Fiat Nuova 500 Versions From 1957 To 1975 | Part Three

The 500 D (1960 - 1965)
  • Output: over 642,000 units
  • Launch price: 450.000 lire

The new 500 series D was launched in the Autumn of 1960. Engine capacity was increased to 499.5 cc, and this version inherited the engine of the Sport version, which was taken off the market. It had a power output of 17.5 bhp, a top speed of 95 km/h and average consumption of 4.8 litres/100 km. The car was homologated for four people with 40 kg of luggage. The unladen weight also increased to 500 kg (the first 500 of 1957 weighed 470, and this reflected an important increase in content and stronger materials) and 820 kg fully laden.

The styling did not change, and the doors were still hinged at the rear but the design of the front and side direction indicators changed, adopting those on the Giardiniera. The rear light clusters changed and the canvas roof was now sturdier, easier to open and slightly smaller. White ‘walls’ returned on the tyres.

The fuel tank on the 500 D lost its barrel shape but remained in the front; its new less bulky form took up a little less space in the boot although it increased in size from 20 to 22 litres. A fold-down rear squab was adopted.

500 F (1965 – 1972)
  • Output: 2,272,000 (including the 500 L)
  • Launch price: 475,000 lire

The 500 F made its debut in March 1965 (it was joined by the 500 ‘Lusso’ in 1968), and was the first version to feature front-hinged doors which were safer in an accident, and made it possible to hide the ugly door hinges for the first time. In terms of engineering, the transmission was made more robust, with a number of improvements to the clutch, drive shafts and differential.

The engine still had a capacity of 499.5 cc, but now delivered 18 bhp, taking the 500 F to a top speed of 95 km/h. Fuel consumption also increased compared to previous versions, to 5.5 litres/100 km. The weight rose to 520 kg empty and 840 km fully laden. The car maintained its 4-seat homologation, with a maximum 40 kg of luggage. The gradient negotiable was now 26% compared to 23% on the first series.

Inside, there were a number of improvements and additional equipment and materials. With the 500 F, Fiat began to differentiate the range by price, styling and content. The engineers at Mirafiori designed a ‘basic’ version, the 500 F, and a better equipped version, the 500 ‘Lusso’, which was launched in 1968.

500 L – ‘Lusso’ (1968 – 1972)
  • Output: 2,272,000 units (including the 500F)
  • Launch price: 525,000 lire

This version, which appeared in September 1968, had a clear mission: to meet the demands of customers looking for a car that was more comprehensive, more customised and more ‘luxurious’. These motorists were prepared to spend as much as 525,000 lire, in other words, 100,000 lire more than the 500 F. Marketing, evolving tastes and changing lifestyles were leading Fiat to develop a car that was a small status symbol for its day. The age of the basic car was already coming to an end, because customers wanted more.

The 500 L did not change where engineering and performance were concerned (engine capacity of 499.5 cc, 18 bhp, top speed of 95 km/h), but fuel consumption was down to 5.3 litres/100 km from 5.5 litres/100 km on the 500 F. The interior and exterior styling of the 500 L was new. Chrome nudge bars on the front and rear bumpers increased the length to 3.025 metres compared to 2.970 metres on the 500 F (the weight also increased by 10 kg to 530 km empty). The front and rear light clusters changed radically, and the two round front headlights, the direction indicators and the rear lights were all larger.

The Fiat logo on the front also changed, becoming rectangular, whereas on the 500 F it was still surrounded by a grille, with two chrome-silver painted plastic ‘whiskers’. Chrome-plated trim appeared on the roof drip channels for the first time. At the rear, the model name in italics used on previous series was abandoned in favour of new rhomboid-shaped brand and model graphics with black upper case lettering, positioned horizontally and no longer transversely on the bonnet, surrounded by squares with a metallic grey background which recalled the rhomboids of the Fiat trademark, that were used on all Fiat models from 1968.

But it was inside that the 500 L lived up to its name as the ‘luxury’ version. A number of interior details were redesigned, and the seats were upholstered in leather cloth with vertical quilting, usually in a light hide colour or red. The seats themselves were better padded with reclining squabs, and the number and size of the storage compartments increased (for example in the doors).

But the 500 L was a sort of swansong for the model. In 1972, when it was taken off the market, there was a new small Fiat, the 126, and from 1972 to 1975 only one version of the 500 was still in production, the last, and most basic version, the 500 R.

continues... | Part Four
Published 21 March 2007 Melanie Carter

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