The “Cinquecento” was initially introduced with a 479cc two-cylinder engine and lived through various technical modifications over the course of its 18-year production run. The designer behind the 500 was Dante Giacosa, who was famed for being one of the greatest designers in Fiat’s history who not only dealt with the car design, but also had a big hand in the engineering. A cheap and practical town car, the Nuova (new) 500 was debuted in July 1957 and is considered one of the first city cars and lasted until 1960. Giacosa was extremely motivated to construct a car that packed more into a smaller space and he did this by making the engine mount at the rear side. It featured a smaller two-cylinder engine than all newer models, and produced just 13 bhp. The Nuova featured a fabric roof that folded entirely back to the rear of the car, similar to the Citroën 2CV. It was one of three models that came with ‘suicide doors’.
With kart-like handling, the four-seat 500 was powered by an air-cooled 479cc flat twin, which eventually was boosted to 499cc that gave 18 bhp. With a top speed of 55mph, the 500 was an incredibly popular and practical vehicle of choice throughout Europe. Weighing at only 1,100 pounds, the 500 had a wheelbase of 72.4 inches, a length of 116.9 inches, a width and height of 52.0 inches. The 500 had a Cx (aerodynamic resistance coefficient) of 0,38, which was quite impressive for the era.
The ‘D’ replaced the original Nuova in 1960. Similar in appearances to the car it replaced, two differences set the models apart: the engine size and the roof. The D came with an uprated 499 cc engine that produced 17 hp as standard and continued to be used until the end of the L in 1973. The roof for the D didn’t fold back as far as the Nuova, but the earlier roof was available as the ‘Transformable’. The D also came with ‘suicide doors’. Torino Motors assembled the 500D in New Zealand and it was locally dubbed the ‘Fiat Bambina’.
The Fiat 500 F or Berlina was produced from 1965 until 1973 and spans two period of 500 production, the D and the L. Because of the two production periods, the F model is very easily confused and misidentified. The F sported the same badging as the D from 1965 until 1969, but the two models can be easily told apart by the positioning of their door hinges. The F produced from June 1965 finally featured front-hinged doors while the D has ‘suicide doors’. From ’69 until ’72 the F was sold next to the Lusso models as the less expensive ‘base model’ version. There wasn’t much mechanically different from the F and L, but the main differences lay in the bumpers and the interior. The L had an extra chrome nudge bar, and the inside of the L featured a fresher updated look while the F interior didn’t change from the original 1957 design. Reputed to be the smallest car to complete a world circumnavigation, a 1969 Fiat 500 travelled 32,000 road kilometers in less than 100 days.