Ten coolest cars in the Fiat Museum in Turin

MME checks out the Centro Storico Fiat in Turin and picks the ten coolest old Fiats

By Shahzad Sheikh

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

The Centro Storico Fiat – that’s Fiat Museum to you and me – was opened in 1963 and is based in the same location that Fiat production first started in the middle of Turin. If you ever find yourself in Italy, it’s definitely worth a visit, not only for the fabulous old Fiats – both actual cars and delightful scale models – but also for the recreations of assembly lines from the 1950s, and the actual office of Dante Giacosa, designer and ‘father’ of the iconic Italian mini cars, Topolino, 500 and 600.

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

There’s also a load of stuff you didn’t really know Fiat for, like engines for ships and aeroplanes, plus tractors, bicycles, trains and even refrigerators and washing machines. And there’s a library of thousands of images and technical drawings (over 6 million in fact) and more than 200 hours of historical footage.

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

But you haven’t got time for all that. You can however check out the very first Fiat – the 3½ HP and the 525SS (top pic) – judged by Automotive Quarterly to be ‘one of the five most beautiful car models of all time’.

You can also have a gander at my personal top ten pick of the lot. The coolest classic Fiats on display:

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

1. Fiat 500

Of course the original Fiat 500. Produced from 1957-75, almost four million were made, many still running around the roads of Italy. As a legendary tiny European car it actually beats the Mini by two years (that arrived in 1959) and was fractionally smaller. With just a two-cylinder 500cc air-cooled engine planted in the back, it was incredibly practical, fun to drive with sports models from Abarth and Giannini, and is as much a part of the 60’s zeitgeist as the classic Mini.

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

2. Fiat Multipla

It’s the first MPV. An extraordinarily capacious little thing despite being only 3.5m long and a 1.5m wide. The 1956 Multipla went from people carrier to van with completely fold-flat seats (and you thought those were a new fad!) in seconds, and the spare wheel was in the glove box, sorta. It was rear-engined and rear-wheel drive with an 800cc engine giving it just 30bhp, though still capable of hauling it up to a frankly frightening 95kph! And you think fuel economy is good now – this thing sipped only 7L/100km.

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

3. Fiat 2300 S Coupe

Just look at this svelte Ghia-designed 1962 coupe – this was a proper luxury grand tourer of its day, often dubbed the ‘poor man’s Ferrari’. It featured electric windows and offered a three-speed auto as well as the standard four-speed manual with a 2.3-litre straight-six producing 136bhp. Stopping was courtesy of power assisted brake discs – very advanced for its day.

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

4. Fiat 2400 Dino Coupe

Ferrari-engined Fiat. Need I say more? Plus this Giorgetto Giugiaro/Bertone designed 1966 sports car looks so cool even today. The car was first offered with a 2.0-litre 160bhp V6 ‘Dino’ engine, joined in 1969 by this 2.4-litre 180bhp unit. The 2400 cars were actually assembled by Ferrari at Maranello on the same production line as the legendary Ferrari ‘Dino’ 246 GT & GTS.

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

5. Fiat 1100 S

Now just stop for a moment and imagine yourself in post-war 1947, picture a stream of upright cars with carriage-like compartments and massive flared wings with zero emphasis on aerodynamics. Then think about what kind of an alien craft this must have looked like back then! The aero proved itself in battle as the 1100S took second, third and fourth first time out at the Mille Miglia. Only 401 examples of this 51bhp, 150kph sports car were ever made.

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

6. Fiat 1100 TV

This 1953 1100 TV has something of a BMW style look about it thanks to that split grille. The ‘Turismo Veloce’ was introduced as a coupe, and this 1955 convertible was dubbed ‘Transformabile’. Designed by Fiat’s own special division, only 571 were built and it was powered by a 53bhp 1.1-litre engine giving it a 143kph top speed.

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

7. Fiat 2400 Dino Spider

The 1969 Fiat 2400 Dino Spider was the Convertible version of the 2400 Dino Coupe above, also built at Ferrari, and this one was even designed by Ferrari’s preferred design house, Pininfarina, hence the similarity to Ferrari’s own Dino with the swoopy fenders and Chevrolet Corvette-style exuberance. It shared the 2.4 V6 and mechanicals of the coupe and was good for 210kph.

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

8. Fiat 500 Topolino

In 1936 the Fiat 500 was the world’s smallest mass produced car at 3.2m in length. Up to 1948 Fiat made 122,000 of these, remarkable at a time when cars were still rare (and don’t forget there was a war on) but it was cheap to buy and run with a 570cc engine producing 13bhp pushing the 535kg car to 85kph whilst consuming 6L/100km. It was so loved that people dubbed it ‘Topolino’ (the Italian name for Mickey Mouse – who first appeared in 1928).

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

9. Fiat 124

A bit like the Volkswagen Beetle, a good proportion of the world has at some point owned, driven or ridden in a Fiat 124 or one of its many rebranded iterations. Fiat made it from 1966 to 1974 with various four-cylinder engines ranging from 1.2 to 2.0-litres and there was even a 1.8-litre 128bhp Abarth version in 1972. Designed by Oscar Montabone, an engineer, for its launch Fiat dropped the car out of an aeroplane by parachute and in 1967 it won European Car of the Year.

This of course became the Lada VAZ-2101 from 1970, revised and renamed in 1980, and produced in Russian, Ukraine, West Germany, Kazakhstan and which remains in production in Egypt. It was also made in India by Premier from 1985 but fitted with a Nissan drivetrain until 2001. In Spain it was SEAT 124 from 1968-75, in Bulgaria it was the Pirin-Fiat from 67-71, in Korea it was the Fiat-Kia 124 by Asia Motors between 1970-75 and in Turkey it was the Tofas Murat 124 produced 1971-77. Unsurprisingly this is the world’s third best-selling platform after the Volkswagen Beetle and Ford Model T and boasts one of the longest production runs.

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

10. Fiat Mefistofele

From the extremely practical and enduring to a mad, bad rare one-off. This 1923 world land speed record breaking car was based on a lengthened 1908 Fiat SB4 chassis fitted with an airship engine: 22-litres (yes you read that right) six-cylinders with four spark plugs and four valves per cylinder (yes in the 20s!) driven by an overhead camshaft and four carburettors producing 320bhp. That took this 1780kg monster up to a new record speed of 234.98kph.

The car was built and run by a British racing driver, Sir Ernest Eldridge, who set the record on a closed public road in Arpajon, France on 12th July 1924. When you look at the flimsy seat bolted flat onto a hard wooden floor, with a giant wheel obscuring a massive rev counter, a tiny and probably useless windscreen and the gear and brake levers on the outside, you can’t imagine anyone would be mad enough to drive this at any kind of speed, never mind flat out. What a genuinely nutter-mental beast which must have been driven by some kind of superhuman.

Fiat Museum, Centro Storico, Turin, Italy

Well that’s my top ten from the Fiat Museum in Turin. Now tell us your favourite Fiat’s below. Also check out the full gallery below – how many of the other cars can you name?

Like this? Then click this too: We drive two classic 1960s Alfa Romeos and check out a couple of legendary pre-war racers

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