1937 Fiat Topolino

The Collection’s Exhibit

Over half a million examples of the original Fiat 500, or Topolino (‘little mouse’ in Italian) as it was known unofficially, were manufactured between 1936 and 1955. At the time of its launch it was said to be the smallest ‘real’ car in the world in mass production, being a scaled down version of larger vehicles rather than a crude light car or cyclecar.

With a water-cooled, four-cylinder, side valve engine of 569cc mounted ahead of the front axle, four speed synchromesh gearbox, 12 volt electrics, independent front suspension and hydraulic brakes it was more advanced in specification than many cars of the mid-1930s.

The Fiat 500 was an immediate success, not just because it was small (just 3.2 metres or 10ft long) or inexpensive but because it was a very good car by contemporary standards. It was quickly introduced onto the British market where it established itself as a ‘classless’ car and got the nickname of the ‘Mickey Mouse Fiat’. Races specifically for the Topolino were organised pre-war at the Brooklands circuit.

Designed by (six-foot tall!) Dante Giacosa, who was responsible for engine and chassis, and Rudolfo Schaeffer, who styled the body, the little Fiat was manufactured in three basic models during its life. The two-door, two-seat, body was mounted on a separate chassis; there was no boot lid, luggage being stowed behind the two front seats.

The original Model A was produced as a saloon, a convertible (with roll-back canvas roof) and a van, whilst the Model B, from 1948, had an overhead valve engine of 16bhp instead of the 13bhp of the previous version and was also available as the ‘Giardinetta’ estate car with a third, rear, door.

The Collection’s car was purchased by Dorothy Shuttleworth in 1937. After falling from regular use it deteriorated badly but, in the mid-1960s, was extensively restored by Shuttleworth Vehicle Collection volunteers to full working order and in its original ‘Shuttleworth’ blue.


Manufacturer: Fiat SPA, Torino, Italy
Model: Tipo 500A
Engine: Front mounted 569cc four-cylinder, in-line
Top Speed: 50 mph


This exhibit is part of the Richard Shuttleworth trail.

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