Topolino's Successor

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New Rear-Engined 633-c.c. Fiat 600 at Geneva Show—Turin’s reply to the Renault 750

In 1936 the great Fiat organisation of Turin introduced the Fiat 500, the first really interesting new baby car since the Austin Seven had taken the world by storm in 1922. This tiny car soon lived-down scorn and became the basis by which all other economy cars were judged. It had its 570-c.c, engine at the front but achieved a dropped bonnet line by having the radiator behind the cylinder block. Fiat, unlike Austin and Morris, never allowed the Fiat 500, or “Topolino” as it was affectionately called, to grow up, although with the passage of the years it did resort to overhead valves to maintain performance even when endowed with convertible and station-wagon body work.

At the Geneva Motor Show last month Fiat introduced a new baby car-the Fiat 600. Just as the Fiat 500’s engine was larger than half-a-litre. so the Fiat 600 has a capacity of 633 c.c. The water-cooled engine has a bore and stroke of 60 by 55 mm. in the fashionable over-square style, and develops 21.5 b.h.p. at 4,600 r.p.m. on its compression ratio of 7.0 to 1. It is set behind the back wheels, driving forward through the gearbox.

Being situated at the back of the car, with its radiator behind it, Fiat thus follows the modern lead in rear engines set by VW and Renault. The Fiat has the popular slab-sided square lines, unlike the more aerodynamically-shaped VW and Renault. the petrol tank occupying one side of the under-“bonnet” space, with luggage stowage beside it and the spare wheel in front. The car is a four-seater saloon with luggage well behind the back seat, the squab of which folds down to provide a luggage platform in the rear compartment when needed. They say that the ratio between overall dimensions and interior space is the highest yet achieved.

The wheelbase, is 6 ft. 6 3/4 in., or the same as the Fiat 500G, 3 1/4 in. longer than that of the original Austin Seven. A speed of over 60 m.p.h. and a fuel consumption in the region of 50 m.p.g. is claimed, and in Italy the 600 will he lower priced than the Fiat 500C. Apparently it is a notably quiet little car, special care having been taken to insulate the rear engine from the occupants.

This new baby Fiat uses an all-time-low in small wheels for this class of vehicle, with 5.20 in. by 12 in. tyres. It may be recalled that the Fiat 500C and Renault 750 has 15-in., the Morris Minor 14-in., and the Austin A30 and Standard Eight and Ten I3-in. tyres; Renault changed from 14-in. tyres on the earlier models. It is claimed that the 600 saloon weighs 88 lb. less than the 500C two-seater, or approximately 11 cwt.

The specification is conventional, with coil ignition, pressurised pump-and-fan cooling (a pity it needs H2O), aluminium cylinder head with bronze inserts for the o.h. valves, three-bearing crankshaft running in steel-backed bearings, pump fuel feed front a 6-gallon front-mounted tank. and a down-draught Weber carburetter feeding into an inlet manifold integral with the cylinder head.

The synchromesh, all-indirect gearbox provides four forward speeds and reverse, controlled by a normal gear-lever (Cheers !). the final drive ratio being 4.82 to 1 in spite of the wee engine. Suspension is independent front and back, by typical Fiat transverse spring and wishbones at the front and by coil-springs, trailing-links and universally-jointed drive-shafts at the back.

Steering is worm and segment, the brakes are hydraulic and there are the usual “mod. cons.” including petrol gauge. heater and de-mister and 12-volt electrics. The body construction is integral, with two doors, which have sliding windows. We await with eager interest a trial of this mouth-waterer of a newcomer, how will it handle, how perform, will it better 50 m.p.g.., and what will it cost in Britain ? And, incidentally, when will builders of British babies break away from conservatism and offer rear engines, horizontally-opposed cylinders, front-wheel drive, independent rear suspension and air-cooling as is current practice on the Continent of Europe ?

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