1964 Fiat 1500 Cabriolet by Pininfarina
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. These fabulous little cars pioneered what is today referred to as ‘budget priced small cars’. The Topolino morphed into the Fiat 600 in 1955 and the Fiat 500 ‘Nuova’ in 1957.
Designed by Pininfarina, the Fiat 1500 Coupe and Cabriolet were introduced in 1959 and built across two series, firstly from 1959 – 1963 and then from 1964 – 1966. Whilst these little cars weren’t overly powerful, they were light and easy to drive. The four cylinder inline engine produced in excess of 70 bhp which was enough to ensure these cars, which weighed in at less than 1,000 kg, performed well and were a delight to drive.
A new arrival to Oldtimer Australia is this magnificently restored 1964 Fiat 1500 Cabriolet by Pininfarina. This is one of the later model Fiat Cabriolets, being a Tipo 118H and as such has front disc brakes.
Little is known of the car’s very early history, however, it is understood to have come to Australia in the late 1960’s. It was imported by Dr Francesco Castelano from New Farm in Brisbane and converted to right hand drive. The car was regularly seen in and around central Brisbane in the early 1970’s as Dr Castelano used the car for his work as a general practitioner. Dr Castelano passed away in 1976, however, his beloved little Fiat remained in his family until it was donated to the Dante Alighieri Society, which is a non-profit organisation strongly supported by volunteers to achieve a common purpose – the diffusion of Italian language and culture. The car was sold by tender to the current owners in mid 2015. Unfortunately, the car was showing its age and its new owners embarked on a major restoration. It was originally dark grey, however, the current owners chose to finish the car in tiffany blue, which was an absolutely perfect choice. The restoration took just over two years to complete and many hours of blood, sweat and tears.
Today the car presents ‘as new’. The cosmetic presentation of the car is impeccable and the tiffany blue paint work is in excellent condition. All of the body work was done to a very high standard by the owner, who is a qualified tradesman. All of the panel gaps are excellent. He entrusted The Coating Kingdom in Narangba to paint the car and they have done a magnificent job. All of the chrome, external trim, lenses and the glass are also in excellent condition. The whitewall tyres are Premium Sport 520-14 all round and they look ‘just perfect’ on this car. The car was extensively rust proofed with Fishoil prior to assembly. The overall presentation of this car is very hard to fault.
The interior, which was totally retrimmed is also in excellent condition. The white upholstery with black piping and black carpets provide a perfect colour contrast to the tiffany blue paintwork. The black soft top is unused and ‘as new’. The engine bay is immaculate as is the boot. There is a spare wheel, jack and complete tool kit in the boot.
The engine had been rebuilt by the previous owners and the car has travelled few miles since. All of the engine ancillaries were checked and overhauled if required. All of the suspension, brakes and gearbox were overhauled, electronic ignition was fitted and a new wiring loom installed. All of the lights and much of the external trim are new.
So what’s this little Fiat 1500 Cabriolet like to drive? Put simply . . . every bit as good as it looks! You need full choke and a few pumps on the throttle to get the Weber carburettor primed. Once there’s enough fuel in the system the car starts easily. The car’s owner stated that once the engine starts to back the choke right off and the engine will warm and settle very quickly. It did exactly that. After a few miles out on the open road first impressions are extremely positive. The engine is really smooth and it has a raspy exhaust note. The seating position is quite vertical and it takes some getting used to, but once you do the car is just delightful. The steering is light, yet direct. The handling is precise, the brakes are good and the car really is light and nimble out on the open road. In summary, it performs exactly as expected.
So what’s to fault? Very little! We note there are a few screws on the dash which are not period correct and there is a slight wine from the gearbox in first gear. We had to mention something!
The car has had only two Brisbane based owners since arriving in Australia in the late 1960’s and it still retains its original Queensland number plates.
Accompanying the car is a thick history file of receipts and photographs from the restoration as well as some period photos of the car.
The car has been fully restored and it is in immaculate condition all round. We love the colour choice of tiffany blue and this car is even more striking in the flesh than in the photos! It is a multiple award winner at various classic car shows and Fiat events. La dolce vita . . . inspection is a must.
- Fiat 1500 Cabriolet by Pininfarina
- 94,852 km