The Fiat 500 (and, to a lesser extent, the 600) put Italy on wheels. In the 1960s, the 1970s and even into the 1980s, the tiny 500 was by far the most common car in major Italian cities.
Original, unrestored 500s were still common in Rome about ten years ago but there’s a lot fewer of them on the streets today. Italian enthusiasts have told us that pollution regulations make it difficult to keep an older car on the road, and we suspect that the 500 is simply too old for the average driver who has become accustomed to A/C, a modern stereo, certain noise levels and halfway-decent acceleration.
It doesn’t help that the 500 has been steadily going up in value over the past couple of years. All told, in Italy, the original Panda has largely replaced the 500 in the minds of buyers who are simply looking for a cheap, efficient way to get from point A to point B.
The bulk of the 500s that we saw in Rome last month were nice examples that had been given a thorough restoration in the not-too-distant past. The only seemingly original example that we managed to photograph is the one below, a L model built in the early 1970s. We’re not ruling out the possibility that it’s been repainted at least once over the past 40-something years – in fact it’s likely – but it at least shows some patina in the form of numerous dings and dents caused by parking in one of Italy’s most chaotic city.