|Description||Fiat Topolino 500A|
|Engine size||569 cc|
If they dished out Oscars for cuteness, the adorable Topolino would surely be head of the queue. A masterpiece of minimalist engineering, it was the brainchild of Fiat boss Senator Giovanni Agnelli who, in 1934, envisaged a small mass-produced ‘people’s car’ capable of carrying two people in comfort with 50kg (110 lbs) of luggage. The task was entrusted to 29-year-old Dante Giacosa, an ace engineer who had cut his teeth in Fiat’s aeronautical department and was now a fast rising star of the car division (by 1946 he was director of engineering for the whole company).
Launched in 1936, the resulting Fiat 500 (quickly dubbed the ‘Topolino’ or ‘Little Mouse’) was an instant classic, bristling with space saving ingenuity and engineering subtlety. The coachwork was largely the work of chief stylist, Rudolfo Schaffer, and not only looked gorgeous but also endowed the car with great strength when bolted to Giacosa’s chassis.
It was powered by a 569cc four-cylinder, side-valve, water-cooled engine mounted ahead of the front axle, with the radiator located behind the engine where it doubled as the interior heater. Although it developed a modest 13bhp, it could still reach 55mph and cover 50 miles on a single gallon of petrol.
Transmission was via a four-speed gearbox, with independent front suspension, 12-volt electrics and Lockheed hydraulic brakes. Best of all was the roll-top canvas roof which turned it into almost a full convertible. Add in the low price of just £120 at launch (when the far less sophisticated Austin Seven cost £112), and it’s no wonder that the little mouse was a huge success, selling over 120,000 units before a major redesign in 1948.
Dating from January 1937 (the second year of production), this is an original UK market right-hand drive car in rare 500A short-chassis form, bearing the car number 3129 on an under-bonnet plaque. Surely one of the earliest surviving examples, it is in superb condition all round after a total nut-and-bolt restoration by its engineer owner between 2005 and 2011.
Virtually every part of the car has been rebuilt or renewed as necessary, the whole process being recorded in the photograph album and large file of bills which accompany the car. The interior has been expertly retrimmed in tan leather while the folding-roof frame has also been chromed to dazzling effect.
Great pains were taken to keep the car as close to original specification as possible, discreetly fitted front and rear indicators being the only noteworthy deviation from standard as a concession to modern road conditions. The whole car now looks absolutely lovely and it has only covered some 400kms since the work was completed. An insurance valuation from the Fiat Motor Club GB dated July 2011 states that the car should be insured for £25,000.
It comes with the aforementioned restoration file, an old buff log book from 1953 when the car was in the Bristol area (where it has remained ever since), plus a small quantity of spares including two spare engine blocks and two flywheels. There is also a custom-made trailer which will be made available to the winning bidder by separate negotiation if desired (see lot 110). As an added bonus it is also worth pointing out that, this being an early 500A model, it is also on the eligibility list for the prestigious Mille Miglia event. Altogether a delightful little car that is guaranteed to melt hearts and win friends everywhere it goes.