Post-war 1950s motoring was dominated by a class of car that we now refer to as the ‘people’s car’. It was a time for living life and mobilising the masses. America saw the birth of the Tri-Five Chevrolet, while Germany and France employed pre-war designs in the form of the Volkswagen Beetle and Citroën 2CV. The British plodded along in dated machinery until the Mini launched in 1959, and the Italians used Fiat Toppolinos when they needed more than a scooter to lug the family around – until ’57 that is, when the Fiat 500 (or Cinquecento) hit the road.
Over the years, the Dante Giacosa-designed 500 evolved, but from the first 1957 Nuova (new) 500 through to the swansong 500 R of 1975, very little changed. Sure, the Nuova became the 500 D in 1960 where it lost its full-length fabric sunroof, got window winders and gained an extra 4hp to total 17 thanks to a bigger 499cc power unit, but the overall platform of the saloon remained basically the same. Fiat did however add some versatility with the introduction of a station wagon version known as the Giardiniera or 500K in 1960, which remained in manufacture until 1975 and was crowned the longest-running 500 production unit. But back to the saloon 500. Even before D production came to an end the 500 F, also known as the Berlina, hit the streets. Changes were minimal again, with the most notable being the fitment of ‘normal’ non-suicide doors. A new model, the 500 L or Lusso, was launched in 1968 and overlapped F sales until 1972 when it gave way to the 500 R (Rinnovata). The L differed from the F with a more modern interior and a chrome nudge bar above the bumper.