1952 Fiat 500C Topolino
Today Fiat is a subsidiary of Stellantis, a company formed in 2021 that is a merger of FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and the PSA Group or Peugeot SA. Stellantis is based in The Netherlands and includes the following brands in its stable: Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, DS, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Mopar, Opel, Peugeot, Ram and Vauxhall. Fiat, which is an abbreviation for ‘Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino’, has a fascinating and rich history dating back to 1899. It was founded by Italian entrepreneur Giovanni Agnelli on 11th July 1899. Later that year, the first ever Fiat production car, the Fiat 3½ HP was released. Over the next ten years Fiat went from strength to strength establishing itself as one of Europe’s major car manufacturers and the company was listed on the Milan stock exchange in 1903.
Over the last forty years the Fiat name has been synonymous with budget priced family cars. However, in the early years Fiat was recognised as building some of the world’s very best cars. In the early 1900’s a Fiat cost more than four times the price of a Ford Model T. Post World War II Fiat built some ‘world class’ sporting cars, including the Fiat 8V or ‘Otto Vu’ of which just over 100 examples were built from 1952 through until 1954. Fiat always built cars with a sporting pedigree and many of their models were offered as a saloon, coupe and cabriolet.
In 1936 Fiat introduced the Fiat 500A Topolino (or ‘little mouse’) which was then the smallest mass produced car in the world. Its low price made it accessible to people who had never before been able to afford a car. These fabulous little cars pioneered what is today referred to as ‘budget priced small cars’. In addition to the 2 door sedan, there was also a transformable version with a sunroof and a van version originally created for the army.
The post-war period saw the launch of the 500B in 1948, boasting a new engine and various technical innovations to improve performance and efficiency. But the novelty lay in its giardiniera version, a genuine compact family car with 4 seats and a big loading space when the back seat was down. The 500C arrived in 1949, with an aluminium cylinder head, a heating system and especially a more modern body, in which the headlights were sunk into the fenders. The Topolino morphed into the Fiat 600 in 1955 and the Fiat 500 ‘Nuova’ in 1957.
A new arrival to Oldtimer Australia is this beautifully restored 1952 Fiat 500C Topolino.
Little is known of the car’s very early history, however, it is understood to have been an Australian delivered car from new. In 2012 a pair of Fiat Topolinos were acquired from a family in Adelaide who were understood to have owned both cars from new. This car ended up with the current owner in September 2012 and he then embarked on a major restoration. The car previously carried the South Australian registration RYZ 113.
This little Fiat has been restored to a very high standard. The body and paint was undertaken by MBQ Autobody in Salisbury (Brisbane), the assembly and mechanical work was completed by Norm Singleton from Samford on the outskirts of Brisbane. Absolutely everything on the car has either been refurbished or replaced. The journey was a slow one and the restoration took a number of years to complete. The end result is a credit to the owner and everyone who has been involved with the car – it is fabulous!
Today this Fiat Topolino presents and drives beautifully. The owner chose to repaint the car in blue, which was its original colour and a perfect choice for the car. Given the car has hardly been driven since it was restored it is not surprising the paint is still in excellent condition. The car has been painted to a high standard and it has a good depth of colour and a high gloss finish. Unfortunately, it has picked up a few very minor blemishes along the journey. All of the external trim, including the chrome, lights/lenses and the glass are like new. The real feature of this car is the retractable roof which remains like new. A Fiat enthusiast may note that this car has been restored with a 5 bar grill, whereas it would have originally had a 3 bar grill. This was the owner’s choice and we do think it looks good!
Inside the cabin everything also presents like new. The car was trimmed to a high standard. The tan seats, beige carpets as well as the finish on the steering wheel, instruments and controls are a perfect contrast to the exterior of the car. The instruments and controls are a real highlight on these early Fiats and they are all in excellent condition and working order on this car. The engine bay is fresh and clean, its presentation being totally consistent with the rest of the car.
The car is surprisingly spacious inside and with no rear seat there is lots of storage space. We haven’t tried it, but there is probably enough room for a set of golf clubs!
The ignition key is itself a work of art on this Fiat! Insert it into the ignition, push it carefully, pull the choke out (if the engine is cold), pull the starter button and the 569cc 4 cylinder engine burst into life! First impressions are that the engine sounds great and it is sweetly tuned. After travelling less than 500 meters you are left in no doubt that this little Topolino generates more ‘smiles per mile’ than just about any other car we have handled in a long time. On our recent test drive the car performed really well. It just goes about its business in a very considered and efficient way . . . just as its makers intended. The engine is strong and it pulls well. The gearbox has synchro on third and fourth gear so it takes a little getting used to. You soon get the hang of how to drive the car and it will keep up with modern traffic. The car is great fun to drive and the prerequisite is to smile acknowledgment as bystanders whip their phones out for ‘that photo’ as you cruise on past!
This is understood to be a two owner car from new and following its recent restoration, it has been returned to its former glory. With suicide doors, a ‘transformable’ roof what’s not to like . . . it is just a very cool little car!
Accompanying the car is a ‘shop manual’, Fiat 500 Topolino book by Alessandro Sannia (in Italian), a thick history file of receipts from the restoration, photographs from the restoration as well as the original South Australian registration plate.
- A beautifully restored Fiat 500C Topolino.
- Finished in its original and perfect colour scheme of blue with a tan interior.
- Suicide doors and a delightful ‘transformable’ slide back canvas roof.
- Restored to a high standard.
- A long term restoration has recently been completed and the car is now ready for its next owner to show, use and enjoy.
- Hard to find better.
- Fiat 500C Topolino
- 23,160 miles