1937 Fiat 500A Topolino
Launched in 1936, the Fiat 500 (better known as the Topolino, Italian for ‘Mickey Mouse’) was a masterpiece of packaging that offered generous interior space within a tiny – and hugely charming – bodyshell. Largely the work of Dante Giacosa, it was powered by a 569cc four-cylinder, side-valve, water-cooled engine mounted ahead of the front axle, with the radiator located behind the engine where it doubled as the interior heater. Although it developed a modest 13bhp, it could still reach 55mph and cover 50 miles on a single gallon of petrol.
Transmission was via a four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox, with independent front suspension, 12-volt electrics and Lockheed hydraulic brakes. Best of all was the roll-top canvas roof which turned it almost into a full convertible. Add in the low price of just £120 at launch (when the antiquated Austin Seven cost £112), and it’s no wonder that the little mouse proved a big success, selling over 120,000 units before a revised 500B version came out in 1948.
As the Fiat Centro Storico certificate confirms, this rare RHD Fiat 500A was built in February 1937 for the UK market, being first registered here the following month with the number ETA 785 which remains on the car and is transferable. Our vendor’s father acquired the car way back in 1984 from the estate of a Cheltenham gentleman who had also owned it for many years, the V5C recording just three keepers in all.
A professional mechanic, he treated the car to a sympathetic restoration in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s and it has barely been used since apart from the occasional short run to keep everything free. At some point the original engine has been swapped for a period-correct unit (with the V5C updated) but the original engine block is still present as are many other spares, including another complete engine, several engine blocks and a chassis, all authenticated by the Fiat Owners’ Club as being from the 1930s. These spares will be made available to the winning bidder by separate negotiation if desired, although they will need to be collected from the Cheltenham area.
Later chrome bumpers have also been fitted to incorporate amber turn lights for safety, although the original semaphore indicators are still in place. Shortly before the auction the vendor spent around £1,000 recommissioning the car including an oil change, new coil, points, condenser, plugs, leads, battery and a carburettor overhaul. He has also fitted a new set of tyres and new carpets.
Documentation includes an original owner’s maintenance manual, a print-out and a CD of a detailed workshop manual, the aforementioned Heritage Certificate, a 1986 plaque commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the model and a weighty brass FIAT Register bumper badge.
Starting promptly and running nicely as we moved it around the yard at Brightwells (although we did notice some slack in the steering which will need attending to), this charming early Topolino is no show queen but has bags of character and now needs an enthusiastic new owner who can give it the more regular exercise it deserves and smarten it up over time as desired.
For further details on this Lot please contact James Dennison on 07970 309907 or email [email protected]ls.com
Reg No: ETA785
Chassis Number: 500-012429
Engine Number: 500-02237
Engine Size: 569
Docs: V5C; large history file
Hammer Price (inc. buyers premium)
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