On July 4 1957 the FIAT was launched to the Italian public. Now, on July 4 2015, FIAT will unveil the new FIAT 500 for the first time.
Developed by legendary engineer Dante Giacosa, the original FIAT 500 was designed to be as affordable to buy and run as possible.
It was small, not necessarily to avoid traffic congestion (post-war Italy was still an emerging economic and industrial force in the late 50’s so cars remained relatively rare) but because metal was expensive and the more of it that was used, the more weight the car gained and the more performance and fuel was needed to propel the car along.
It was this kind of pragmatism which led to the adoption of a full-length canvas roof on early models (lighter and less expensive to produce than a metal roof) and also in the interests of costs and packaging, a rear-mounted, air-cooled, two-cylinder 479cc engine was chosen.
Producing just 13hp, the 470kg FIAT 500 was capable of just over 50mph but, more importantly, it was extremely fuel efficient and required only the most basic maintenance.
At a time when the average Italian factory worker earned no more than 50,000 Lire per month the FIAT 500 cost 490,000 Lire when it went on sale, making it a considerable financial undertaking even with FIAT’s 20,000 Lire per month repayment programme.
However, that didn’t prevent the FIAT 500 being a massive sales success, amassing more than 3.6 million sales over its 18-year life cycle, during which it remained largely faithful to Giacosa’s original design and engineering principals.
The FIAT 500 evolved into the FIAT 126, which was subsequently replaced by the FIAT Cinquencento and Seicento city cars – all brilliantly packaged, fun to drive and commercially successful in their own right - but the original 500 never really disappeared from view in the way so many other cars do.
As cities became more traffic-clogged and parking ever more difficult, the packaging, low running costs and robustness of the original 500 meant many remained in daily use long after they rolled off the production line.
Marketed in 100 countries and with more than 1.5 million sales globally (UK sales will likely top quarter of a million in total by the end of the year) the next chapter in the FIAT 500 story is about to begin.
On July 4 2015, FIAT will unveil the new FIAT 500 for the first time. No other information regarding this new model is available at this time but full details will be released on the day.
Browse Autotrader's range of Fiat cars for sale.