Fiat 500 History

Article by Mark Trotta

Small, inexpensive, and practical, the Fiat 500 was produced in Turin, Italy from 1957 to 1975. Throughout it's 18-year run, several distinct models were offered, including the Nouva, Lusso, Giardiniera, and others.

Fiat 500 history

Nouva 500 (1957-1961)

Designed by Dante Giacosa, the Nuova 500 replaced the 500 Topolino, which was produced by Fiat from 1936 to 1955. The rear-engine, four-seat car featured a fabric roof which folded to the rear of the vehicle.

Fiat 500 history

The Fiat 500 gets it's name from it's engine displacement, which was actually 479cc. It was also known as the Cinquecento (Italian for 500). The two-cylinder motor produced 13 horsepower, which gave the little car a top speed of about 53 mph.

Fiat 500 Doors

The early part of the 500's production featured reverse, or 'suicide' doors, with hinges at the rear of the door. This lasted until 1965, when they were replaced by safer, more conventional front-hinge doors.

Fiat 500 with suicide doors

Fiat 500D (1960-1965)

The 500-D replaced the Nuova and featured an upgraded 499cc engine producing 17 horsepower. The roof was also different in that the standard D roof did not fold back as far as the Nuova roof. However, customers could order the "Transformable" option, thus getting the original, longer retractable roof.

Fiat 500 D model with reverse doors

500 Giardiniera (1960-1968)

A longer wheelbase model called the Giardiniera arrived in 1960. The rear-mounted engine sat low enough to allow ample room for storage.

Fiat 500 Giardiniera

The Giardiniera's reverse doors continued until production's end, and was the only model not to switch to conventional front-hinged doors.

500 Lusso (1967-71)

A more richly trimmed version, the 500 Lusso (Italian for luxury), debuted in 1967. These are easily distinguishable by their front and rear bumper guards, which made them slightly longer than previous models.

Introduction of the Fiat 126

Debuting in 1972, Fiat's new 126 offered a larger 594cc engine, improved safety, and more interior space. Sales of the 500 quickly trailed off. The 500 now shared the 126's larger engine, and would be sold alongside the 126 for another two years before it was discontinued.

Fiat 500 history

Fiat 500 Dimensions

Fiat 500 Production

After eighteen years of production, a total of 3,893,294 Fiat 500's were built. According to the manufacturer, as many as 400,000 examples are still registered, mostly in their native country of Italy.

Fiat 500 history


New Fiat 500

In March of 2007, Fiat unveiled an all-new 'retro' 500 model. Much like the Mini Cooper, the new version is significantly larger than the original, and features modern powertrain, suspension, braking, and necessary safety features.


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