Tuesday 28 June 2011
To meet the demands of the post-war market which called for economy cars, the Fiat 500 was rear-engined on the pattern of the Volkswagen Beetle, just like its bigger brother, the 1955 Fiat 600. Several car makers followed the now uncommon rear engine configuration at the time and were quite successful. The Neckar version manufactured in Heilbronn under a complicated deal involving NSU, was introduced in October 1961. In Upper Austria the firm of Steyr-Puch also produced cars based, by agreement, on the Fiat 500.
Despite its diminutive size, the 500 proved to be an enormously practical and popular vehicle throughout Europe. Besides the two-door coupé, it was also available as the "Giardiniera" station wagon; this variant featured the standard engine laid on its side, the wheelbase lengthened by 10 cm (4 in) which yielded a usable rear seat, a full-length sunroof, and larger brakes from the Fiat 600.
Sports models were famously produced by Abarth, as well as by Giannini. An Austrian variant, produced by Steyr-Daimler-Puch, the 1957–1969 Steyr-Puch 500, had a motorcycle-derived Puch boxer twin motor, a sports model of which was the 1964–1968 Steyr-Puch 650 TR2.
Production of the 500 ended in 1975, although its replacement, the Fiat 126, was launched two years earlier. The 126 was never as popular as its predecessor in Italy, but was (and still is) enormously popular in the former Eastern Bloc countries, where it is famed for its mechanical durability and high fuel economy.
- engine: 2 cylinders
- capacity: 500 cc
- horsepower: 24 HP
- gearbox: 4+1
- top speed: 100 km/h