Sunday 7 February 2016
The Fiat 600 (Italian: Seicento, pronounced say-chento) is a city car produced by the Italian manufacturer Fiat from 1955 to 1969. Measuring only 3.22 m (10 ft 7 in) long, it was the first rear-engined Fiat and cost the equivalent of about €6,700 or US$7300 in today's money (590,000 lire then). The total number produced from 1955 to 1969 at the Mirafiori plant in Turin was 2,695,197. During the 1960s, '70s and '80s, the car became very popular in countries such as Spain (as SEAT 600), where it became the icon, par excellence, of the Spanish miracle, Argentina, where it was nicknamed Fitito (a diminutive of FIAT) and former Yugoslavia where it was nicknamed Fićo (pronounced [fee-cho]).
Codenamed Progetto 100 ("Project 100"), the Fiat 600 mirrored the layout of the Volkswagen Beetle and Renault 4CV of its era. Aimed at being an economical but capable vehicle, its design parameters stipulated a weight of around 450 kg with the ability to carry 4 people and luggage plus a cruising speed of no less than 85 km/h. A total of 5 prototypes were built between 1952 and 1954, which all differed from one another. Chassis number 000001 with engine number 000002 is believed to be the sole remaining example, according to a recent report by Quattroruote's "Ruoteclassiche" vintage division. It was powered by an innovative single-cam V2-cylinder engine designed to simplify maintenance and did not feature a clutch pedal. At the official launch in 1955, FIAT engineer, Dante Giacosa declared that the aim had been to create something new, both in the interest of progress and simplification. This prototype, however, did not become the chosen design.
The car had hydraulic drum brakes on all four wheels. Suspension was a unique single double-mounted leafspring—which acts as a stabilizer—between the front wheels coupled to gas-charged shock absorbers, and an independent coil-over-shock absorber setup coupled to semi-trailing arms at the rear. All 600 models had 3-synchro (no synchro on 1st) 4-speed transaxles. Unlike the Volkswagen Beetle or Fiat 500, the Fiat 600 is water-cooled with an ample cabin heater and, while cooling is generally adequate, for high-power modified versions a front-mounted radiator or oil cooler is needed to complement the rear-mounted radiator. All models of the 600 had generators with mechanical external regulators.
The top speed ranged from 95 km/h (59 mph) empty with the 633 cc inline-four engine to 110 km/h (68 mph) with the 767 cc version. The car had good ventilation and defrosting systems.
A year after its debut, in 1956, a soft-top version was introduced, as well as a six-seater variant—the Fiat 600 Multipla. It was a precursor of current multi-purpose vehicles.
Retrospectively the water-cooled Fiat 600 is sometimes over-shadowed by the air-cooled Fiat 500, but the 600 was a remarkably fast seller in its time: the millionth 600 was produced in February 1961, less than six years after the car's launch. At the time when the millionth car was produced, the manufacturer reported it was producing the car at the then remarkable rate of 1,000 a day. As of 2011 there are only 65 left in the UK that are road legal.
- engine: 4 cylinders
- capacity: 633 cc
- horsepower: 22 HP
- gearbox: 3+1
- top speed: 95 km/h