-misting system as standard. At the same time as the 500B was introduced, a Giardiniera estate car (also known as the Belvedere) was added to the range, offering four-seat accommodation as well as increased luggage space.
Equipped with the superior overhead-valve engine, these later Topolinos were genuine 60mph cars, though no less economical than their predecessors. Highly impressed by the little Fiat’s capabilities, Autocar concluded its 1949 test report on a Giardiniera most favourably: ‘…this exceptionally small car is a highly attractive proposition, whether it be judged on the score of pleasure in driving, economy or all-round utility,’ which pretty much sums up its appeal today.
The vendor advises us that he purchased this charming Topolino from its previous owner of in Italy where it has resided its entire life. Restored while in the previous owner’s care, the car is attractively finished in green with red interior and fabric roof. Offered with a UK NOVA.