With the new Fiat 600 EV on the market, Mike Brewer Motoring remembers the original.
The latest new model to be announced by Fiat is the 600 EV, a crossover that’s due to arrive in the UK early next year. It will challenge some talented rivals in the class, but it also gives us the opportunity to revisit a name that dates back almost seventy years and a car that appeared in the Wheeler Dealers workshop just last year.
Designed by Dante Giacosa, the original 600 was Fiat’s first rear-engined car and it was launched at the 1955 Geneva Motor Show. Impressively practical despite its tiny dimensions, it was powered by a 633cc water-cooled engine (later enlarged to 767cc) that provided modest levels of power and performance.
Neither of those things really mattered, though, because the 600 was all about delivering affordable family transport; the simple interior could seat four adults. There was plenty of character, too, as Mike and Elvis discovered with their 1963 example that, after plenty of work, turned a tidy profit.
The little Fiat proved hugely popular, with a million sold in the first six years, and it would remain a key part of the range until 1969 although it continued to be built outside of Italy until the early 1980s. And it would also spawn a rather more unusual variant in the form of the Multipla.
Making its debut at the 1956 Brussels Motor Show, this quirky people carrier looked like nothing else on the road. The combination of rear-mounted engine and almost vertical front end allowed plenty of cabin space, and opting for the three rows of seats mean it could seat six. Front doors that hinged at the back only added to its unconventional appeal.
Like the saloon it lacked power, the 663cc engine producing a meagre 21.5hp which meant a top speed of less than 60mph. Still, the 600D that arrived in 1960 featured a larger engine and a whopping 25hp! But if all you wanted to do was carry plenty of passengers the Multipla worked a treat.
You could buy one in the UK although they were a rare sight, sales limited by a price of almost £800 at the time. Finding one today certainly isn’t easy, so if the idea of this little people-mover appeals you need to be prepared for a bit of a search. And good ones can fetch £20k or more.
We’re glad to see the 600 badge making a return, though, and while the new one will be rather different thanks to its electric powertrain it provides the perfect excuse to remember the original. Perhaps we’ll see it on Wheeler Dealers sixty years from now…
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