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.
This wonderful example presented in Fiat country green is in very presentable condition and shows just over 45,000 kilometres on the odometer. There weren’t many cars more popular in its day, certainly none that exude the Topolino’s character. Known for its charming looks and superb fun the Topolino we have here is a delightful example and is offered with an Italian libretto.