The Fiat 500e gets a big brother. Although the newcomer looks like a modernized 500X, it is called ‘Fiat 600e’. Sounds illogical and doesn’t seem smart from a marketing point of view. Nevertheless, that model name is historically very justified. What do you know about the history of the Fiat 600?
1. Successor of the Fiat Topolino
The very first Fiat 600 was presented in 1955 as the successor to Fiat’s pre-war 500, better known as ‘Topolino’ (little mouse). The 600 received a rear-mounted four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive.
2. Front-wheel drive deleted.
In order to use the space as efficiently as possible, designer Dante Giacosa wanted to equip the first Fiat 600 with front-wheel drive and a transverse engine in the front. Due to the high development costs, that party was canceled. And so the Mini of designer Alec Issigonis in 1959 became the first car that did get the modern layout that Giacosa had in mind.
3. Fiat 600 Multipla one of the first MPVs
To also offer large Italian families sufficient affordable space, presented Fiat in 1956 the 600 Multipla, an MPV avant la lettre. It was about 30 centimeters longer than the regular Fiat 600 and could accommodate up to six occupants. In the front, the driver and co-driver sat on a two-seater bench seat directly above the front axle. Behind it were two rows of seats, each with two folding seats. Fiat also built a special taxi version, which you saw a lot in Rome. About 240,000 Fiat 600 Multipla were built.
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4. Space for less space
With the rise of dwarf cars like the BMW Isetta, Fiat saw that there was market space under the Fiat 600 for an even smaller car. That is why the Italians came up with the first post-war Fiat 500 in 1957, the ‘backpack’. For more distinction between the two brothers, Fiat replaced the 633 cc engine (22 hp) in the 600D in 1960 with a 29 hp version with 767 cc. The model name 600 was nevertheless simply maintained.
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5. Extremely long life motor
The 633 cc block of the Fiat 600 – also known as the 100 engine – formed the basis for a whole series of increasingly larger engines. Counting all versions, the basic block remained in production for 40 years. With the advent of modern FIRE engines (Fully Integrated Robotised Engine) in 1985 the old four-cylinder gradually disappeared from view.
6. Ordinary doors
In the 1960s there was increasing criticism of the insecurity of the then common ‘suicide doors’. It was not until 1964 that Fiat replaced them with normal hinged doors on the 600. The 600 Multipla kept them until the end of production in 1965.
7. Petite Millionaire
Up to and including 1968, almost 2.7 million 600s were produced in Turin. If you count all licensed versions from Spain, Brazil and the former Yugoslavia, among others, the counter only stops at 4.9 million copies.
8. Also a long time ago a four-door Fiat 600
A special licensed version of the Fiat 600 was the Seat 800 built in Spain, a 600 stretched by 18 centimeters, with four doors. This extended 600 was built between 1964 and 1967. It was mainly intended as a competitor for the standard four-door Citroën 2CV and Renault 4.
9. Fiat 600 as a horror of the track
In collaboration with tuning specialist Abarth, several fast 600s were built. Lowered, spoilered and with an open bonnet for extra cooling, the Fiat Abarth 850 TC achieved several sporting successes on the track.
10. Fiat 600 gets a successor after 30 years
Production of the Italian 600 stopped in 1968, but it was continued for years in Spain, Brazil and Yugoslavia, among others. After an absence of 30 years, there was another Italian Fiat 600 in 1998, although the name was now written: ‘Seicento’. In fact, this was a heavily facelifted version of the Fiat Cinquecento (500) introduced in 1992.
11. 600 sees Abraham
With the cheerfully decorated Fiat Seicento 50th Anniversary, the manufacturer celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the original 600 in 2005. There are two versions: one with cream-colored paint and light blue striping and one where the colors of the body and striping have been changed. There is no ‘Seicento’ on the back, but ‘600’ again, as it used to be. The colors of the bodywork are reflected on the inside and the backs of the seats are marked with ‘FIAT’ in large letters.
12. New Fiat 600e not first electric 600
Strictly speaking, the new Fiat 600e is not the first electric 600. Fiat supplied the electric Seicento Elettra from 1998 on special order. The battery pack of eighteen 12V batteries weighed 400 kilograms. The electric motor under the luggage compartment delivered a peak power of 45 hp. The sprint from 0-50 km/h took 8 seconds and the top speed was 100 km/h. Those who did their best economically, came 90 kilometers away. 294 units of the Seicento Elettra were sold, mainly to Italian municipalities.