Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 1st August 2018

Within the automotive industry, small cars have enjoyed a certain amount of reverence for their design and practicality. An early model, the Austin 7, stirred up interest, but later models drummed up even greater support. Fiat aimed to be the first company to create a mass-produced small car that would capture the public’s imagination. The car became the Fiat 500 Topolino and we’re looking into its history.

Little mouse

Fiat started to work on the car in 1936 and what set it apart from other motors is that it wasn’t a cyclecar or a scaled-down version of a larger model. It was built from scratch as a small vehicle. Named the Topolino, which translated as ‘Little Mouse,’ the car was inexpensive to develop.

Antonio Fessia led the project, while Dante Giacosa designed the chassis and engine. The Topolino came with a 589 cc four-cylinder side-valve water-cooled engine, hydraulic dampeners, independent front suspension and an all-steel body. All of these components were considered sophisticated for the 1930s.

At the time of production, the Topolino was one of the smallest cars in the world. It had a practical design, shown from the aerodynamic front. This allowed for excellent forward visibility. It reached a top speed of 53 mph.

Public reaction

When the Topolino debuted in 1937, people were impressed. It fit the image of a car that was economical, practical and fun to drive. Not long after it went on the market, drivers started developing the Topolino for motorsport. Aftermarket manufacturers produced performance parts and engine capacity was increased to 750 cc.

Three models of the car were produced. The Model A, offered as a 2-door saloon, 2-door convertible saloon and 2-door van, lasted from 1937 to 1948. The Model B was offered as a 3-door estate, being produced from 1948 to 1949. The Model C came out in 1949 with a restyled body. The Topolino continued to be a best-seller until 1955 when it was replaced by the Fiat 600.

The Topolino was a revolutionary vehicle that set the standard for future Fiats and small cars. It was economical, light and responsive.