FIAT 600 – Italian family gets in the car

Fiat 600
We saw, in the first post, how Italy of the first ’50s was a developing country even if with several structural contradictions.

From one hand It was a society looking for new life styles -– including mobility – thanks to a growing GDP and a large scale demand of modern products which led to new needs (refrigerator, televisions, washing machines), and on the other hand a Nation lacking in primary product, energy resources, infrastructures and with a penalizing tax policy (now as then!)

So the car intended to motorize Italians must have clear properties: it must be produced at low cost using as best it can simple both materials and simple building techniques.

The price of raw material used (and so the weight) affected an important extent on the production costs and some of the design choices of the Fiat 600 including that of “all on the back” (engine and rear wheel drive) were dictated precisely from this focus on cost.

Meccanica Fiat 600

It should have cost so inexpensive to be bought even by those who before never thought to approach to car idea” written by Dante Giacosa in his book “Fiat Projects“.

The automobile for most of the people wasn’t at all a familiar item, the aim was to make it familiar, easy to drive and easy in the mechanics.

Despite these design constraints the Fiat 600 was an innovative car full of technological contents: supporting structure, engine with aluminum cylinder head, four-wheel independent.

The 600 success was immediate and soon the waiting time for having it surpassed the year.
It was produced from 1955 to 1970 over than 4 million and 900 thousands units, but apart from numbers the real success of the Fiat 600 was in the social sphere.
The success was related not only to have motorized Italy bringing the car in a lot of families, in small centers, in countrysides but also to have helped change Italians customs during their moving house-work, in the holidays organization and their leisure time.

It was born during these years the tradition of Sunday trip out of town and the week end to the sea or to the mountain.
It wasn’t the only change: linked to the automobile there were an infinity of little manias and uses that today may seem ridiculous but at that time were ordinary and economic realities very respectable.
Now we would call them gadgets and merchandising but at that time they were desired accessories and gift items.

Steering wheel cover, shift knobs of all shapes and sizes, magnetized ashtrays, key rings, dolls to hang, driving gloves with half fingers, small cans of varnish to paint white the side of the tires had an extraordinary success.
Frigorifero FIAT
Cities were changing: only in the district of Turin at the end of ‘50s over than half of the population (450,000 people) lived thanks to the work generated by the Fiat, without considering all the people involved in the tertiary sector.

It wasn’t a phenomenon only in Turin: the increasing industrialization of the country and the revolution caused by the new lifestyle and needs was bringing millions of people from the South of Italy to work in the Northern factories. Cities changed, countrysides changed, Italy in itself changed!

For better or for worse we are children of this economic miracle!

Translated by Federica Izzo

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