The Fiat 500 was the motorcar for the Italian people. Compact, revolutionary design and carrying the sweetest of nicknames, Topolino, Italian for ‘tiny mouse’.
Thinking of the Fiat 500, people usually end up with its successor, the Nuova Cinquecento, but in fact the Fiat Topolino is the first small Fiat to be produced in large numbers. From 1936 up til 1955 the Topolino is produced in three successive versions and a large number of body styles. In 1935 the very first Fiat 500 is introduced, now widely knows as the Topolino- or 500 A.
In 1948 it is replaced by the Topolino B with mildly altered mechanics, but still carrying the A-style body. From 1949 on the Topolino C is marketed, with a completely modified and modernised front end. All of them being two door cars, with either soft or hard tops, a break version later known as the ‘Belvedere’ and even a panelvan.
Based on Fiat build chassis’ multiple special bodies are built by several independent coach builders. By the way, the 500 isn’t just being produced in Italy. Amongst others the Topolino is built under license of Simca in France and as NSU in Germany.
Co van Wijk is an enthousiast from the early days on, his barn harvesting and entire ‘nest’ of these little mice. Age fifteen he drives his first Topolino, leaving him smitten for the little Fiat at the spot. Now age 77 he knows every single bolt, nut and screw on his cars. Several Topolino’s have been restored and in the search for parts many a trip to Italian classic venues are being made.
The long drive to Italy is only a success when the van is stacked with sourced Topolino parts on the way home. The restoration of his first Topolino took him eight years. These days he has a little more time to spend on his cars so things get along a little quicker. In the morning he is home with his wife, the afternoons are spent in the workshop, taking care of his mice family.
The radiator being positioned behind the little four barrel engine leaves Fiat with the opportunity to fit an elegant and streamlined grille and bonnet. Quite ingenious when you remember most cars in these days were fitted with an upright grille. These are the elements that, combined with clever and cheap production, production all over Europe and a very diverse model range, made the Fiat 500 a real bestseller.
Co’s collection perfectly shows us how the original Fiat evolved over the year as well as how it was adapted to local needs. Like his Weinsberg Fiat, an elegant roadster based on an NSU-Fiat. It’s an adorable little car, favorite to many Topolino enthousiasts. To Co it’s just one of his beloved family members.