Buyers Guide to:
Also Known As
1957 to 1976
469cc, 499cc, 594cc
Fiat 500 Club
Conceived as a cheap and economical way of getting Italians off scooters and onto four wheels, the tiny Fiat 500 (or ‘Cinquecento’) arrived in 1957. Less than ten feet long, it was designed by Dante Giacosa and powered by small two-cylinder engines with modest power outputs, with the first model managing just 13hp from its 469cc motor. There were numerous improvements over the years, including larger, more powerful engines - even the most powerful produced only 21hp, though – while 1960 saw a roomier estate version arrive in the form of the ‘Giardiniera’ model. It wasn’t until the 500F of 1965 that the car got conventional, front-hinged doors, while the more luxurious ‘Lusso’ model was fitted with carpets and a vinyl-covered dash. Instantly popular, the 500 remained on sale until 1976 by which time around 3.4 million examples had been built.
- Front panel, behind headlamps
- Around front and rear screens
- Wheel arches
- Door bottoms
- Engine lid
- Inner and outer wings
- Every inch of the bodywork for signs of corrosion. Pay particular attention to the front luggage compartment, checking beneath the spare wheel and around the battery as leaking acid eats away at the metal
- That the floor-pan is rust-free as a leaking sunroof will accelerate corrosion; it’s vital to lift the carpets to check. Rising values means some examples have been bodged, so be wary, while replacement panels for early cars and the estate are rare
- For any signs of previous accident damage, particularly at the rear. It could have knocked the engine and gearbox out of alignment
- The engine for excessive exhaust smoke and for oil leaks which often come from the sump and rocker cover gaskets. Timing chain wear needs watching for, too, although removing and rebuilding one of these engines is very easy
- That the engine cooling flaps are working properly, and haven’t been wedged open to mask a problem. Stalling or lumpy running are warning signs of overheating, and it will damage the head gaskets or even worse, the aluminium cylinder heads themselves
- For poor running caused by a worn distributor or carburettor. Overhauling either item is straightforward, though. And watch for a lack of servicing – regular oil and spark plug renewal benefits longevity
- Which engine has been fitted. Swapping units isn’t uncommon, and those after more power might have fitted the engine from the Fiat 126
- The gearbox for excessive noise or jumping out of gear; the 500 used a non-synchromesh ‘box and ham- sted use may have caused problems. The Fiat 126 ‘box is a popular swap
- For corrosion in the suspension mountings. Rot can affect the rear trailing arms, while a bulging front leaf spring signi es rust and it could snap – it should have been lubricated regularly
- The steering for vagueness or tight spots.
- The steering box and idler arm can wear and leak oil, while the front kingpins should have been greased every 1000-1500 miles to prevent seizure. Check that all the steering box adjustment hasn’t been used up
- That the drum brakes are operating correctly. They rarely give trouble, but can suffer from leaking wheel cylinders or seized components
- The condition of the interior. The simplicity means it’s easy to check, but trim parts and switchgear for early models are hard to find. Small size means re-trimming costs aren’t too high, though
- That right-hand drive conversions have been carried out properly. Imported cars may lack history, and be extra careful if the seller claims it’s been restored – a specialist inspection is wise as major restoration isn’t straightforward despite the tiny dimensions, and can result in a five-figure bill
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