Debuting in 1936, the original Fiat 500A became Italy’s most popular car. In 1948, Fiat announced the 500B, and expanded the microcar’s capabilities with a practical, wood-sided wagon called the Giardiniera, meaning “gardener.” When the 500C was released in 1949 with a refreshed design, Fiat again offered the Giardiniera, but only for two years. This 500C was completed at the Lingotto factory by Carrozzerie Speciali, Fiat’s in-house coachbuilder. As a 1951 model, this Giardiniera featured improvements including semi-elliptical rear springs, an upgraded electrical system, and an overhead valve engine. Fiat listed the curb weight of the Giardiniera as 1,480 lbs., only 155 lbs. more than the standard version. Though it is more powerful and modern than the original 500A, this relatively late-production example retains the classic charm of the cinquecento.
Documentation from the Automobile Club d’Italia, included with the sale, indicates this Giardiniera was originally registered in the agricultural province of Foggia, Italy. The Giardiniera’s current caretaker reports that Raoul San Giorgi, a noted Belgian collector and Italian car specialist, recently had this car restored to show-quality standards. Mr. San Giorgi reportedly focused on historical accuracy in the nut-and-bolt restoration, with particular attention paid to the Giardiniera’s distinctive wood side panels.
For collectors searching for a unique and versatile classic, as suited for the Concorso Italiano as it would be a woodie wagon cruise-in, this restored Giardiniera represents an inspired choice.