A bunch of motorsport friends and I have lately been discussing the new Fiat 500. Among my wife’s and my plans for the weekend is to go test drive a brand new Fiat 500. We have our eyes on a little commuter car and a Fiat 500 Abarth just might fit the bill. Fiat 500s are ubiquitous in Italy, where they are called “Cinquecento”. Make the jump to see a few Cinquecentos (say “Chin-kwah-chen-toe”) from a recent trip to Italy.
Fiat built the 500 from 1957 to 1975. All 500s are powered by a two cylinder engine, that originally displaced 479cc. Power grew from a modest 13hp to a more useful 23hp.
The Fiat 500 is a cherished icon of Italian motoring. You often see them boldly parked in the middle of a piazza, in this case adding to the ambience of Assisi.
The streets in old Italian hill towns are narrow. New cars, like the gigantic new MINI, are just too wide to fit. This 500 breezed between me and my father-in-law with no problems at all.
Here are two shots of the same street in Spello that shows just how tiny the old 500 is compared with the also small new 500.
This little car earned its trendy matte paint job the hard way, years of neglect as it dutifully plies the car-hostile streets of Florence.
Rome has different street requirements where having a tiny car can be handy. Lanes markings in Rome are largely ignored. When a traffic light turns green, a Formula 1 start happens as cars, buses, scooters, and motorbikes rocket off to the end of the next block. A little car is a good weapon for dicing between buses and scooters. A 500 like the ones pictured below, is just about perfect.
There were a number of racing 500s with much more power. The most famous of these were tuned by Carlo Abarth and fitted with a striking scorpion badge. Fiat is making a sporting new 500 model called the 500 Abarth inspired by the old giant killers.
This new 500 Abarth slips into tight spots almost as handily as a smart. My wife is quite taken with the New 500. She needs more than a cute car though, she likes having enough power to win the race to the next stoplight. Perhaps a 500 Abarth will join our fleet?
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