The iconic Fiat 500 is celebrating its 60th birthday.
Rolling off the production line at Fiat’s Mirafiori plant in Turin for the first time on July 4, 1957 the groundbreaking model quickly became a global phenomenon.
Launched as the Nuova (new) 500 and a successor to the 500 “Topolino”, it was a cheap and practical little runaround town car.
Measuring 2.97m long and like the VW Beetle, originally powered by a rear mounted 479 cc two-cylinder, air-cooled engine, the 500 was 24.5cm smaller than Fiat’s 600 launched two years earlier and considered one of the first purpose-built city cars.
Besides the two-door coupe, it was also available as the “Giardiniera” wagon, with a 10cm longer wheelbase and engine laid on its side and larger brakes from the Fiat 600.
Sports models were produced by Abarth and Giannini, as well as Austrian variant produced by Steyr-Daimler-Puch.
The 1957–1973 Steyr-Puch 500, had a motorcycle-derived Puch boxer twin motor, a sports model of which was the 1965–1969 Steyr-Puch 650 TR2.
Production of the 500 ended in 1975, although its replacement – the Fiat 126 – was launched two years earlier.
The 126 was never as popular as its predecessor in Italy, but had a huge following in Eastern Europe where it was sought after for its reliability and incredible fuel economy.
During its first production run, which came to an end in 1975, almost 4 million 500s were sold internationally, a staggering 400,000 of which can still be found on Italian roads today.
After two decades in retirement the 500 was reimagined and reborn to enormous critical acclaim and huge commercial success in 2007.
Perfectly capturing the spirit, charm and personality of the original, the second generation 500 is probably the best of the retro models to emerge in recent years.
To date more than two million sales of the second-generation model have been achieved worldwide and the model has won more than 40 top industry awards including World Car Design of the Year in 2009.
Throughout its lifespan, and all incarnations and special editions, one thing has remained true – the Fiat 500 has always been at the forefront of automotive style and fashion.
View a short video history of the Fiat 500 here