1939 Fiat 500A Topolino Convertible Four
Extremely rare four-seater convertible bodied by CR Abbott of London; believed one of only three surviving; fully restored over a 30-year period; in lovely order throughout
If they dished out Oscars for cuteness, the adorable Topolino would surely be head of the queue. A masterpiece of minimalist engineering, it was the brainchild of Fiat boss Giovanni Agnelli who, in 1934, envisaged a small mass-produced ‘people’s car’ capable of carrying two people in comfort with 50kg (110 lbs) of luggage. The task was entrusted to 29-year-old Dante Giacosa, an ace engineer who had cut his teeth in Fiat’s aeronautical department and was now a fast-rising star of the car division (by 1946 he was director of engineering for the whole company).
Launched in 1936, the resulting Fiat 500 (dubbed the ‘Topolino’ or ‘Little Mouse’) was an instant classic, bristling with space-saving ingenuity and engineering subtlety. 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 60 miles on a single gallon of petrol.
Transmission was via a four-speed gearbox, with independent front suspension, 12-volt electrics and Lockheed hydraulic brakes. Best of all was the roll-top canvas roof which turned it into almost a full convertible. Add in the low price of just £120 at launch (when the far less sophisticated Austin Seven cost £112), and it’s no wonder that the little mouse was a huge success, selling over 120,000 units before a major redesign in 1948.
This particular Topolino A is an extremely rare ‘Convertible Four’ that was specially made for the UK market between 1939 and 1940 by coachbuilders CR Abbott of London. Costing £133 10s, the engine, chassis, running gear and instrumentation were identical to the standard car, with the exception of the final drive ratio which was lowered from 4.87:1 to 5.1:1 to compensate for the additional weight of the four-seater body.
There was ample room for four adults and a decent amount of luggage, although as with the standard two-seater, there is no boot lid and luggage has to be loaded into space made available by pulling the back seat squab down.
This actual car was tested by The Motor in April 1939 when it covered 450 miles in two days with three adults and their luggage on board (a total load of 34 stone), cruising comfortably at 45mph-50mph and averaging 47mpg but achieving 60mpg when driven at a steady 35mph. The notorious Porlock Hill was despatched "as merrily as could be", the tester remarking on the smoothness of the engine, the outstanding suspension, effective brakes and finger-light steering.
Believed to be one of only three surviving (the other two are in Sweden), KMG 330 was acquired by the previous owner in 1987 and then fully restored over a 30-year period, as detailed by copious invoices, photos and correspondence on file. Many new parts were used, mainly supplied by Topolino Casagrande of Switzerland, and the quality of the workmanship is plain to see. Since the restoration was completed, the car has been in light regular use, including being driven to and shown at a number of Auto Italia days at Brooklands Museum in Weybridge.
Starting promptly and running very sweetly indeed as we have moved it around on site, it comes with a wealth of technical literature including parts catalogues, handbook, maintenance manual and the aforementioned copy of The Motor. A delightful little car all round, it is sure to melt hearts and win friends everywhere it goes.
For more information contact James on 07970 309907 or email [email protected]
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