Cars such as the new Mini and Beetle may be aspirational purchases today, but their original incarnations were meant as affordable transport for the masses.
The Fiat 500 perhaps encapsulates this change better than anything else. Though the Nuova was created to bridge the gap between microcars and small cars, its modern homage now serves time as the estate agents’ steed of choice – a conventional car with a pretty face and an elevated price tag.
But for classic fans this just makes the original all the more appealing.
Launched in 1957, the 13bhp two-seater Nuova 500 soon made way for a 15bhp four-seater version and the 21bhp sport. It was the latter car’s popularity that encouraged Fiat to replace the Nuova with the 17.5bhp 500D and cemented the 500’s reign into the mid-’70s.
While not the quickest machine to grace our planet, the Fiat is small, nippy and frugal. Perfect for Europe’s cities.
Hardly surprising then that there are a wealth of clubs including the Fiat 500 Club , the Fiat 500 Enthusiasts’ Club, plus sections of the Sporting Fiats Club and the Fiat Motor Club GB, devoted to the cheeky Italian.
Cars such as this can be picked up for just £5995. It has been upgraded to a 650cc engine, has a properly functioning heater (an apparent rarity), has covered only 42,000 miles and comes taxed and MoT’d.
It is at the lower end of the scale, though, so potential problems to look out for include rust around most of the bodyshell and the battery tray. Also look out for wear in the kingpin suspension (which needs greasing every 1000 miles) and the steering box, plus excessive oil leaks. The latter could spell imminent engine failure. It is also worth remembering that all 500s (including the R) had a non-synchromesh gearbox.
With a Powder Blue exterior, plus a burgundy and cream interior, this 500 beats the new car hands down for lovable looks. The £9995 asking price and its current location at an Aston Martin dealership should mean that it has also been looked after over the relatively few miles that it has covered.
But probably not as well as this machine, which comes with receipts totalling £26,000. It spent much of its life in Monaco before being shipped to the UK where it was subject to what looks like a comprehensive restoration. This included a new engine, upgraded brakes and a full-leather interior. It is a list that makes the £18,990 asking price seem almost bearable.
Stretching from less than £5000 to more than £20,000, the original Nuova 500 occupies almost the same price range as its chubby modern equivalent. It also offers real-world running costs that are far lower and looks that are not retro cool – they’re just plain cool. Buy one with the help of our free buyer's guide and you’ll have got yourself an old car that solves many a modern problem.