New FIAT 500 to be unveiled on July 4

Reborn FIAT 500 was launched on July 4 2007

Reborn FIAT 500 was launched on July 4 2007On July 4 1957 the FIAT was launched to the Italian public. Developed by legendary engineer Dante Giacosa, the FIAT 500 was designed to be as affordable to buy and run as possible.

It was small, not necessarily to avoid traffic congestion (post-war Italy was still an emerging economic and industrial force in the late 50’s so cars remained relatively rare) but because metal was expensive and the more of it that was used, the more weight the car gained and the more performance and fuel was needed to propel the car along. It was this kind of pragmatism which led to the adoption of a full-length canvas roof on early models (lighter and less expensive to produce than a metal roof) and also in the interests of costs and packaging, a rear-mounted, air-cooled, two-cylinder 479cc engine was chosen. Producing just 13hp, the 470kg FIAT 500 was capable of just over 50mph but, more importantly, it was extremely fuel efficient and required only the most basic maintenance.

At a time when the average Italian factory worker earned no more than 50,000 Lire per month the FIAT 500 cost 490,000 Lire when it went on sale, making it a considerable financial undertaking even with FIAT’s 20,000 Lire per month repayment programme. However that didn’t prevent the FIAT 500 being a massive sales success, amassing more than 3.6 million sales over its 18-year life cycle, during which it remained largely faithful to Giacosa’s original design and engineering principals.

Original FIAT 500 was launched to the public on July 4 1957The FIAT 500 evolved into the FIAT 126, which was subsequently replaced by the FIAT Cinquencento and Seicento city cars – all brilliantly packaged, fun to drive and commercially successful in their own right – but the original 500 never really disappeared from view in the way so many other cars do.

As cities became more traffic-clogged and parking ever more difficult, the packaging, low running costs and robustness of the original 500 meant many remained in daily use long after they rolled off the production line. Unmistakable looking with an appeal far beyond its functional origins, it was clear that the FIAT 500 had a special place in the public’s hearts and minds, and so on July 4 2007 the FIAT 500 was reborn – true to the philosophy of the iconic 1957 car – affordable and practical, of course, but also stylish and distinctive in a thoroughly modern package. The engine might have moved to the front and it may have had seven airbags and Blue&Me connectivity but its design was a perfectly-executed homage to the original car, bestowing it with the same universal appeal and instilling the same emotional connection in people, even those too young to remember the original car.

Marketed in 100 countries and with more than 1.5 million sales globally (UK sales will likely top quarter of a million in total by the end of the year) the next chapter in the FIAT 500 story is about to begin.

On July 4 2015, FIAT will unveil the new FIAT 500 for the first time.

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