Carino Bambino The Brits have the Mini, the Germans the Beetle; for the French it’s the Citroen 2CV but the Italians – well the Italians made the Fiat 500... THE SMALL ‘PEOPLE’S CARS’ of Europe are instantly recognisable icons; none more so than the nippy little Fiat 500. Offering cult status and investment potential, this little Italian job had big, big cachet throughout mainland Europe in the 60s and 70s and is enjoying ever-increasing Vintage popularity today. We wanted to track down what makes it so lovable; Fiat 500 collector, restorer and all-round enthusiast Kelvyne Baker and his wife Sue had agreed to let us photograph their collection – so off we went! When my colleague Raïssa and I arrived at the house we found Kelvyne and Sue’s personal favourites snuggled up together on the drive – cute. We joined them in their separate cars and sped off for Kelvyne’s warehouse and workshop. Fiat 500s are a pretty unique sight on Britain’s roads at the best of times, and our two-car convoy hurtled through a quiet little Somerset village like a real time-travelling blast from the past. Raïssa and I now have www.vintagexplorer.co.uk
first-hand experience of what it’s like to travel in what is essentially a nine-foot long, air-cooled bullet! We got another thrill when we arrived and a Fiat rolled out of the back of a transit van – yes, a 500 fits inside perfectly! This particular model was a rare beast indeed, according to Kelvyne. Recently imported from Italy and in beautiful original condition, it is one of the most sought-after Fiat 500s: a left-hand-drive 1959 Fiat 500N, with sunroof and unusual ‘suicide doors’. And it’s yours for just £22,000! A lovely old building made the most perfect backdrop for our shoot so we pushed her inline with the two Fiats we’d arrived in. Don’t they look as if they have all just arrived for a meet in some small Italian mountain village, rather than a gravel car yard? Once inside the warehouse, it took me a good five minutes to locate all the cars; some were hiding under blankets, others partially covered by car parts; some were
BY KARYN SPARKS
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This left-hand-drive 1959 Fiat 500N, with sunroof and unusual ‘suicide doors’ (opening the opposite way), can be yours for just £22,000!
A rare Sopwith Camel shares the warehouse space with the little Fiats
just bare body shells, others recently re-sprayed – oh, and get this – there was even a cabriolet! (I can tell you, there ain’t much car left with a Fiat 500 without a roof – I’m sure it would be a thrilling ride!) They all had names – which is not unusual in the Fiat 500 world – and we were introduced to Yum, Bella, Naughty, Bluebella, Giovanni... truly bambinos and bambinas to love. We’d found the secret of their success. Our day done, we took the scenic way home, back through Cheddar Gorge. But we couldn’t help but imagine how much fun our return journey would have been through these winding hills in a little Fiat 500! ve Postscript We had a great day with Kelvyne and Sue. And just as we thought it couldn’t get any better… in an adjoining warehouse we spotted a Sopwith Camel bi-plane, just sitting there in all its glory! It was magical – the last thing I expected to see that day, and what a privilege to get so up close. It made our day complete!
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FIAT 500 FACTOIDS ■ The rear-engined Fiat Nuova 500 or ‘Bambino’ is considered one of the first city cars. It was designed by Dante Giacosa and launched in July 1957. Today it is exempt from both the London congestion charge and Road Tax. ■ Giacosa’s Nuova followed on from the Fiat 500 Topolino, produced from 1936 to 1955 in models A, B and C. These are literally Mickey Mouse cars since Topolino is Italian for Mickey Mouse (it means ‘little mouse’). Like the Volkswagen (‘people’s car’) Beetle, the Topolino met the demand for economy cars for all. Powered
by a 479cc two-cylinder, aircooled engine, it is just over nine feet long. ■ Several other European car makers had post-war success with cars that followed the design of the Fiat 500: Autobianchi Bianchina, Ghia Jolly 500, Abarth 500, Giannini 500, Francis Lombardi 500 and the Austrian Steyr-Puch 500. ■ Kate Middleton and Prince William left their wedding reception at Buck House in a classic Fiat 500 wedding car. (Yes, there’s more leg-room than you think!) www.vintagexplorer.co.uk
Date for your Diary
Saturday 25th April, 11am to 4pm, the 13th Bristol Italian Auto Moto Festival Hundreds of Italian cars, motorcycles and scooters will gather throughout the Old City Centre, on Corn Street and St Nicholas Street. The featured marques this year are Lamborghini and Moto Morini – but all the other famous marques such as Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Aprilia, Lambretta and Vespa will be extensively represented. Why not wander – it’s free – and view these marvellous machines and chat with their owners? Browse the shops and nearby St Nicholas Market and maybe have lunch in Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant just off St Nicholas Street at 59 Baldwin Street. www.biamf.co.uk
A convoy of Fiat 500s caused real excitement when they rolled off the production line in 1957
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