History of the Fiat Motor Car

The History of the Fiat Motor Car

The Fiat is one of the most common cars we see on the road today in Britain, and for good reason. Ever since their very first inception in 1901, the Fiat motor car has had the reputation of being of the most well-made, reliable, light-weight, and value-for-money cars around.

This very first Fiat was engineered by an extremely talented Ceirano employee named Aristide Faccioli in Italy. Powered with a 2-cylinder Boxer 3 hp engine, it looked barely anything like the motor cars we recognise today. The very first motor cars of the early twentieth century were based on the design of a horse-drawn carriage, so they look much like a carriage with a prominent steering wheel in front and a retractable soft-top roof. With plush leather seats in back and golden wheel trims, the first Fiat was very much a status symbol, most likely only owned by the wealthy.

For their second design, Fiat (or the leaders of Fiat’s investment group) decided that a front-engined vehicle was where the future of motor car design lay. They once again returned to their star engineer to ask him to come up with a design, but unexpectedly, Faccioli resigned. Fiat then turned to another promising Italian motor car designer of the time, Giovanni Enrico. Enrico used technology first developed by Mercedes to come up with Fiat’s next incarnation, a 1.2 litre 4-cylinder model.

Time passed, and Enrico helped to develop various new Fiat designs, with either 4- or 6-cylinders. It wasn’t until 1912, however, that Fiat was ready to reveal its first mass-produced model, the ‘Tipo Zero.’ By this time, motor cars had begun to resemble the cars that we drive today, with a long engine at the front, and a shorter steering wheel which attached to a dashboard in front of the driver and front passenger. The ‘Tipo Zero’ was long and thin, like a racing car, and came with a spacious back seat to seat whole families at a time. Although motor cars were still extremely expensive and available only to the wealthy at this time, they were gaining in popularity and becoming more affordable by the minute. Fiat’s decision to create a mass-produced model was extremely prescient; they already knew that there would come a day when almost every family had a motor car of its own.

During the First World War, Fiat’s resources were diverted in order to develop aircraft and tanks, and automobile development temporarily ceased. After the war, however, Fiat’s engineers were once again able to concentrate on what they loved. A Cavalli-designed model known as the 501 was produced in over 45,000 units in 1926, proving that the motor car was truly the vehicle of the future. Soon afterwards, Fiat developed the 509, a light-weight model that exceeded all of Fiat’s previous sales records. It was clear that light-weight rather than luxurious, heavy, and decadent models were becoming more practical and popular.

By the time of World War II, Fiat had reached an even-greater level of popularity with its 500 and 1000 models, which were wider and less sporty than the famous ‘Tipo Zero.’ The idea of the family car was rapidly gaining ground. Cars were less the sporty play-things of the rich and famous than they were the everyday sensible transport of many families, and this meant they needed to be safer, more reliable, and larger. When the Fiat 600 was developed, the success story continued, with this model once again breaking Fiat’s previous records by selling over a million units.

After World War II, just as motor cars became ever-more popular, so Fiat sold an ever-increasing number of units. Over 3 million units of the Nuova 500 were produced in 1957. By this time, Fiats had drastically changed in appearance. Motor cars had once again shrunk in size, so as to be lighter and more affordable to the masses. The idea of the city car was born, and the Nuova 500 was small, rounded, and similar in appearance to the Volkswagen Mini. Its engine had shrunk in size, while only gaining power, and its spare tyre was now conveniently concealed in the trunk.

In later years, Fiat absorbed Ferrari, Lancia, and Abarth to become one of the largest and most successful motor vehicle companies of all time. The Fiat Dino V6 racing car won huge acclaim and a good number of races with a sleek design to rival the MGB. Today, we still think of the Fiat as being the quintessential light-weight city car, and although its size has once again grown, it retains a shape that is very similar to the Nuova 500. Contemporary designs such as the Punto, Bravo, and brand new updated Fiat 500 are sleek, compact, and yet never cramped internally. There are now a number of 7-seater and soft-top options, making the Fiat a perennial favourite.

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