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SOLD – 1973 Fiat 500

  • 1973 Fiat 500
  • One owner between 1978 and 2015
  • Recently restored at a cost of over £17,000
  • Offered with original handbook and documentation

Retained by a single owner between 1978 and 2015, this charming Fiat 500 – known as ‘Luigi’ – was fully restored during 2016. The work is itemised within the car’s history file and involved completely stripping it down and having the bodyshell dipped. Any metalwork repairs were then taken care of before the painstaking reassembly process could begin.

Many of the replacement items were sourced from parts specialist Ricambio. A new wiring loom was made up, and everything from door seals and sound deadening to the carpets and hub caps were replaced. A new luggage rack was fitted, plus a new windscreen and four fresh tyres, and when the work was completed in 2016 the final total was more than £17,000.

The result is that this Fiat 500 is now in exceptional condition. Chassis number 3088475 was first registered (FED 586L) in the UK on 1 June 1973 in the name of J Prescott, and it was subsequently sold to a Mrs J Houghton on 1 December of that year.

Freshly restored and ready to be enjoyed, this Fiat 500 is now being offered for sale with a wealth of period documentation, including the Owner’s Handbook and the original Warranty and Service Book. It even still has its Fiat Safe Motoring Hints book and the Worldwide Service Guide.

With its instantly recognisable styling and ‘back to basics’ driving experience, it has the ability to put a smile on the face on even the most hardened of classic-car enthusiasts and is still just as good at zipping around city streets as it is country lanes.

Model history

During the 1950s, a number of European manufacturers introduced ‘economy’ models, but few had the enduring success of the Fiat 500. Launched in 1957 as the spiritual successor to the front-engined 500 ‘Topolino’, the Nuova 500 was largely based on the architecture of the Fiat 600. That car had been unveiled two years previously, and the 500 would share its rear-engined layout and unitary construction.

But the 500 was even smaller, and in place of the 600’s water-cooled, 633cc, four-cylinder engine, there was an air-cooled, 479cc ‘twin’. The design had been overseen by Dante Giacosa and the 500 would be developed into a wide range of different variations, including the Giardiniera estate and the Furgoncino panel van – both of which proved popular despite their diminutive size.

The first major step came with the 500 D, which replaced the Nuova in 1960 and came with an uprated 499cc engine. Then there was the 500 F, with front-hinged doors rather than the ‘suicide’ doors found on the D, and in 1967 came the better-equipped 500 L, which was intended to offer a few more creature comforts than could be found on other models.

Even though Fiat had launched the 126 in October 1972 as a replacement for the 500, the original car lived on until 1976. The final variant was the 500 R, which shared the 126’s 595cc engine but was more sparsely equipped than the 500 L had been.

Although it was intended to be an affordable city car for the burgeoning post-war European market, the 500 turned out to be a surprisingly effective competition car. Abarth famously developed it into models such as the highly tuned 695 SS, which had extensive engine upgrades, flared arches to accommodate wider wheels and tyres, and buzzed around circuits and up hillclimbs to great effect with its engine cover distinctively propped open.

The quality of Giacosa’s basic design enabled the 500 to fulfil both briefs – urban runaround and motorsport tearaway – equally well. Even though it’s almost 50 years since it went out of production, the Fiat 500 remains an instantly recognisable classic with an appeal that is both timeless and classless.

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