While Hot Wheels may be the first choice for car enthusiast toys, Lego also has an impressive automotive catalog. The company’s produced Land Rover Defender, Volkswagen van, Ford F-150 Raptor, and Porsche 911 building kits. And now, there’s another icon joining the Lego family: the classic Fiat 500.
While Fiat still makes a car called the 500—even though it’s been officially canceled in the US—that wasn’t the first 500. It’s actually the third. The original Fiat 500, aka ‘Topolino’, or ‘little mouse’, was built in the pre-war period and came with a 569cc four-cylinder. After WWII, Europeans needed cheap and fuel-efficient transportation. Thus, in 1957, Fiat created the ‘Nuova’ 500, or ‘new’ 500.
Why the Fiat 500 is a classic
As Top Gear explained, the Fiat 500’s design took inspiration from the VW Beetle. That meant putting the engine in the rear, to improve aerodynamics, simplify the design, and keep fumes away from passengers. But the other 500 features were born of post-war austerity.
The 500 came with a cloth sunroof as standard. Not because it was fashionable, but to save on steel, which was expensive. The four-speed manual wasn’t a full synchromesh, meaning drivers had to double-clutch to shift. The original engine was a 479cc twin-cylinder, making 13 or 15 hp, depending on the trim, making the Fiat 500 a kind of Italian kei car.
But the car’s simplicity and small size was exactly what made it popular. It’s only about 11” longer than a Smart car, but it has 4 seats (although no airbags). That made it perfect for the tight streets of cities like Rome and Florence. This clarity of design is why New York’s MoMA added a Fiat 500 to its collection, Motor1 reports. Appearing as the hero car in the beloved anime series Lupin the 3rd certainly didn’t hurt the 500’s appeal, either.
It was extremely fuel-efficient, and parts were both cheap and plentiful. And while 15 hp may not sound like a lot, the Fiat 500 only weighs about 1040 pounds. A top speed of 55 mph is perfectly fine for driving down Italian backroads or city alleyways.
And Fiat did update it over the years, Italy Magazine reports. The most popular variant was the 1965-1972 500F. It had a 75-mph top speed, a larger windscreen, a windscreen washer fluid pump, and front-hinged, rather than rear-hinged doors.
And it’s a 1965 Fiat 500F that inspired Lego’s latest kit.
Lego’s Fiat 500
The Lego Fiat 500 comes as part of the Creator Expert series of kits. These kits feature more detail than other Lego sets and consist of hundreds, if not thousands, of blocks. And the 500 set is no different. The kit comes with 960 pieces, and let the model show off many of the original car’s features.
Like the real Fiat 500F, the Lego kit has a folding fabric roof and a rear-mounted two-cylinder engine. There’s a spare tire and gas tank in the front trunk, Car and Driver reports. The shift lever actually moves, as does the hand brake, and the seats recline. The engine cover is hinged, with an externally-mounted luggage rack like the original would have.
And in a nifty detail, the suitcase the car comes with has a Polish flag sticker. That may be a reference to the Tychy, Poland plant where the current 500 is made.
Pricing and availability
The Lego Fiat 500 set retails for $89.99 and is available now in Lego stores and online.
If the Lego kit’s inspired you to pick up a full-size 500, know that they’re fairly affordable. Although quite a few were modified into proto-Abarths, Bring a Trailer reports most sell for $5000-$15,000. And Hemmings reports over 3.5 million Nuova 500s were made, assuring a plentiful supply.
Which means you now have two ways to live out those La Dolce Vita dreams.
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