1953 Fiat Topolino

Summary

  • Year of manufacture 
    1953
  • Mileage 
    40 593 km / 25 224 mi
  • Car type 
    Other
  • Engine number 
    403697
  • Drive 
    LHD
  • Condition 
    Used
  • Interior colour 
    Other
  • Location
  • Exterior colour 
    Other

Description

A Wonderfully Preserved and Great-Running Topolino Trasformabile with Known History From New. Sorted by Phil Reilly & Co. and Epifani.

1953 Fiat Topolino 500C Trasformabile
s/n 500*399184*, eng no. 500*403697*
Blue Grey with Tan and Brown Cloth Interior

Known affectionately by Italians and collectors around the world as Topolino, “little mouse” or “Mickey Mouse”, the brilliant engineering of Dante Giacosa combined to deliver a charming and clever design that still delights enthusiasts today. Offered new at an affordable price, the Topolino mobilized an entire generation of Italy. It was economical, compact, and durable, endearing hundreds of thousands of dedicated owners in postwar Italy and Europe. Impressively modern for the era, the Topolino featured independent front suspension, hydraulic brakes, and hydraulic shock absorbers. The modest 569 cc four-cylinder engine mated with a 4-speed synchromesh transmission capably powered two adults around the streets of post war Europe. Sales were robust but ultimately it was their charming looks and ease of use that would weave the Topolino into the fabric of Italian culture, launching Italy into world production while making Fiat a leading manufacturer of volume automobiles.

Topolino production ran through 1955 with the final iteration being the most refined 500C model, which was not only capable for street use, but also finished first place in the 750cc class in the 1952 Mille Miglia. Though options were few, a unique retractable fabric roof could be specified, allowing for the entire roof to be opened up, thus transforming the car to an airy convertible. This “Trasformabile” feature remains one of the most desirable in Topolino models. Despite their delightful presence and importance in automotive history, few original Topolinos survive today, making properly documented and sensitively preserved examples hard to find.

This particular example is one of the fortunate few Topolinos to have survived and thrived over the past 65 years due to careful ownership and appreciation for these delightful cars. Copies of the original Italian documentation indicate this Topolino was delivered new in Italy and registered to the first owner on April 17, 1953. According to the Italian Automobile Registration book accompanying the car, registration stamps include 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and continued various annual stamps with the most recent stamp dated 1994. Shortly after that, the car was delivered to Germany and subsequently flown by Delta Airlines to Atlanta, GA on August 11, 1997. On November 3, 1997, the car was sold to an owner in Northern California, where it has remained for the past 22 years. At the time of sale, the odometer reading showed 38,456 kms. In late 1997, noted vintage car specialist Phil Reilly performed $3,500 worth of service on the car, including pressure testing the cylinder head, reconditioning it including valve work, resurfacing the head, refacing and reconditioning the rocker arms, new engine gaskets, valve guides, new water hoses, spark plugs, and wires. At this time with the cylinder head removed, the radiator was also removed and reconditioned and the engine compartment detailed and refinished. Brakes and various fluids were inspected and replaced as needed. In 2015, the current owner had a professional interior shop refurbish the interior using high quality Duramax cloth-flannel, including pocketed door panels and new seat foam using patterns from the existing interior. The current owner has serviced the car recently including brake hydraulics work performed by Epifani Restorations.

With just 40,593 kms showing today, this charming Fiat Topolino has been prepared with just the right amount of care and attention to detail that invites enjoyable use. The exterior finish has very good gloss, applied over what appears to be factory metal body panels in structurally excellent condition. The various trim and detailing around the exterior of the car are well preserved or correctly refinished, giving the car a handsome and authentic feel. The chrome plated bumpers are well done and the grille trim is also very well presented. Panel gaps are typical of construction from this era and, while some of the smaller plated parts are showing signs of age, the overall exterior impression is cohesive and suitable for the charming and honest character befitting the Topolino. There are some small stone chips and a few minor scuffs in various places around the car, but the lighting, glass, and trim are all well done and appropriately authentic to the car. The ivory and blue painted steel wheels are accented with unrestored Fiat hubcaps and shod with correctly sized Michelin tires, which show good tread remaining, but are likely more than a decade old and should be replaced if lengthy driving is intended. The spare tire is easily accessed via a drop-down rear panel that reveals the spare tire and tools.

The interior of the car is a delightful blend of original features and thoughtfully restored areas, conveying once again the charm and delight of the Topolino. The folding fabric roof unlatches and folds back easily, nesting on the rear deck, revealing the restored open cabin. Inside, a pair of beautifully finished front seats is accented by matching fabric door panels, and just enough room on the rear storage panel for overnight luggage or a wicker picnic basket. The dashboard is painted body color and accented by a handsome array of vintage instrumentation, knobs, and switches captured in a brown accent panel. The instruments show a pleasant patina. A matching light brown steering wheel has been tastefully hued by years of enjoyable driving. Overall, the look and feel of the interior is inviting and comfortable, with captivating details including leather door straps for limiting door swing, rubber floor mats, and various beautifully detailed levers and latches as only the Italians can so artfully conceive.

Under the hood, the front engine reveals the clever Giacosa design with the forward placement, making for easy access and service while the radiator remains at the rear of the engine comparment. This design not only improved power delivery, it made the Topolino a fun little car for spirited driving even at low speeds. The Weber carbureted ohv four-cylinder engine is presented with good overall finishes and proper attention to originality wherever possible. The undercarriage is clean and while not restored, shows remarkably good finishes, no evidence of structural compromise, and tidy mechanical components, all of which retain a stock appearance.

The car starts easily, springing to life enthusiastically with an effective choke. Slipping the 4-speed synchomesh gearbox into first gear, the car pulls away with ease. Once underway, the cabin is light and airy with a wonderfully open feel to the drive. It is nearly impossible to drive the car without smiling; it has a sense of occasion that makes it impossible to simply jump in the car without relishing its presence. Steering is comfortable and well-judged and the seating position is excellent allowing for open views in all directions, particularly with the roof in the retracted position. Higher speeds are attainable, but the real joy of the Topolino comes when enjoying the ease of driving, engaged in your surroundings, conserving momentum, and capturing the approving waves and curious looks of smiling onlookers. The car comes with Italian ownership papers, a vintage repair manual, an owners manual, a vintage California 1953 black and yellow license plate, selected service records while in California, and import documentation from 1997.

Charming, iconic, and delightful to drive, this Fiat Topolino Transformable offers a wonderful opportunity to own one of the most revolutionary cars of the twentieth century. Ready for enjoyable events, local shows, or just taking in the scenic countryside on quiet roads, this Topolino will surely win your heart just as it has for so many others over the past seventy years.