1939 Fiat 500 ‘Topolino’

The Fiat 500 was manufactured and sold from 1936 to 1955, this was the first of the Fiat 500 series and was nicknamed the Topolino. Topolino is Italian for little mouse, also commonly referred to as the Italian name for Mickey Mouse. The nickname Mickey Mouse makes sense given the large circular headlights, the rounded front end, and the overall small physique of the car. When produced it was the smallest car in the world, at first with three different models a 2-door saloon, 2-door convertible, and 2-door van. Powered by a 569 cc 4-cylinder side-valve water cooled engine that produced 13 horsepower. Although not as powerful or fast as other vehicles, having a top speed of 53 mph, the Topolino was very aerodynamic and fuel efficient with almost 40 mpg. During the time of production slight cosmetic body modification were made, one was to extend the chassis to help increase the rear spring size. The Topolino is split up into three model section, A, B and C. During these transitions the engine was given slight modification to increase the horsepower, some restyling of the body, and the addition of a 3-door station wagon. The Fiat 500 quickly became a favorite amongst Italian and European car buyers, looking for an affordable fuel-efficient option that was small and maneuverable throughout the city.

Fiat Automobiles S.p.A was founded in 1899 by group of men led by Giovanni Agnelli, FIAT standing for Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino, or rough translation to Italian Car Factory in Torin. Torin, or Turin was the original city that FIAT was founded in and is where the headquarters are located. Fiat experienced early success being known for the quality of their cars and unique style that they came in. Fiat sold roughly 1200 car by 1906 that same year Fiat went public on the Milan stock exchange. Fiat began producing trucks, airplanes, and began exporting vehicles to the United States and around Europe. By 1910 fiat became the largest automotive company in Italy that year also opened their first plant in the U.S in Poughkeepsie, NY. Fiat in America became a mark of luxury and class, costing about $5900 more than the Ford model T in 1918. Once World War I broke out Fiat began manufacturing military equipment for the Allies, and the U.S factory was shut down. By the end of World War I and into the 20's Fiat owned more than an 80% market share of car manufacturing in Italy.

After seizures of Fiats factories by socialist worker in 1921, which concluded in 1922 thanks in part of the to the socialist and labor parties of Italy. Fiat began construction on its infamous Lingotto factory amidst the coups, after its completion in 1923 it would be the largest factory in Europe. The Lingotto factory utilized the American factory technique revolutionized by Henry Ford of assembly line to increase production. Fiat also began to revolutionize business themselves by offering insurance for their vehicles in the purchase price in 1928. Fiat continued to expand owning almost 90% of the Italian car market by the end of the 1920's. Once World War II broke out Fiat began producing military weaponry, aircrafts, and vehicles for the Italian government, later in the war for Germany as well. After the war in 1948 the Italian government was overthrown, as was Giovanni Agnelli and the rest of leadership at Fiat for their ties to Mussolini. The Agnelli family regained leadership at Fiat when Giovanni's grandson became general manager in 1966.

Fiat returned to North America in the 1950's, initially starting strong sale wise. The success of Fiat continued not only in Europe and in North America but slowly around the world, beginning assembly for passenger cars in Africa in 1950. This growth then transpired into the purchase of other Automotive groups, the first one in 1967 of Autobianchi, surpassing Volkswagen in sales with close to $2.1 billion in sales.

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