ON INTIMATE TERMS WITH THE FIAT 600
“MOTOR SPORT” Becomes—
ON INTIMATE TERMS WITH THE FIAT 600
The Smallest Four-Cylinder Car on the Market Proves Capable of Useful Average Speeds with Commendable Economy of Parking Space
OME years before the second World War the great Fiat organisation at Turin brought out a baby car, in the form of
the 500 ” Topolino ” or ” Mouse,” which made our Austin Seven look like an elder brother. This tiny 570-c.c. two-seater gained a great number of friends in a very short space of time, appealing by reason of its diminutive ” big-car” lines, its i.f.s., and its excellent economy of operation.
After the war Fiat continued it as the 500C, endowing the little four-cylinder engine with push-rod o.h valves and contriving to fit four-seater saloon, and even ” station,” bodywork.
However, all good things terminate and the ” Topolino ” joined the obsolete models.
Turin, however, wasn’t idle and, besides introducing several new post-bellum models, it came out this year with the little four-seater Fiat 600 saloon, which possesses a rear-mounted, water-cooled, fourcylinder o.h.v. engine of 633 c.c.
The ingenious technicalities of this car were discussed in MoToa SPORT last April. Now it is our duty to convey an impression of the Fiat 600 on the road, for which purpose the writer drove one 635 miles in the space of a few days early last month.
This latest baby Fiat contrives to get four seats within the same wheelbase as the former Fiat 500C. and naturally a very compact little car results. The adjustable separate front bucket-seats are reasonable enough for adults and the back seat amply wide, if somewhat restricted in knee room. Leg room is reasonable as the rear passengers’ feet slide under the front seats, the backs of which hinge to give access. Curiously, in spite of the rear-placed engine, there is a small intruding backbone down the chassis frame. Owing to the intrusion of the front-wheel wells into the driving compartment the pedals are off-set somewhat to the left in relation to the driver’s seat. Upholstery is in smooth plastic and, although the cushions feel hard after a time, we covered 240 miles in a day without cramp or fatigue.
Because there is a full-size rear window, and large back windows, visibility from the ” 600 ” is excellent, although a tall driver would find himself rather ” up in the roof,” when the side pillars would somewhat restrict the view. However, the very brief ” bonnet ” of the car must be an enormous aid to driving in fog.
Luggage accommodation is a problem in tiny rear-engined cars and on the Fiat is confined to a shallow space behind the back seat and a small space beside the petrol tank under the ” bonnet.” There is also a shelf in front of the rear window but, being unledged, this is really only an extension of the well space; in addition, each door of this two-door saloon possesses a very useful parcels-box, extremely practical for holding maps, torches, handbags and similar objects. Otherwise, baggage would be carried on a roof-rack, where, let’s face it, the drag could affect performance. However, as a twoseater with the rear-seat squab folded flat, the Fiat becomes a truly generous luggage carrier, and regarded as an occasional four-seatercum-long-distance two-seater it is at its best.
The little car is exceedingly effortless to drive, because the rather large steering wheel is set very sensibly well clear of the dash, and the left hand literally has to move only inches downwards to disc-over the rigid little central gear-lever, the horizontal ” real S’ hand-brake lever and two nicely-finish:’) little levers operating choke and starter. Moreover, all the indicators are grouped in a hooded panel before the driver—a small 70-m.p.h. speedometer with total (non-decimal) mileage recorder, flanked on the right by a petrol gauge with toobright warning light, on the left by an oil-pressure indicator lamp, and above by indicator lamps for dynamo charge and water temperature. There is a simple, direct-acting hand-throttle alongside the steering column. In the centre of the dash is the ignition-key socket, and two small switches for the dash-lamp and dual self-parking wipers flank this. The Italian-style ignition key also controls the lamps, providing the following settings : side and rear lamps only; everything off;’s ignition only; side and rear lamps and ignition; headlamps dimmed; headlamps full-beam. At first the English motorist may drive off without lights, or may leave the car with its side-lamps on in day
light, but he should soon become acquainted with the key’s movements and then has a very simple means of headlamp flashing before overtaking slower vehicles—and let it be said here and now that the small inbuilt lamps provide a beam which wouldn’t be out of place on a faster car, although calling for adjustment on the test car, while they are also adequate when dimmed. The Altissimo side-lamps have been stuck on as an afterthought but at least show the width of the car. Equipment includes twin metal anti-dazzle visors, a good central rear-view mirror incorporating the interior lamp, and plastic “pulls” for the rear-seat occupants. The hornbutton is in the centre of the two-spoke steering wheel; the hornnote is penetrating.
Because of the elementary dash layout there is nothing in front of the passenger save a ” Fiat 600 ” motif; indeed, provision of a cubbyhole would be a useful means of relieving this rather obvious expanse of” tin.”
In taking over the little Fiat the discerning driver immediately forms two favourable impressions. The first is that in spite of the rear location of the power unit the oversteer tendency is very mild and virtually non-existent under normal conditions; the other is the unexpected degree of flexibility of the 60 by 55-mm. engine, which will recover from vibration and pull away from as low a speed as 13 m.p.h. in the 4.82-to-1 top gear. It is normal to start in second gear, first being an emergency ratio. Such flexibility might be valued by lady drivers; the keen owner of one of these delightful little vehicles will naturally use the splendid gearbox to the full, because the rigid little lever is absolutely under his left hand and changes can be made as rapidly as it can be moved. Even so, the flexibility of the Fiat power unit, which rocks gently from side to side when idling (accommodated in this by the rubber mountings and clearance provided purposely between the fan and its cowl and the exhaust pipe and its outlet), means that an excess of cog-swapping isn’t necessary to keep the tiny car moving briskly. The gear-lever is spring-loaded towards the top and third-gear positions and is depressed to engage reverse, which is beyond the top-gear location. The clutch is light but indefinite, calling for care when engaging it
The speedometer is marked with maxima on the gears of 15, 25, 40 and 59 m.p.h., respectively, but the engine runs up to these easily and without effort, and they can comfortably be exceeded. Indeed, an indicated mile-a-minute is the normal cruising speed, and the needle moves to 70 on down gradients. The true maximum is a little below 60 m.p.h. The front doors each possess two quite useful sliding windows, provided with anti-draught shields, and there is a truly effective