Is The Fiat 500 The World’s Most Charming Car?
Story by Edoardo Mascalchi; photos by Edoardo Mascalchi and Francesco Giovannini; video by Marco Pagani
In Italy it is quite common to find an old, well-worn Fiat Cinquecento, so we decided to find you something more special. So what makes this 1963 Nuova Fiat 500 D special? Its restoration.
Today, we meet again our friend Damiano, you will remember him for his fantastic Alfa Romeo Giulia GT Junior 1300. He surprised us with a historical model that seems (and smells!) newer than my Peugeot RCZ, despite being 50 years old. His Fiat 500 D, after two years of renovation, looks perfect, the attention to every detail is at the highest level. The repainted body has received further surface treatment and now is more glossy and resistant to pollutants and dirt.
The interior is also totally restored, respecting the history of the car in every detail. Even the remanufactured engine is ready to grind many kilometers, everything has been taken care of. You can even find the stickers that remind of speed limits to be observed during the break-in period, and the small card under the steering wheel that recommends what oil to use and when to change it. For the first time, I’m able to experience a brand-new car…from 1963.
You may ask, “Why is this a ‘Nuova’ (Italian for new) 500”? Here, Nuova was added to differentiate this model from the 500 Topolino. The first model of this all-new car was presented in 1957 and named “Nuova 500 N”—but had a totally cheap equipment level and cost an amount equal to 13 salaries of a worker of the time.
After the presentation of the first model, in the following years the range expanded to include the faster Sport and the Giardiniera wagon, the latter made for those who needed more space. In 1960, the “Nuova 500 D” was presented. Sold in sedan and Giardiniera version and equipped with the previous ‘Sport’ version’s engine, the new model presented lots of new accessories and improved comfort for driver and passengers.
No matter what year it’s from, however, the 500 marked a turning point in the way the Italians have thought about the car. In the early ’60s, Italy finally saw post-was rebirth with the so-called economic “boom”—and the problems of getting around were becoming more prominent.
Vespa and Lambretta scooters were a success, yes, but not to satisfy the real need for a car. Fiat at that time showed the 600 (which replaced the Topolino) but it was evident that it, because of the high cost, was not going to cover the workers’ families segment. A “minimal but still a car” solution was needed.
The 500 was this solution. For that fact and the above reasons, Damiano loves his little car.
It seems incredible now to observe that tiny car, and imagine how families were using it to move for the summer holidays, with luggage and everything they needed. Now, the 500 is more than a car, and we still are not surprised that Fiat revived a modern version of the car: its charm is truly timeless.