Fiat 500 Topolino, Fiat 500, Fiat Panda: Little Italian

Fiat 500 Topolino, Fiat 500, Fiat Panda: Little Italian

Three models that have provided mobility for generations at home

They were practical and, most importantly, cheap. With the 500 Topolino and the Nuovo 500, FIAT managed to put the whole of Italy on wheels. Later, Panda took on a similar task.

These two are well aware of their influence - Topolino and 500. Because they know that with their charm they definitely like women who often stare at them a little longer than usual in other cars. This, of course, is noticed by Panda, whose angular face seems to be casting jealous looks today. As if he wants to shout, "I also deserve love." It is also a bestseller and, moreover, has long been referred to as a design icon. And in general, it is almost identical to other kids - an economical and affordable small car, completely in the original spirit of Topolino and Cinquecento.

A small car for everyone - whether it was an early 1930s idea from Benito Mussolini or from a boss Fiat Giovanni Agnelli, we may never know for sure. One wanted to stimulate motorization in Italy for political reasons, while the other wanted sales data and, of course, the capacity utilization of his plant in the Lingoto area of ​​Turin. Be that as it may, under the leadership of the young designer Dante Giacosa, the Italian manufacturer created and presented the Fiat 15 on June 1936, 500, which was quickly nicknamed the Topolino - "mouse" by the people, because the headlights on the wings resemble Mickey Mouse ears. The Fiat 500 is the smallest and cheapest car on the Italian market and lays the foundations for mass mobility - from now on, having a car is not only a privilege for the rich.

Fiat 500 Topolino - four-cylinder mini-engine with 16,5 hp

Klaus Türk's green Fiat 500 C from Nürtingen is the third (and final) version of the former bestseller, introduced in 1949 and produced until 1955. Although the headlights are already integrated into the fenders, the car is still called the Topolino, and not only in its home country. “However, the technical base is still in line with the first version,” explains the Fiat fan.

If you first look at the engine bay, you can assume that the 569cc four-cylinder engine is See installed incorrectly - small unit with 16,5 hp. (instead of the original 13 hp) is indeed in front of the front axle, and the radiator is facing rearward and slightly upward. “Everything is all right,” the Turk assures us. This arrangement allowed for the aerodynamically rounded front of the 500 while making the water pump unnecessary. However, on more severe climbs, the driver must monitor the engine temperature more closely.

The tank is also located in the front, or rather above the legroom. Since the carburetor is located lower, the Topolino does not need a gas pump. “In the end, the designers of the third edition of Topolino gave it an aluminum cylinder head and heating system,” says owner Klaus Türk, who offers us a short test drive.

Despite the general claim that the Topolino is a miracle of interior space, with a cabin width of less than 1,30 m, the conditions inside are quite intimate. Since we have already opened the folding soft roof, then at least there is enough headroom. The gaze immediately stops on two circular gauges, the left of which shows the fuel level and engine temperature, and the speedometer is in front of the passenger's eyes next to the driver.

With a rather loud roar, the four-cylinder bonsai engine starts to work and with a small jump the 500 starts unexpectedly quickly. While the car bravely climbs the narrow, steep streets in the old part of Nürtingen, the first two gears require some attention because they are out of sync. According to Turk, it was possible to drive at a speed of 90 km / h, but he himself did not want to subject his Fiat to such tests. “Power of 16,5 hp. you need to enjoy the outside world a little more calmly. "

Fiat Nuova 500: it's like driving a toy car

By the mid-50s, chief designer Dante Giacosa was again faced with a major challenge. The concern is looking for a successor to Topolino, as the basic requirements include the minimum possible space to accommodate four instead of two seats, as well as a rear engine, as in the 1955 Fiat introduced in the 600. To save space, Yakoza decided to use an air-cooled two-cylinder in-line engine, initially with a displacement of 479 cm13,5 and 500 hp. The only similarity between the so-called Nuova 1957 and the model unveiled in XNUMX and its predecessor is a fabric roof with a plastic rear window that could initially open all the way to the bonnet above the engine.

Felbach's Cinquecento Mario Giuliano was produced in 1973, and improvements, which were rarely introduced until the end of the model's life in 1977, included an engine with an increased displacement of 594 hp to 18 cc. ., as well as the roof, which opens only above the front seats, is called "tetto apribile". However, Fiat kept the out-of-sync four-speed gearbox until it liked the responsive bestseller.

However, with a single round speedometer, the Nuova 500 looks even more spartan-equipped than the Topolino. “But that doesn’t in the least change the fun on the road this car provides,” said owner Giuliano, who, as a member of the Fiat 500 board in Felbach, recently organized an international model owners' meeting.

A handful of switches located in a row on the dashboard, a long and thin gear lever, and a fragile steering wheel give the person in the cab the feeling of being in a slightly larger toy model. However, this impression changes as soon as the engine starts. What a (cute) bouncer! Its capacity is only 30 Newton meters, but it publishes as big. Like a weasel, the nimble kid makes his way through the tangled streets of Nürtingen, which clearly resembles his Italian homeland, and the steering and chassis work directly, almost like a go-kart.

A smile instantly appears on the faces of those who see him on this tour, despite the roar from behind that would not forgive many other cars in our time. And while driving, you have no chance of avoiding the "good mood gene", which carries 500.

Fiat Panda also became a bestseller

We miss the Fiat 126, which on closer inspection would prove to be the perfect successor to the Cinquecento, and we land on the Panda, installed in 1986, owned by Dino Minsera of Felbach. There is no doubt that this is a minivan, but compared to the other two kids, this boxy bestseller, introduced in 1980, gives the impression of being on a coach. It has room for four people and some luggage, but it still remains affordable - Fiat once again correctly assessed the country's needs and commissioned Giugiaro to design a reduced-to-the-most important wheelbox - from thin sheet metal with flat windows and surfaces, and in the interior - simple tubular furniture. “The combination of performance and driving pleasure is unique today,” says Minsera, who has been co-driving for twelve years.

The narrow streets of Nürtingen become the scene of the third and final round. The panda jumps on the big asphalt, but with 34 hp. (overhead camshaft!) Compared to its predecessors, it works almost like a controversial car and impresses with its essence - at least that's the impact on the person sitting behind the wheel. But few people take care of her, probably because they once saw her on every corner and have long forgotten how ingenious this machine is.


Editor Michael Schroeder: Let us briefly point out once again the main strength of these three small cars: thanks to their long production periods and large editions, they have provided mobility for generations of Italians. It's just not fair that, unlike the Topolino and the 500, the Panda is still far from a cult icon among small cars.

Text: Michael Schroeder

Photo: Arturo Rivas

technical details

Fiat 500 s.Fiat 500 C Topolin®Fiat Panda 750
Working volume594 cc569 cc770 cc
Power18 k.s. (13 kW) at 4000 rpm16,5 k.s. (12 kW) at 4400 rpm34 k.s. (25 kW) at 5200 rpm


30,4 Nm at 2800 rpm29 Nm at 2900 rpm57 Nm at 3000 rpm

0-100 km / h

33,7 sec (0-80 km / h)-23 s
Braking distances

at a speed of 100 km / h

no datano datano data
Maximum speed97 km / h95 km / h125 km / h
Average consumption

fuel in the test

7,9 l / 100 km5 - 7 l / 100 km5,6 l / 100 km
Base Price€ 11 (in Germany, comp. 000)€ 14 (in Germany, comp. 000)€ 9000 (in Germany, comp. 1)

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