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I Witnessed: The Cinquecento’s 50th birthday

4 weeks ago

Writer:

Andrew English | Journalist

Date:

10 September 2022

Pure joy isn’t a feature of many or, in fact, any motor industry events these days, but 15 years ago in Turin the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Fiat’s Cinquecento remain for me one of the most joyous things I’ve ever seen in my professional career – even if it didn’t start very well.

This was a party for one little car: Dante Giacosa’s 500, or Cinquecento Nuova, which had first been presented to the Italian premier 50 years previously on July 4th, 1957. Britain has its Mini, Germany its Beetle and France its 2CV – the Cinquecento was Italy’s ‘People’s Car’. It helped build Italy’s post-war economy and in its production life it spurred an almost six-fold growth in Fiat production from 250,000 cars in 1946 to over 1.4 million in 1967. Giacosa’s design was brilliant and for many years this little car defined the nation as much as Italy’s timeless fashion, the Mafia and its fine food.

Fiat’s legendary president Vittorio Valletta, together with Italy’s restrictive import taxes meant the Cinquecento thrived in its home market and there will be few Italians who haven’t driven one. In 2007 there were over 600,000 still registered in Italy and even today you can see ageing Cinquecentos puffing valiantly over the Futa Pass and chuntering along the autostrada.

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