1954 Fiat 500 Topolino Belvedere Wagon
|Engine||In-line 4-cylinder, 569cc|
Introduced in 1936, the original Topolino (Italian for little mouse) was conceived as Fiat’s answer to the Austin Seven, putting the motor car in reach of many Italians for the first time. Designed by Dante Giacosa, the original 500 was full of character and proved immensely popular in the years leading up to the war. Fiat revamped the Topolino in 1948, employing overhead-valves for the first time on the revised 500B. Developing a heady 16.5 horsepower, the 500B also featured better brakes, improved suspension, clutch and gearbox and a total of 21,000 were built in just two years or production. By the end of the 1940s the Topolino’s pre-war styling was looking decidedly dated, so Fiat’s designers set about modernising the bodywork, with the headlamps integrated into the front wings and a new horizontal grille on the 500C of 1949. The Topolino was available with a variety of body styles, the most common being the basic two-seater saloon with folding roof section, while the Belvedere was a four-seater estate car. The engine was essentially unchanged apart from the switch to an alloy cylinder head while the rest of the specification remained much the same, with independent front suspension featuring wishbones and a transverse leaf spring, while the live axle at the rear employed semi-elliptic leaf springs and an anti-roll bar, with telescopic dampers all round. The braking system of hydraulic drums proved more than adequate and the 500c was typically entertaining to drive, with lively performance, an excellent four-speed gear change action and good handling. Indeed, the 500C was the backbone of events like the famed Mille Miglia, where they regularly featured in the results as class winners. Today any Topolino is far less common sight on Australia’s roads than its successor, the next-generation 500, but they remain extremely popular, with a thriving club scene and plenty of events catering to their fortunate owners.