Cold War Italian Trucks WW2 Italian Trucks

FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’

Kingdom of Italy/Italian Republic (1936-1955)
Car – 519,847 Built

The FIAT 500 was an Italian city car produced by the Fabbrica Italiana Automobili di Torino or FIAT (English: Italian Automobiles Factory of Turin) from 1936 to 1955. It received the nickname ‘Topolino’ (English: Small Mouse) and was the smallest car produced in Europe in that period. It was the car that started the mass motorization of Italy, with half a million produced in three main variants for about 20 years.

Despite its roots as a small city car, the ‘Topolino’ would also go on to have a military career, being requisitioned by various armies and fighting forces.

The FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ in a FIAT official image of the 1930s. Source: Centro Storico FIAT

History Behind the Project

In 1930, the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, felt the necessity of increasing the number of cars present in Italy. In the 1930s, cars were becoming the most iconic symbol of welfare in the Western world and Italian Fascism did not want to fall behind.

To give an example, in 1931, the Italian peninsula had a population of 41.2 millions, with only 188,000 cars and trucks of all kinds, including public and military ones. This meant there was one vehicle for every 240 inhabitants. This low ratio was also due to the Great Depression, which had limited vehicle registrations from 33,436 in 1929 to 14,760 in 1931.

In 1936 (the year in which the FIAT 500 mass production started), there were 220,000 vehicles in Italy for a population of 46 million inhabitants. This translated into one motor vehicle for every 209 Italians, a small number, 10 times lower than France and 40 times lower than the United States’ average.

Politically, Fascism was trying to promote Italian manufacturing capabilities and tended to excel in various fields at the time. The Italian Fascists invested heavily in air races, the naval industry and, finally, even the development of cars.

Trying to emulate other European countries, such Germany with the Volkswagen Beetle, Mussolini convened with Senator Giovanni Agnelli, founder of the FIAT company. The dictator asked the businessman to fulfill the need of producing a cheap car that each Italian family could afford to buy.

The maximum price of the city car was not to exceed 5,000 lira (equivalent to $216 in 1936 or $4,800 in 2023).

Giovanni Agnelli (with the bowler hat) and Benito Mussolini (with the Panama hat) on 8th April 1932, during the official presentation of the FIAT 508 ‘Balilla’ in Villa Torlonia, Rome. Source:

Agnelli, who was not at all happy with the new task assigned to him by the Duce, was forced to accept. He assigned the unappreciated task to the FIAT Design Office placed on the fifth floor of La Palazzina (English: The Building) at the FIAT Lingotto production plant of Via Nizza 250 in Turin. The FIAT engineers, after various briefings, had two different opinions:

  • The first opinion was that FIAT was actually capable of producing a cheap city car using the same technologies and know-how they had gained developing other cars, but saving up as much as possible on raw materials and equipment.
  • The second opinion was that the FIAT was not capable of producing such a vehicle in a short time and that the project should be passed to Oreste Lardone (1894-1961). Mr Lardone was an engineer that had worked for FIAT until 1924. In that year, he followed his mentor, Giulio Cesare Cappa, when he was hired at ITALA. In 1928, Mr. Lardone presented a small and cheap ITALA prototype of a city car. The FIAT technicians in favor of the ‘Lardone Option’ suggested hiring Lardone and letting him continue his studies on the prototype under the new requests of the Fascism.

Giovanni Agnelli listened to both opinions and decided to proceed as fast as possible in both directions. He ordered the FIAT Design Office to develop a project following the FIAT standards and hired Oreste Lardone and assigned him a group of technicians and workers to develop and test his prototype.

FIAT Lingotto production plant with the testing track over the roof. On the left is La Palazzina and on the right Lingotto’s freight yard. Source:

Failed Project

After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, ITALA failed during the financial depression and Mr. Lardone accepted and willingly agreed to return to work at FIAT. He started his project, which was a small front-wheel drive city car with 4 seats and a 500 cm3 air-cooled two-cylinder engine and the development proceeded quickly. Lardone’s prototype was finished in summer 1931 and, after the driving tests on the FIAT Lingotto factory roof, the car was ready to be tested on the road.

During the driving test in the city of Turin, a FIAT test driver, Giovanni Agnelli himself and Oreste Lardone took part. Perhaps because of the excessive speed with which the project was carried out to satisfy the Fascist demands, there was an accident with the prototype.

The car exited the FIAT Lingotto production plant and drove for some kilometers around Turin. While testing the climbing capabilities of the car at the Cavoretto slope, the petrol engine caused a fire, from which the three occupants escaped quickly.

Although the accident was probably caused by a simple malfunction of the fuel pump, Giovanni Agnelli was shaken. He immediately fired Lardone and then banned front-wheel drive on FIAT cars.

Original drawings of Oreste Lardone’s FIAT car. Source: Centro Storico FIAT

Delaying the Project

After the failure of Lardone’s project at FIAT, the city car project desired by Fascism continued very slowly and without significant economic investment. Many designers at FIAT thought Lardone’s design was the best idea to keep the car as cheap as possible and did not want to contradict Giovanni Agnelli, who had banned front-wheel drive cars.

Of secondary importance, but nonetheless significant, was the anti-Fascist beliefs held by FIAT’s workers. Despite the fact that, in the late 1920s to early 1930s, the Partito Nazionale Fascista or PNF (English: National Fascist Party) had very high support among the Italian population, the working-class segment was mostly disappointed or opposed to the party of Benito Mussolini and to Giovanni Agnelli himself, who was very close to the regime.

FIAT’s workers usually joked about Benito Mussolini, calling him ‘ël Crapun’ (English: The Bald One), while Giovanni Agnelli was nicknamed ‘Giuanìn Lamera’. Giuanin is a nickname used in Piedmont (the region of Italy where Turin is located) for people called Giovanni (like Johnny for people called John in English-speaking countries), while Lamera means sheet metal in Piedmont dialect.

In general, in Turin, which was a working-segment city where most of the inhabitants were workers or working in activities related to factories and assembly plants, mainly in the automotive sector, Fascism never had the same following as in other cities of Italy. Although fascism emphasized its support for workers and the better conditions theoretically achieved, in reality, the Italian working class never had any tangible benefits during the two decades of Fascism in Italy.

Another problem was the mistreatment of the workers by the Fascist Party in Turin. For example, on 18th December 1922, in retaliation for the killing of two Fascist militants in Turin, the Squadre d’Azione (English: Action Squads) of the PNF in Turin, led by Piero Brandimarte, killed 14 workers and trade unionists and wounded 26 others.

Memorial of the Squadre d’Azione atrocities committed in Turin on 18th December 1922. Piazza XVIII Dicembre, 18th December 2023. Source: Author

With the Wall Street Crash a few years later, the working class experienced another period of suffering, with many workers laid off and wages reduced by 7-8% compared to the period before 1929.

After the economic recovery of the 1930s, the working conditions in the factories did not improve. Silent resistance to the Fascist regime took root at FIAT Lingotto, where, already in 1927, a Communist newspaper was being clandestinely printed and shared. The highest expression of anti-Fascism occurred on 15th May 1939, at the inauguration of the FIAT Mirafiori production plant, which was also attended by Mussolini. Of the approximately 50,000 FIAT workers present at the ceremony, more than 90% refused to applaud and cheer the dictator during his speech.

A frame of a propaganda film of Benito Mussolini visiting the FIAT Lingotto plant on 23rd October 1932. As visible, many workers on the right do not respond to the fascist salute as a sign of silent resistance. Mr. Giovanni Agnelli is on the podium, on the right, in the black suit, while on the left is Benito Mussolini. Source: Archivio Storico Luce

It was also for these reasons that the development of the car desired by Mussolini was delayed and hindered by the workers and managers, who wanted to avoid worker protests and demonstrations against the regime and bad publicity for the company.

Everything changed when Benito Mussolini visited the FIAT Lingotto manufacturing plant on 23rd October 1932. During a private meeting with Giovanni Agnelli, the Italian dictator reminded the businessman of the commitment he had made and the project received new emphasis.

The question returned to the desk of FIAT’s Design Office and one of the main engineers of the office, Antonio Fessia (1901-1968), suggested assigning the development of the car to a young but brilliant junior designer and his personal assistant, Dante Giacosa. The idea was also agreed to by FIAT’s other main engineer, Tranquillo Zerbi (1891-1939). In fact, both considered Giacosa the right man for this project due to his excellent work with the FIAT 508 ‘Balilla’s’ development.

The New Project

Dante Giacosa (1905-1996) is nowadays considered one of the masters of the Italian motor school. Giacosa started working in 1927, aged 22, for the Società Piemontese Automobili (SPA) (English: Piedmont Automobile Company), after graduating from the Polytechnic University of Turin. In 1929, he was transferred to the FIAT Design Office of the Lingotto plant (SPA was a FIAT subsidiary), where he started working on the development of the Pavesi P4 artillery tractor. After a brief career in the FIAT Automobiles Engines Design Office, where he was assigned to the development of the FIAT 508 ‘Balilla’, in 1933, he was promoted to Technical Car Department Office.

Dante Giacosa at the FIAT Lingotto testing track with a FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ in 1978. Source:

In 1934, Antonio Fessia met with Giacosa, detailing Agnelli’s project to him. At that time, there were examples of cheap cars in Germany and France, but the Italian designers wanted to offer a new Italian designed vehicle without taking a cue from foreign vehicles. The new FIAT car had to be powerful and more comfortable than the foreign vehicles, but with comparable prices.

From the knowledge gained in the development of the FIAT 508, Giacosa studied an even simpler version of the vehicle to make it easy to produce at lower costs, keeping in mind the failure of Lardone.

The FIAT 508 ‘Balilla’ in a 1930s poster. Source:

While Giacosa took on the development of the chassis and the engine, the bodywork was penned by Rodolfo Schaeffer (1893-1964), who was at the time the leader of FIAT’s Coachwork Technical Office.

The plans were to save up on everything superfluous. The fuel pump was not added, preferring a fuel tank that filled the engine by gravity, being placed over the engine. The water pump used to cool the engine was not added, and the radiator was also placed over the engine. With this solution, the cooling of the engine was made thanks to a thermosiphon passive heat-exchange physics system, with the cold water that fell in the cooling system by gravity and the hot water that returned to the water tank.

The position of the radiator over the engine permitted a sensible increase of the aerodynamics of the project. In that period, the front grilles were usually vertical or slightly angled due to the presence of the radiator in front of the engine.

Another solution to save on costs was the introduction of an independent suspension system. To do so, the engine was placed in front of the wheel axle, supported by the coachwork of the car instead of the chassis. This permitted the lowering of the car’s bonnet, improving the aerodynamics.

The simple chassis of the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ developed by Dante Giacosa. Source:

The lubricant oil pump was retained but was simplified as much as possible, with a rudimentary system. The oil circulated thanks to the mechanical parts that, when the vehicle was in motion, “slammed” the oil to all the parts that needed to be lubricated.

Given the small dimensions of the vehicle, a new tire size was requested from the Pirelli factory of Milan. The tire company developed a small 4/00R15 tire, the smallest tire diameter adopted for a car until then. The vehicle had a spare wheel placed on the rear side, under the rear windshield.

A FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ after an accident, with its wheel replaced. Source:

The simple gearbox had 4 forward and reverse gears. The third and fourth gears were synchronized.

Giacosa and Fassia assumed that the vehicle would have a chassis weighing less than 250 kg, plus 180-200 kg of coachwork, arriving at a total weight of 450 kg with all the necessary parts. Their assumption was they could sell the vehicle at 12 liras per kg (5,400 liras) instead of the 17 liras per kg (10,800 liras) for the FIAT 508.

History of the Prototype

Giacosa claims that the new vehicle’s engine’s development began after the coachwork of the car was designed. Giacosa started the engine’s drawing on 1st June 1934 and the engine project was delivered to the Prototype Production Office shortly before August 1934, before the holiday month for FIAT workers.

FIAT’s Prototype Production Office delivered the engine on 15th September 1934, less than two months after the project was finished, although the engine had some noise problems.

The Zero A prototype outside the FIAT Lingotto production plant with a black coat of paint. Source:

On 7th October 1934 (other sources incorrectly claimed 17th October), the prototype, at the time called ‘Zero A’ (A for Aero, from the Aero Engine Office in which the engine was developed), was ready for its test drive.

Due to the speed at which the vehicle had been developed, Giacosa had doubts about its capabilities, especially in terms of driving uphill because of the low engine power and braking system. Having the engine at the front, it was believed that the unbalanced weight forward caused problems, overheating the brakes even during short runs.

For the test, Giacosa and Fessia took turns driving the prototype from the FIAT Lingotto plant on the route Ivrea (~ 80 km) – Andrate (~ 15 km) – Biella (~ 20 km) – Vestignè (~ 40 km) – Borgomasino (~ 5 km) – Cigliano (~ 7 km) and, taking the A4 Highway, returned to Turin (~ 60 km) with a maximum speed on the last part of the test of 82 km/h. During the driving, especially in the Andrate – Biella, the engineers took some dirt mountain roads to test the prototype’s suspension and off-road capabilities.

Dante Giacosa and the Zero A during the test drive. The image was taken by Antonio Fessia. Source: Centro Storico FIAT

The road performance was good, comfort during driving was better than other vehicles thanks to the independent suspension, and the brake system worked better than what Giacosa expected.

Three days after the first driving test, on 10th October, the prototype was tested at high speed, reaching the maximum speed of 86 km/h.

The noise problems were solved after a briefing on 11th October during which the various FIAT’s engineers and Giovanni Agnelli himself took part. In a day, the second prototype of the engine, which had 69 hours of testing, was completely dismounted and the rear bearings substituted. The noise persisted and, the very next day, the engine was tested many times, finally finding the problem in the crankshaft bearings. Engineer Giacosa quickly delivered three different crankshaft solutions to substitute the original one on the same day. The new crankshaft led to a quick redesign of the engine.

When Giacosa and Fessia started planning the car, they predicted that 20 hp of power would be needed from the engine. Due to the redesign of the engine, this goal was not achieved, but the result was still excellent. The engine was immediately considered adequate even if it delivered a total of 13 hp due to increased friction of the bearings.

The engine mounted on the Zero A. Source: Centro Storico FIAT

A second Zero A prototype was produced with the necessary modifications. On this second vehicle, the headlights were placed outside the mudguards, while on the first one, they were inside the coachwork.

After more tests during which other small details were fixed, the tooling-up of the production lines was next. Giacosa visited the workshops many times, discussing with worker foremen and continuing to slightly modify the project of the Zero A with their suggestions to make it easier and faster to produce while still maintaining a low waste of resources.

In the end, the serial production FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ weighed 535 kg, 85 kg more than the first prototype.

The Zero A front and side views (top) and FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ serial production (bottom). Source: Centro Storico FIAT

The vehicle was presented to Benito Mussolini on 10th June 1936 at his home in Villa Torlonia. While testing the car with Senator Agnelli as passenger, the Italian dictator was impressed by the characteristics of the vehicle, despite its rudimentary production.

Prices, Oddities, and Nickname

The FIAT Sales Division decided the name of the new car FIAT 500 and the launch of the car took place on 15th June 1936. It was publicized abroad as the ‘Smallest Car in the World’ and as ‘L’Auto del Popolo Italiano’ (English: The Italian People’s Car) within Italy.

The FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ was sold for 8,900 liras (equivalent to $450 in 1936 or $10,000 in 2023) in the standard version and for 9,700 liras (equivalent to $496 in 1936 or $10,995 in 2023) for the convertible car configuration presented in October 1936.

FIAT 500 roof’s folding framework from the inside. Source: @EvokeClassics

The FIAT 500’s final total cost was 78% higher than Benito Mussolini’s had demanded because of the inability of the industry to produce such an inexpensive vehicle at the time.

It should also be emphasized that FIAT’s management still wanted to offer a certain degree of comfort for the buyers of the new car. The interior was not spartan, as one might expect from a car aimed at absolute economy.

The 8,900 lira price tag for the car was too much for a worker earning between 200 liras (simple worker) and 400 liras (skilled worker) monthly. The purchase of a FIAT 500 was equivalent to almost 4 years of salary for the former’s case and almost 2 years for the latter.

FIAT poster advertising the FIAT 500 with the motto: ‘I Have an automobile too, the small big car’ emphasizing the affordability of the vehicle to the majority of the population. Source: @Centro Storico FIAT

However, the price was not a major obstacle, especially in Turin, where FIAT workers and their relatives had discounts on the purchase of the cars they produced. The biggest problem with the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’, which did not limit its sales however, were the only two seats available at the front, which became four with a wooden bench placed in the back, suitable only for transporting two children. When the rear passengers were two adults, the increase in weight decreased the car’s performance significantly.

A frame from the US film The More the Merrier of 1943, showing four of the protagonists on board a FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ convertible car. In order to make room for the rear female characters the roof had to be opened. Source:

The nickname of the car, Topolino, literally means ‘little mouse’ in Italian, but is also the Italian name of Walt Disney’s most iconic character: Mickey Mouse.There are a whole load of theories and opinions about the adoption of this particular nickname for the FIAT 500.

Some sources claim that the car was nicknamed Topolino, after Mickey Mouse, due to the presence on the serial vehicles of the external headlights painted black that, from inside the vehicle, reminded the driver and passengers of the characteristic rounded ears of Disney’s character.

Other sources deny the idea of Mickey Mouse being the origin of the name, claiming that it was given due to the fact it was the smallest car produced at the time in Europe. The nickname ‘Little Mouse’ was possibly given for its dimensions and speed, as a mouse is a small and agile animal.

The first series-produced FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ during an exhibition. The logo on the stand says: “The very first FIAT car in the world, a small big car”. Source: Centro Storico FIAT

It has to be noted that FIAT never officially adopted the nickname, like, for example, with the ‘Balilla’ nickname for the FIAT 508. However, this is not very important given that these cars are still known today in Italy simply as ‘Topolino’ and ‘Balilla’. The three-digit number or the manufacturer never needs to be mentioned.

Uncle Topolino in the Disney Pixar film Cars 2. The character is inspired by the FIAT 500 Topolino. Source: Disney Pixar

The use of the nickname for the ‘Topolino’ is also so common because, in 1957, FIAT presented a new car model known as the FIAT Nuova 500 (English: FIAT New 500), a completely different vehicle that had nothing in common with the ‘Topolino’. Despite the specification of ‘New’ in its name, the vehicle quickly entered the common knowledge of the Italians simply as the FIAT 500. It is still one of the most iconic vehicles of the Italian industry to this day, together with the Piaggio Vespa motorbike. This is one of the reasons why, today, the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ is simply known as the ‘Topolino’, in order to differentiate between the pre-war FIAT 500 and the post-war FIAT Nuova 500.

Dante Giacosa with two of his most famous cars, the FIAT Nuova 500 (left) and FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ (right). Source:

Shortly before the war, the Kingdom of Italy had reached a total of 290,000 vehicles registered, meaning that in 3 years, 70,000 new vehicles were registered. Given these numbers, Italy had a motorized vehicle for every 158 persons.


Engine and Liquids

The engine was a water cooled FIAT Tipo 500 flathead engine, 4-cylinder in line, 569 cm3, giving out 13 hp at 4,000 rpm and with a maximum torque of 32.4 Nm at 2,500 rpm. The car was equipped with a Magneti Marelli Tipo S 25 F 14 distributor, while the horizontal carburetor was a Solex 22HD.

Drawings of the FIAT Tipo 500 engine adopted on the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’. Source: Centro Storico FIAT

The FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ had a total weight of 535 kg, but with two passengers and 50 kg of luggage, the total weight reached 750 kg.The spare wheel (10 kg) and a toolbox (3.5 kg) are also considered.

FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ Speed Fully Loaded
Gear Maximum speed (km/h) Surmountable slope (%)
1st 20 22
2nd 32 12.5
3rd 50 7
4th 85 3

The fuel tank had a capacity of 21 liters, of which 3.4 liters of reserve. The fuel consumption of the FIAT Tipo 500 engine was about 6 liters every 100 km, meaning it had a maximum range of 350 km.

The radiator had a capacity of 4.5 liters of water to cool the engine. For the lubricant oil, there were different quantities of various oils with different viscosity. A total of 2 kg of FIAT oil lubricated the engine, and 1.45 kg of FIAT oil CP were used for the gearbox, rear axle housing, and steering box. The brake system was hydraulic on all four wheels, with a brake pedal. The brake system was loaded with 0.55 kg of a special oil for brakes (FIAT suggested the Liquido Speciale Lockheed – Lockheed Special Liquid).

FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ scheme. Source:

Electrical System

The electric system worked at 12 V and was connected to a Magneti Marelli Tipo 6 BA 7 di 30 Ah battery on the first vehicles produced. After an unknown (but low) number of vehicles produced, the battery was substituted with a Magneti Marelli Tipo 6 VX 7, 38 Ah battery. It had a size of 17.5 x 20 x 25 cm and had a total weight of 19.7 kg with an autonomy, without dynamo, of 10 hours of traveling. The dynamo was a FIAT Tipo 75/12 that charged the battery after the engine reached 1,050 rpm.

The starting engine, until engine number 33,508, had a power of 0.7 hp. From engine number 33,509 onward, the power was increased to 0.9 hp. The ignition coil was a Magneti Marelli Tipo 662-04/20 with a power of 12 volts. The spark plugs were Magneti Marelli Tipo MW 125 T 3 P with dimensions of 12 x 1.25 cm until engine number 60,057. From engine number 60,058 onward, the spark plugs had dimensions of 14 x 1.25 cm.

The electrical system of the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ according to the Ministerial Decree of 1937. Source:

The FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ was equipped with two 20 watt headlights on the front mudguards (35 watts while in main beam mode). A light was placed between the sun visors with a toggle switch on the dashboard.

On the dashboard were the speedometer, the light for the battery charge, and oil pressure gauge. An inspection bulb socket was placed on the left, under the dashboard panel.

On the first vehicles produced, the signal arrows could be added as an extra on the ‘Topolino’. After the adoption of a new Ministerial Decree on signal arrows in 1937, these were added on all vehicles. Precisely, the signal arrows were added from chassis number 14,421. The driver had to operate them manually with a button located near the steering wheel.

A FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ cut in half. Source:

With the decree of 1937, the stop light on the rear also became compulsory on all models and it was placed over the license plate.

Suspension System

The first 46,000 ‘Topolino’ produced had quarter-of-ellipse leaf springs on front and rear axles, with the front ones equipped with hydraulic pistons.

This was an adequate solution for the city car version, but not for the Furgoncino (English: Little Van) version. The first examples had some problems when fully loaded, as their loading bay floor collapsed.

The problem was found to be in the small rear leaf spring suspension and the FIAT Design Office solved the problem by adopting half-of-ellipse leaf springs instead.

In order to increase the production rates and decrease FIAT’s overall costs, it was decided to modify the ‘Topolino’ with half-of-ellipse leaf springs as well, maintaining a single production line for both the models. This change was made in the second half of 1938 and, to distinguish between the two variants of FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’, the terms FIAT 500 a Balestra Corta (English: FIAT 500 with Short Leaf Spring) for the vehicles produced until 1938 and FIAT 500 a Balestra Intera (English: FIAT 500 with Entire Leaf Spring) for the vehicles produced after the modification are unofficially used.

The FIAT 500 a Balestra Intera had an increased weight of 30 kg and was otherwise indistinguishable from the earlier model.

Italian Versions


In spring 1948, a new ‘Topolino’ model was presented at the Geneva Motor Show. This was the FIAT 500B, with the pre-war model unofficially receiving the designation FIAT 500A.

A FIAT 500B ‘Topolino’. As clearly noticeable, there are no differences from the pre-war FIAT 500A. Source:

The vehicle externally remained essentially unchanged, but internally had many improvements. The engine was modified with a new iron cast cylinder head with overhead valves and some other modifications that brought the total power to 16.5 hp at 4,400 rpm.

The Solex carburetor was substituted with a Weber 22 DRS reverse intake carburetor. Thanks to the increased output, the maximum speed was increased to 95 km/h while the fuel consumption was reduced to 5 liters for 100 km, bringing the range to 420 km.

FIAT 500B ‘Topolino’ in convertible configuration. Source:

An anti-roll bar was added on the rear axle, while hydraulic pistons were added on all four wheels.

Other improvements were made inside the passenger compartment with the addition, at the request of the customer, of a heating system for the winter season.


In 1948, the last version of the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ was presented. The new vehicle was the 100th car model designed by FIAT and it was decided to completely change the design of the vehicle.

The chassis was left unchanged, while the engine received a new aluminum cylinder head, maintaining the same output and speed of the FIAT 500B.

A FIAT 500C ‘Topolino’, the last post-war version of the iconic city car. Source:

The coachwork was completely redesigned, with headlights placed inside it and with a new ‘US-style’ front. The spare wheel was also removed from the usual position on the rear and placed behind the passenger seat.

Front view of a FIAT 500C ‘Topolino’ with the new US-style front. Source: @nhhotelsit

Like for the pre-war model, in order to accomodate two more passengers at the rear, the convertible variant was needed and the demand on the Italian market for that model was high.

In order to speed up production, the convertible car variant became the standard variant in the production lines. The rigid-roof one was still produced at the specific request of the customer.


FIAT 500 Furgoncino

The FIAT 500 Furgoncino was introduced in late 1936 and had a payload capacity of 300 kg in its 1 m3 rear space. It was mainly intended for civilian users, such as milkmen, post carriers, suppliers, etc., but was also produced for the Italian Regio Esercito (English: Royal Army). The Furgoncino had a single seat for the driver and the spare wheel was placed on the driver’s right instead of the passenger’s seat. After November 1937, the second seat could be reinstalled at the request of the customer. After the introduction of the FIAT 500 a Balestra Intera, the Furgoncino’s suspension was reinforced compared to the half-of-ellipse leaf springs of the ‘Topolino’, with 13 springs instead of 6 on the city car.

A FIAT 500 Furgoncino with its rear door opened. This particular vehicle was produced in 1940 and was photographed outside the FIAT Lingotto production plant. Source: Centro Storico FIAT

After chassis number 100,900, built in December 1946, the vehicle adopted two configurations: angled rear with a single door or vertical rear with two doors.

FIAT 500B Furgoncino used by the Campari Vermut company as an advertising vehicle. Source: @sportgoodies

The FIAT 500 Furgoncino based on the pre-war chassis had a maximum speed of 82 km/h (90 km/h for the FIAT 500B and C chassis) and could overcome 18% slopes. The FIAT 500 Furgoncino production was continued with the FIAT 500B and FIAT 500C and its production ended in 1954.

A FIAT 500C Furgoncino with vertical rear and two doors outside the FIAT Mirafiori production plant in Turin in 1950. On the left, a FIAT 500C Giardiniera is partially visible while, on the right, some FIAT 500B ‘Topolino’ city cars and a FIAT 500B Furgoncino are visible. Source: Centro Storico FIAT

FIAT 500B and FIAT 500C Giardiniera

In 1946, a brilliant designer, Mario Revelli di Beaumont (son of Abiel, developer of the FIAT-Revelli machine gun and other weapons) presented a new station wagon model while working for the Carrozzeria Viotti (English: Viotti Coachworker). This type of car, built on the FIAT 1100 chassis, was called Giardinetta and does not have a proper translation. The term Giardinetta was used for some years in Italy to refer to station wagons.

Revelli di Beaumont’s innovative solution increased the space inside standard city cars by adding a rear door to make room for luggage or other materials. The spare wheel was stored on the floor of the rear section, under the luggage compartment.

A FIAT 500B Giardiniera, the first mass-produced station wagon in the world. Source:

FIAT, which sensed the vehicle’s potential, introduced a similar model for the FIAT 500B that was officially presented at the Turin Motor Show in 1948. As a matter of copyright, FIAT could not call the car Giardinetta, so the FIAT Sales Division renamed it Giardiniera, which had a double meaning:

  • Giardiniera was a similar name to the model presented by Carrozzeria Viotti, increasing its publicity.
  • In Piedmont, Giardiniera is an Italian relish of pickled vegetables, a simple dish, really popular among the Italian peasants and workers during and after the war in northwestern Italy. It was simple to cook and with ingredients that almost every Italian family grew in the garden or bought at the market.

The FIAT 500B Giardiniera was characterized not only by a new rear part bodywork, but also the introduction of a second row of seats. The sides of the coachwork were made not only of iron, but also of wood and Masonite (pressure-molded wood), following the example set by Revelli and the US Woodie cars. The wooden parts were produced by the Sezione Carrozzerie Speciali (English: Special Coachwork Section).

A rear door was added to easily store luggage in the back and the space was appreciated by the customers. The space could be increased by lowering the back of the second row of seats.

The luggage compartment in a FIAT 500C Giardiniera Belvedere, with the second row of seats lowered. On the lower part, under the compartment’s floor, is the spare wheel compartment. Source: @mi_classico

The FIAT 500B Giardiniera was the first mass-produced station wagon of the world.

With the introduction of the FIAT 500C, the Giardiniera in Legno (English: Wooden Giardiniera) was still produced until 1951. It was substituted on the production line by the Giardiniera Belvedere.

The difference from the previous model was the absence of the wooden and Masonite parts, supplanted by molded iron plates. The iron plates speeded up the production and obviously reduced the overall cost. The lower cost permitted even more Italian families to buy the car. The FIAT 500C Giardiniera Belvedere was the last variant of the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ produced in Italy, with the last vehicles leaving the factories in late 1955.

A FIAT 500C Giardiniera Belvedere in a poster from the 1950s. Source:

Special Variants

FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ Racing Models

The FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ was not only the most popular city car in Italy, but also the base of dozens of racing cars produced in small numbers which took part in famous Italian and European racing competitions.

Unfortunately, many of these beautiful vehicles with characteristic shapes were produced in single prototypes by specialized coachworkers and companies that no longer exist. Tracking their stories or finding information is now difficult, and, in some cases, impossible.

FIAT-SIATA 500 Gran Sport from 1937, which took part in the 1937 Mille Miglia cup. Source:

In April 1937, the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ made its racing debut at the Mille Miglia (English: Thousand Miles) motorsport endurance race. Not being a racing car, obviously none of the FIAT 500-equipped racing teams came close to the podium. However, the ‘Topolino’ won two different races: the Sport Class up to 750 cm3 was won by a FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ Testa SIATA modified by the Turin’s company Società Italiana Applicazioni Tecniche Auto-Aviatorie (SIATA) (English: Italian Society for Technical Applications for Cars and Airplanes) with a powerful overhead valve head engine. The car was driven by Piero Dusio and Ciro Basadonna. Another ‘Topolino’ won the National Touring Class prize for under 750 cm3. The teams arrived at the finish line 50th and 51st respectively. A total of 27 racing teams out of 149 participated in the race with FIAT 500s, some modified by specialized coachworkers, while others were simple civilian models.

A FIAT 500 Testa SIATA, numbered 29, driven by Raffaello Guzman and Mario Jelmini during a pit stop at the Mille Miglia of 1937 in which it came 63rd. Except for the powerful SIATA engine, the car remained unchanged from the civilian one. Source: Foto Locchi

In the French 24 Heures du Le Mans (English: 24 Hours of Le Mans) endurance sports car race of June 1937, two SIMCA 5 were among the 48 racing teams. The SIMCA 5 that competed in the 24 Heures du Le Mans was equipped with the smallest engine ever entered in the French race, with a volume of 568 cm3.

The Amedeo Gordini racing team’s SIMCA 5 during one of the 24 Heures du Le Mans editions. Source:

The new engine and coachwork of the Amedeo Gordini racing team (sometimes Frenchified into Amédée Gordini) gave the SIMCA a top speed of 110 km/h. Thanks to its performance, the Amedeo Gordini racing team won the prize for the small-engine car class for three years in a row, from 1937, when the SIMCA 5 was first entered, until 1939, before the forced break due to the war. In 1938, Amedeo Gordini’s SIMCA 5 also won the performance index prize.

The Stanguellini SN750 Spider Torricelli (on a FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ chassis) at the finish line in 1938. This car won the Sport Class under 750 cm3 prize with the racing team Giulio Baravelli (right) and Adelmo Sola (left). Source:

In the Mille Miglia race of 1938, the ‘Topolino’ cars returned with even more curious shapes. The ones that won the Sport Class under 750 cm3 prize was the Stanguellini SN750 Spider Torricelli, while the other two ‘Topolino’ coachworked by Zagato came right behind. The vehicles were the FIAT 500 Testa SIATA Spider Zagato and the FIAT 500 Testa SIATA Hardtop Zagato.

The FIAT 500 Testa SIATA Hardtop Zagato driven by Renato Donati and Alberto Garzi during the 1938 Mille Miglia. Source: @postmanden1

During the next few years, the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ continued its participation in motorsport races. In the 1940 edition of the Mille Miglia, the Stanguellini SN750 Testa SIATA Spider Torricelli arrived 12th, winning the Sport Class under 750 cm3 prize. Even after the Second World War, the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ continued its participation in the Mille Miglia with other curious-shaped coachworks.

A FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ in Bologna shortly before the start of the 1947 Mille Miglia edition. Source:

It is also worth mentioning the victory of Maria Teresa de Filippis (1926-2016) in the Cava dei Tirreni race in 1948 aboard a FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’. De Filippis then continued her automotive career by becoming the first woman to qualify in Formula 1 races.

Maria Teresa de Filippis on board her FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ racing car. Source:

FIAT 500C Coupé Bizzarrini ‘Macchinetta’

Another interesting model was the FIAT 500C Bizzarini, also known as ‘Macchinetta’ (English: Little Car). It was a personal development from engineer Giotto Bizzarini (1926-2023). Bizzarini started the development while he was studying at the University of Pisa and brought the car project as a dissertation for its university graduation. After university, the young engineers started the assembly of the car, which began in 1952 and ended the following year.

The chassis was that of a FIAT 500C, while the engine was taken from a FIAT 500B but with the cylinder head of a SIATA sport car. It also equipped the engine with two Dell’Orto carburetors for a total output of 25 or 30 hp (whether one or both carburetors were working).

The engine was then moved over the front wheel axle to decrease the front imbalance of the car. A new coachwork was designed by Bizzarini and completely made of aluminum to decrease the weight of the vehicle.

Giotto Bizzarini with his FIAT 500C Bizzarini ‘Macchinetta’. Source:

In the end, the new vehicle, produced as a single prototype, had a maximum speed of 155 km/h. The young engineer went to Ferrari’s plant in Maranello with his product after the assembly.

The founder of Ferrari, Enzo Ferrari, was surprised by the characteristics of the car and decided to hire Bizzarini. This was the start of the fortunate and brilliant career for the Italian designer.

The FIAT 500C Bizzarini ‘Macchinetta’ at present. Source: @AndreaImondi

Other Customizations

SIATA Amica 49 and 50

After the Second World War, the Società Italiana Applicazioni Tecniche Auto-Aviatorie produced two GT variants of the FIAT 500B ‘Topolino’, the SIATA Amica 49 (English: SIATA [Female] Friend 49), of which 50 were produced from 1948 to 1949, and the SIATA Amica 50, with 500 produced between 1950 to 1952.

The SIATA Amica 49 had a tubular perimeter frame, while the SIATA Amica 50 had a steel box frame. Both were convertible cars with a SIATA 633 cm3 engine delivering 22 hp that, thanks to the only 580 kg of the car, guaranteed a top speed of 100 km/h. The cars had state-of-art finishes and were among the most luxurious of the era, with elaborate detailing in the upholstery and very distinctive designs.

A SIATA Amica 49, one of the 14 surviving examples. Source:


It is impossible to speak of racing and sport versions of the ‘Topolino’ without mentioning Zagato. This was a coachbuilder located in Milan that specialized in coachworking ALFA Romeo, Lancia, FIAT, and Aston Martin cars in small batches for racing or GT cups.

Zagato modified the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ chassis in many different configurations from 1936 until the 1950s.

FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ Trasformabile, a convertible car version presented in 1936 by Zagato. Note the elegant wheel rims. Source:

One of the first Zagato coachworks was the Trasformabile (English: Convertible Car) that had a short life due to the appearance, in October 1936, of a similar variant coachworked by FIAT itself.

In 1938, the production of the racing versions of the ‘Topolino’ was also started, with the already mentioned FIAT 500 Testa SIATA Spider Zagato and the FIAT 500 Testa SIATA Hardtop Zagato.

FIAT 500 Testa SIATA Spider Zagato during the 1938 Mille Miglia edition. Source:

During the Second World War, Ugo Zagato, the founder of the company, started the development of a new style of coachwork known as the Panoramica (English: Panoramic), characterized by windows and windshields of greater dimensions compared to standard cars.

After the war, the Panoramica coachwork was adopted on various car chassis, including the FIAT 500B ‘Topolino’ after 1948 and FIAT 500C ‘Topolino’ after 1950.

FIAT 500C Panoramica coachworked by Zagato in Watkins Glen, United Stated, in 1950. Source:

In the post-war period, Zagato cooperated with Giorgio Giusti, a designer that modified the ‘Topolino’ engine with a new cylinder head in bronze alloy, the so-called Testa d’Oro or Testadoro (English: Gold Head) for the color of the alloy.

The new 600 cm³ engine, coupled with the aerodynamic shape of the Zagato coachworks, created the famous FIAT-Giusti 500 Drin Drin Zagato, which won the Monthléry race in 1947 and had other great success in other races.

In 1948, also in cooperation with Giusti and on the ‘Topolino’ chassis, the FIAT 750 ‘Daniela’ Testadoro Zagato (five to six produced) and the FIAT 750 ‘Marinella’ Testadoro Zagato (four produced) were created. The new cars were powered by new engines developed by Giorgio Giusti’s own Testadoro company. ‘Marinella’ had a 742 cm³ cast iron engine with an aluminum alloy cylinder head. It gave a maximum output of 45 hp at 6,500 rpm. While ‘Daniela’ had the same engine, it had some modifications that brought it to a maximum output of 48 hp at 7,000 rpm.

The FIAT-Giusti 500 Drin Drin Zagato with the racing team after the Monthléry race in 1947. Source:

Other Versions

Other customizations included a three-axle Furgoncino variant produced by Ollearo of Turin and produced in limited numbers. Due to its limited dimensions and payload capacity, this variant was mainly used to advertise various products with their curious shapes.

The FIAT 500 ‘Furgoncino’ in its three-axle variant specifically coachworked for the Cormaiore Mineral Water company. Source:

Another curious variant was the one made for the Fabbrica Italiana Velocipedi Edoardo Bianchi (English: Italian Bicycles Factory Edoardo Bianchi) or simply Bianchi. The company is one of the most famous in Italy not only for its bike production, but also for its participation at the Giro d’Italia (English: Tour of Italy) and Tour de France (English: Tour of France) bicycle races.

For its racing team, Bianchi deployed at least one FIAT 500C ‘Topolino’ in Furgoncino variant produced in 1954 and then specially coachworked as a pick-up by the Carrozzeria Grazia of Bologna in 1961.

The FIAT 500C Furgoncino coachworked in 1961 as a pick-up for Bianchi by Carrozzeria Grazia. Source:

The vehicle followed the cyclists during the race and substituted their damaged bikes in case of accidents or tire punctures. It was used for many years, probably with other vehicles coachworked in a similar manner. It was found in the 1990s and completely restored.

FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ specially developed for the British market with right-hand drive and four seats. The production of this particular variant is unknown but surely limited. Source:


Exact data on the production of the car per year is unknown. Dante Giacosa, in the book Forty Years of Design with FIAT, mentions that the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ reached a production of 100 vehicles daily.

Between mid-1936 and mid-1938, the production was of 46,000 examples, as can be deduced from the introduction of the half-of-ellipse leaf suspensions on the FIAT 500 with chassis number 46,001. This surely was a sensible improvement in Italian vehicle production. The production rates increased, reaching about 20,000 examples produced (compared to an average FIAT 508 production of 16,000 cars per year) until 1940, when the Kingdom of Italy entered the Second World War. The production of everything that was not military-related was drastically reduced, as can be noted by the production of only 177 ‘Topolino’ in 1944.

The production restarted when the war ended in 1945 and was stopped in 1948, with a total of 110,000 examples produced.

A beautiful view of the FIAT Mirafiori’s FIAT 500B assembly line in 1948. On the right, a Furgoncino painted white followed by a FIAT 500B ‘Topolino’ convertible car and by a third Furgoncino. Source: Centro Storico FIAT

The history of the ‘Topolino’ was not finished yet. In 1948, the production of the pre-war model was stopped while, in the same year, the FIAT 500B ‘Topolino’ was introduced. It was produced for shortly more than a year, totaling 21,000 vehicles in various variants. In 1949 came the turn of the FIAT 500C ‘Topolino’ that totalled over 388,000 vehicles until 1955. In total, 519,847 FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ were produced in Italy between 1936 and 1955.

A FIAT garage in the Netherlands showing some FIAT models before selling them. On the left is a FIAT 600, on the right a FIAT 500C ‘Topolino’ with open bonnet. In the background are at least four other FIAT 500C: three convertible cars and a Giardiniera Belvedere. Source:

Military Service

Despite being a small city car, the ‘Topolino’ also saw extensive service during the Second World War.


In North Africa, the Regio Esercito, Italian Regia Aeronautica (English: Royal Air Force), and Wehrmacht deployed small quantities of ‘Topolino’ as staff cars or liaison vehicles. Some Furgoncini were also deployed as ‘medevac’ vehicles or to transport medical equipment.

A group of Italian officers near a ‘Topolino’ used as a staff car in Ventimiglia during the Italian invasion of France in 1940. Source: Istituto Luce

There is no information about their service, but it is easy to suppose that these small city cars were deployed to be as cheap as possible and did not perform well in operational theaters with extreme weather conditions, such as the Soviet Union or the Libyan desert.
The ‘Topolino’ had problems climbing over hills in cities, so it is difficult to imagine how they could perform off-road without adequate maintenance and spare parts.

An Italian soldier undertaking maintenance on a FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ of the Regia Aeronautica used by the Istituto Luce war correspondents. Source: Istituto Luce

Despite their inadequacy, many images testify to the wide use of ‘Topolino’, SIMCA, and NSU-FIAT in Italian and German service.

A FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ deployed by the Deutsche Afrika Korps in Libya. As the watermark suggests, the image was taken at the Mehari hotel in Tripoli during the North African Campaign. It was probably requisitioned by the Axis forces and deployed as a staff car for German officers. Source: @ALESSANDRO GIUCASTRO

After the fall of North Africa in 1943 and the later Armistice of 8th September 1943, the Italian Army was disbanded. The majority of the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ still present in the Italian peninsula not yet liberated by the Allies falled in German hands and their Italian Fascist allies.

Italian Partisans

A FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ captured from the Axis forces on the streets of Milan after the Great Partisan Insurrection of April 1945. Source:

Some FIAT 500s were deployed by Italian partisans during the Great Partisan Insurrection of April 1945 to quickly transport small groups of fighters and ammunition to the main cities in which fighting occurred. The ‘Topolinos’ as any other motor vehicle in partisan hands, were deployed as needed also as evacuation vehicles for wounded partisans and took part to the partisans paraded at the end of the conflict.

A wounded partisan is carried by other partisans inside a FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ during the fighting against Axis forces in Milan between 25th and 27th April 1945. Source: u/JCFalkenbergIII


The Armée de Terre (English: French Ground Force) adopted the SIMCA 5 (French copy of the ‘Topolino’) for its needs. The vehicles were mainly used as staff cars to transport NCOs, liaison cars to transport important messages from headquarters, as airport cars to quickly carry pilots to the planes located far from the airstrip, and as medical cars to transport lightly wounded soldiers to the nearest hospitals.

A SIMCA 5 of the 98e Régiment d’Infanterie of the Armée de Terre. Source:

From September 1939 until the fall of France in June 1940, the French Army placed various orders, totalling 1,650 SIMCA 5s.

In early 1940, because of the shortage of light vehicles for the Army, some SIMCA 5s intended for the civilian market were taken from the SIMCA plant or even requisitioned from civilians.

Before the surrender of France on 25th June 1940, about 1,000 SIMCA had been delivered to the Armée de Terre, while an unknown number were requisitioned.

A French SIMCA 5 convertible car used by the Armée de Terre to transport lightly wounded soldiers to the hospital. Image taken in March 1940. The vehicle was of the ‘Découvreable Grand Luxe’ model. Source:

Some vehicles also fell to French partisans, who deployed them in the same way as the Axis troops.

In 1944, during the fighting in the La Rochelle pocket against the Germans, French partisans built four improvised armored vehicles. Of the four vehicles, two were based on the SIMCA 5 and were nicknamed Joseph Camaret I and Joseph Camaret II.

The chassis were stripped of the coachwork and protected by armored plates recovered from some factories in La Rochelle. The vehicles did not participate in the clashes but took part in the victory parade after the defeat of the German forces. An example survived the war and is now exhibited in La Rochelle as a war memorial.

The Joseph Camaret II and Joseph Camaret I armored cars together with the other armored vehicles produced by the French resistance. The image was taken after the surrender of the German forces. Source:


After the capitulation of the Armée de Terre, the German Wehrmacht captured many hundreds of SIMCA 5. Many were captured from batches not yet delivered to the French Army or requisitioned from civilians.

After Operation Barbarossa in 1941, the SIMCA 5s were mainly used as staff cars. Some vehicles were used to quickly deploy medics and their equipment to the frontline or to evacuate lightly wounded soldiers from the battlefield.

A SIMCA 5 ‘Standard’ used as a medical car by the Wehrmacht, towed by a pair of horses after a breakdown somewhere in the Soviet Union. Source:

After the Italian Armistice of 8th September 1943 and the subsequent occupation of the Italian peninsula by German forces, the FIAT 500 became even more popular in German service.

With Italy having become an inconvenient ally, the Germans captured many Italian FIAT 500s, commandeering them from private individuals or FIAT plants.

An Italian soldier armed with MAB38 submachine gun stands guard riding a FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ parked in front of the EIAR public service broadcaster in Rome shortly after the Italian Armistice. Source: Bundesarchiv

The cars were widely deployed by German and Italian fascist troops to patrol areas in which Italian partisans operated or to connect isolated garrisons without deploying more precious military vehicles, such as armored cars or trucks.

A group of German officers standing near a FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ with an open roof. Date and location unknown. Source:

Partisans normally steered clear of German or fascist vehicles to avoid confrontation. Sometimes, these cars were at the head of columns and there was a risk of losing the skirmish when confronted with reinforcements.

At the same time, in case small groups of partisans were surprised near the road, the two occupants of the ‘Topolino’ could attack them with the favor of surprise or quickly turn back to call for reinforcements. As the war continued, however, the partisans began to arm themselves better and better and began to ambush isolated vehicles.

A Bussing-NAG 4500 super heavy truck next to a FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’, both in service with the Wehrmacht. Source: u/vitoskito

Allied Forces

The Allied forces also deployed some FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ and SIMCA 5 captured from the Axis forces. A SIMCA 5 that was still in German three-tone camouflage was deployed by the Brigade Major of the Royal Artillery as a staff car for the officers.

A British officer and his attendant riding a SIMCA 5 which belonged to the Wehrmacht. The acronym painted on the door stands for Brigade Major of the Royal Artillery. Source:
A SIMCA 5 abandoned in a scrapyard after the end of the hostilities. As the white star painted on the sides and bonnet suggests, the vehicle was deployed by the US Army during the war. Source:

Foreign Versions


The French Société Industrielle de Mécanique et de Carrosserie Automobile (SIMCA) (English: Mechanical and Automotive Body Manufacturing Company) was founded in 1934 by Enrico Teodoro Pigozzi, an Italian who lived in France.

In 1926, Pigozzi had founded in France a company to sell FIAT cars and assemble small batches of FIAT cars produced in Italy. After the 1929 crisis, France imposed high taxes on imported vehicles. In 1934, to overcome this problem, Pigozzi with the help of FIAT, founded SIMCA, which would produce license copies of FIAT cars, opening a production plant in Nanterre.

The third model of FIAT car produced was the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’, known in France as the SIMCA 5 or SIMCA Cinq (English: Five).

A SIMCA 5 in red livery. Source:

The first preseries FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ examples arrived at SIMCA, in France, before the official presentation of the car to the Italian Duce. The first SIMCA 5 was presented on 10th March 1936, but the production was delayed due some worker strikes in France in that period.

Unlike its sister from the other side of the Alps, the SIMCA 5 was not only available in two cheap configurations, but was also in expensive ones.

The ‘Standard’ model had a price of 9,900 Francs (equivalent to $382 in 1936 or $8,475 in 2023). It had the same mechanics and characteristics as the ‘Topolino’, but was not equipped with a spare wheel and running board between the front and rear wheel axles. The ‘Standard’ model was produced only until August 1936.

The SIMCA 5 ‘Luxury’ had a price of 10,900 Francs and had the spare wheel, two windshield wipers, and frontal bumper (in Italy, this was an extra). The SIMCA 5’s bumper was divided into two parts, leaving the radiator grille uncovered, while on the few Italian examples that received the bumper, it was in a single piece.

A French SIMCA 5 before the Second World War. Source:

Other models of the SIMCA 5 were the ‘Grand Luxe’ (11,950 Francs) and ‘Super Luxe’ (12,750 Francs), which had refined interiors. The last and most expensive model, the ‘Découvreable Grand Luxe’ (English: Grand Luxury Convertible Car) had a price of 12,950 Francs.

In October 1937, SIMCA presented a new version of the 5 in van configuration, known as the ‘Fourgonnette’ (English: Little Van). It was externally identical to the Italian one, although it had a lighter payload of 250 kg.

A SIMCA 5 Fourgonnette produced in 1947. Source:

Production started in 1936 but was stopped due to the war in June 1940 and restarted in 1946, finally stopping in 1948 after reaching a total of 46,472 SIMCA 5s built.

In 1948, while the FIAT 500B was still produced in Italy, SIMCA presented the SIMCA 6, a copy of the already designed but not yet produced FIAT 500C. Only 16,508 were produced from summer 1948 until 1950. In total, in France, 62,980 SIMCA 5 and 6s were produced between 1936 and 1950.

A SIMCA 6, a French copy of the FIAT 500C. Source:

Polski-FIAT 500

The FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ was produced in Poland by Państwowe Zakłady Inżynierii or PZInż (English: National Institute of Engineering) in its production plant in Warsaw. The cooperation between PZInż and FIAT started with the license agreement signed on 21th September 1932 for the assembly and later production of the FIAT 508 ‘Balilla’.

Little is known about the production and service of the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ in Poland. The Polski-FIAT 500 production probably started in 1937 and was suspended in September 1939, when Germany invaded the country.

A Polski-FIAT 500 used by a Polish company as an advertising car. Source: @kuba16241


In 1928, the German company NSU Motorenwerke was forced to sell its new production plant of Heilbronn to FIAT due financial problems. In summer 1929, the NSU Automobil AG was founded in the Heilbronn plant. In 1934, it started to assemble and then produce FIAT cars for the German market.

As with SIMCA and PZInż, the first FIAT car produced was a copy of the FIAT 508 ‘Balilla’, known on the German market as the NSU-FIAT 1000. After a series of modifications and new models (such as the NSU-FIAT 1500), in 1937, the German company presented the NSU-FIAT 500.

A NSU-FIAT 500C in convertible car configuration at an old car motor show in Emmendingen, Germany. Source:

The NSU-FIAT 500 was produced from 1937 to 1941 when, due to war needs, the factory stopped the production of vehicles for the civilian market. In total, until 1941, about 4,000 NSU-FIAT 500 were produced in Germany. The vehicles were also produced in the Furgoncino configuration.

Poster of the NSU-FIAT 500 Furgoncino for the Dutch market. Source:

After the war, the FIAT license production was restarted and, in 1951, substituted with the NSU-FIAT 500C, of which 9,064 were produced until 1955.

Surely, the most famous German version of the ‘Topolino’ was the NSU-500 Spider, a roadster coachworked by Karosseriewerke Weinsberg (English: Weinsberg Coachworker). The total number of cars produced in this version is unknown, but it was popular due to its characteristic shape.

A German-produced NSU-FIAT 500 Spider in roadster configuration coachworked by Karosseriewerke Weinsberg. Source:

Other License Production Around the World

The ‘Topolino’ production history did not end with Germany. Unfortunately there is little information about the other manufacturers and it is difficult to track their histories and total numbers.

The Austrian FIAT-Steyr company produced the FIAT 500 from Complete Knock Down (CKD) kits from 1952 to 1956, namely the FIAT 500C ‘Topolino’ city car, Furgoncino, and Giardiniera variants. No data on their precise numbers is given.

The Indian company Premier produced the FIAT 500 after the Second World War in the B version, but there is no more information about how many were produced.

Another nation which produced the FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ was New Zealand. The Todd Motors company produced small batches of the Italian car starting from 1937.

A FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ produced in India used to transport two tigers after a hunting session. Source:

The ‘Topolino’ in other Parts of the World

The FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ had a discrete export success for such a small car. It was sold in various nations around the world before and after the Second World War.

At least one example was used during the filming of the US film The More the Merrier directed by George Stevens in 1943, while other vehicles were sold in the United States in small quantities.

A FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ in front of Marble Collegiate Church and Empire State Building in E 28th Street, New York, in the 1940s. Source: Centro Storico FIAT

Other vehicles were sold to Argentina, where the Italian community was very much present (today, 47% of Argentininans have Italian ancestors). It is unknown how many FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ were sold in Argentina, but the majority were bought by Italians who lived there.

A child near a FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’. The car has a Buenos Aires license plate. The image was taken in 1951 in Bosque de Palermo, a big park in the Italian-Argentine neighborhood of Palermo in Buenos Aires. Source: @BsAs_recuerdo

Returning to Europe, many FIAT 500 were also sold in the Netherlands before and after the Second World War. Other cars were also sold in the United Kingdom, where the Furgoncino variant also had a small success.

In 1939, the British Sidney Smith Garage company in Purley presented the FIAT-SIATA Smith Special, a roadster variant of the ‘Topolino’. It had a 20.8 hp at 2,500 rpm SIATA overhead engine that powered the car to a top speed of 95 km/h. It had enough space to accommodate a driver and passenger and even two other passengers in the rear. The total number of FIAT-SIATA Smith Specials produced is unknown, but at least four still exist today.

The FIAT-SIATA Smith Special roadster produced in United Kingdom in 1939. Source:

In the 1950s, Hamblin, a British small manufacturer of sports car bodies, presented some FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ converted to sports cars for the 750 cm3 competition class.

A FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ parked in a street of Amsterdam, Netherlands, in an unknown period after the Second World War. Source:

Some FIAT 500s were also sold to Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Spain almost surely only after the war, but their use and total number is unknown.

Spanish actress Conchita Montenegro in a FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ in San Sebastian, Spain. Source:
Three smiling Soviet soldiers posing near a FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ in Sofia in an unknown period. The vehicle was mobilized by the army during the war. Source:


The FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ was one of the most famous cars produced in Italy during the Fascist regime. Thanks to its characteristics and cost, it was bought by a large portion of the Italian population and saw incredible success around the world, with thousands of licensed vehicles produced and sold in many nations.

Developed to be a cheap city car, it was forced into war to be deployed by various armies in Europe, with bad results in dusty desert or harsh steppes. In the ‘Topolino’s’ defense, this was not what it had been designed for.

After the Second World War, it was still produced and sold in Italy and Europe, becoming one of FIAT’s most successful vehicles.

A FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ in elegant two-tone paint before the Second World War. Illustrations by Godzilla.
A FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ deployed by the Regio Esercito as liaison car in North Africa. Illustrations by Godzilla.
FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’ Furgoncino deployed as MEDEVAC vehicle. Illustrations by Godzilla.
SIMCA 5 of the 98e Régiment d’Infanterie of the Armée de Terre before German invasion of France. Illustrations Godzilla.
SIMCA 5 of the Brigade Major of the Royal Artillery still in its Wehrmacht camouflage. Illustrations by Godzilla.

FIAT 500A ‘Topolino’ Specification

Size (L-W-H) 3.215 x 1.275 x 1.377 m
Curb Weight 535 kg
Fully Loaded Weight 750 kg
Passengers 2 (4)
Engine FIAT petrol, in-line, 4-cylinders, 569 cm³, delivering 13 hp at 4,000 rpm.
Fuel reserve 21 liters
Speed 85 km/h
Range 350 km
Production 519,847


I miei 40 anni di Progettazione alla FIAT – Dante Giacosa
Also in English language as:
Forty Years of Design with FIAT – Dante Giacosa

Il Grande Libro delle Giardinette FIAT – Alessandro Sannia

Il Grande Libro delle Piccole FIAT – Alessandro Sannia

2 replies on “FIAT 500 ‘Topolino’”

“Poster of the NSU-FIAT 500 Furgoncino for the German market”
As far as I know DE BESTELWAGEN VOOR ECONOMISH VERVOER is not language of Germany, but language of Kingdom Of Netherlands. Are you sure poster was published for the German market despite language mismatch?

Yea, can confirm that the language on the poster is entirely Dutch.
And looking at the source page, it seems to be filed with 2 other Dutch posters and/or instruction pages.

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