The Fiat 500, commonly known as Topolino (“little mouse”, the Italian name for Mickey Mouse), is an Italian automobile model manufactured by Fiat from 1936 to 1955.
The Topolino was one of the smallest cars in the world at the time of its production. Launched in 1937, three models were produced until 1955, all with only minor mechanical and cosmetic changes. It was equipped with a 569 cc four-cylinder, side valve, water-cooled engine mounted in front of the front axle, and so was a full-scale car rather than a cycle car. The radiator was located behind the engine which made possible a lowered wind-cheating nose profile at a time when competitor vehicles confronted the world with flat near vertical front grills. The shape of the car’s front gave it exceptional forward visibility.
Suspension at the back initially depended on quarter-elliptic rear springs, but somehow buyers frequently squeezed four or five people into the nominally two seater car, and in later models the chassis was extended at the rear to allow for more robust semi-elliptic springs.
With horsepower of about 13 bhp, its top speed was about 53 mph (85 km/h), and it could achieve about 39.2 miles per US gallon (6.00 L/100 km; 47.1 mpg-imp). The target price given when the car was planned was 5,000 lire. In the event the price at launch was 9,750 lire, though the decade was one of falling prices in several part of Europe and later in the 1930s the Topolino was sold for about 8,900 lire. Despite being more expensive than first envisaged, the car was very competitively priced. Nearly 520,000 were sold.
In 1955 the mid-size rear wheel drive Fiat 600 was launched by Fiat and that would become the design basis for the new Fiat 500, the Nuova 500. The Nuova 500 is often thought, mistakenly, to be the only model 500 Fiat.
Fiat is known to be working on a low-cost entry-level city car, to fit into its range below both the Fiat 500 and Panda, codename Topolino. Based on the A-platform used by the Fiat 500 and Fiat Panda but shortened to 3,000 mm (118.1 in) in length, the new Topolino will seat four people. This is scheduled for production in 2010.
The new Topolino will be built in the former Zastava plant in Kragujevac, Serbia. Fiat said the company will invest 700 million euros to modernize the Kragujevac plant. The Serbian government will contribute 300 million euros through tax breaks, incentives and infrastructure for the new plant. By the end of next year, Fiat plans to build 200,000 units a year in Kragujevac. Capacity will grow to 300,000 units from 2010 with the addition of the B-compact models.