The Mouse That Roared - 1937 Fiat Topolino 'Little Mouse', Evoking the Car Seen in 'Roman Holiday'

For Sale with H&H Classics

13/01/2023     General News

1937 Fiat 500 Topolino

This charming 1937 Fiat 500 Topolino or ‘Little Mouse’, is now available with H&H Classics Online Auction which ends on February 8th. Besides its delightful persona this car is a potential Mille Miglia entrant with a starting bid of just £4,000.

The characterful little car is just like the one which featured strongly in that superb 1953 film ‘Roman Holiday’, with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. The sight of a six foot plus Peck endeavouring to get in the back was a great sequence.

In the film, Audrey Hepburn is a bored and sheltered princess who escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman, Gregory Peck in Rome. The little Fiat adds greatly to the charm of this story.

This example in Cream over Dark Green, is a scarce UK-supplied, right-hand drive version. Introduced in 1936, the Fiat 500 was designed by Dante Giacosa and Antonio Fessia. Positioning its 569cc four-cylinder engine ahead of the front wheels’ axis not only allowed the newcomer to accommodate four people within a diminutive 6ft 7in wheelbase but also saw it nicknamed Topolino (Mickey Mouse in Italian).

More advanced than many rivals, the Fiat featured independent front suspension, 12-volt electrics, four-speed all-synchromesh transmission and fixed roof rails with a roll-back canvas top (the latter facilitating al fresco motoring). Reputedly capable of 55mph and 45-50mpg, the 500’s UK price tag of £120 was barely more than that of an Austin Seven. A deservedly strong seller, some 112,000 were produced before the model underwent its first major revision in 1948, with, most notably, the headlights incorporated into the front wings. The little Fiat has been entered into the H&H sale from a large private collection of micro and bubble cars. This delightful Topolino was supplied new to the UK in right-hand drive, being registered on 19th March 1937. Reportedly the subject of much past restoration work, the more recent fettling has seen it completely rewired and the engine refreshed.

Finished in Cream over Dark Green – a colour scheme that accentuates its lines beautifully and is complemented by the Green interior. Potentially Mille Miglia Storica eligible, should one be ambitious enough, this delightful Topolino has charm aplenty. Intended purchasers should note that the Fiat was running up until recently, however, it isn’t running at present, currently doesn’t run, due to a believed (but not confirmed) starter motor fault.

The Topolino was one of the smallest cars in the world at the time of its production. Launched in 1936, three models were produced until 1955, all with only minor mechanical and cosmetic changes. It was equipped with a 569 cc four-cylinder, side-valve, water-cooled engine mounted in front of the front axle, later an overhead valve motor.

The radiator was located behind the engine which made for a lowered aerodynamic nose profile at a time when competitors had a flat, nearly vertical grille. The shape of the car's front allowed exceptional forward visibility.

Buyers frequently squeezed four or five people into the nominally two-seater car, and in later models the chassis was extended at the rear to allow for more robust semi-elliptic springs. With horsepower of about 13 bhp, its top speed was around 53 mph (85 km/h), and it could achieve about 47.1 mpg. Nearly 520,000 were sold.