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Fiat 600, Multipla and Abarth: Buying guide and review (1955-1985)

Fiat 600, Multipla and Abarth: Buying guide and review (1955-1985) Classic and Performance Car
Fiat 600 Fiat 600 Fiat 600 Fiat 600D Multipla Fiat 600 Abarth 1000TC
The Fiat 500 is a great car but it’s not without its problems – namely a lack of interior space, decidedly leisurely performance and relatively high values. So what if you could buy a car that has the 500’s cute looks but addresses these issues? The good news is that you can – with the Fiat 600.
 
The 1950s were the decade of mobilisation for the Italian working classes (as, indeed, they were for most of Europe) and the 600 was Fiat’s contribution to Europe’s post-war swing to the rear-engine location as the way forward for small family cars. As with the 500, the 600 was designed by Dante Giacosa, but the bigger car is far more grown up in a variety of ways. 
 
 
In one ultra-compact package you get a four-seat family car with a four-cylinder water-cooled engine. With its independent suspension the 600 also provided the basis for an array of sporty spin-offs from Abarth such as the 750 and 1000TC, along with the Monomille and Bialbero, so this is no economy special built down to the lowest possible cost – it’s more grown up than you might think.
 
But the 600 is still an economy car. However, while you can expect only so much from any car with a 633cc engine, the 600 is more fun to pilot than you might expect, even if it’s noisy on hills, bouncy on poor roads and struggles to keep up with motorway traffic. Just call it character.
 

Which Fiat 600 to buy?

 
With the regular model Introduced in 1955, the first elaborazione-derivazione Abarth-modified 600 appeared almost immediately, and the Abarth factory continued to work its magic on this humble saloon for another 15 years. It’s unlikely that any other mass-produced car has undergone such extensive and continuous development for racing, transforming it from a 21.5bhp family runabout and bursting through the 100bhp-per-litre (without forced induction!) barrier on the way to becoming a 112bhp race-winning, wheel-waving track legend.
 
It’ll come as no surprise that any of the more specialised variations on the 600 theme are hugely sought after and consequently very valuable. These include anything produced by Abarth along with the quirky Multipla. If you’re able to secure one of these we’d say go for it; buy at the right price and you’ll never lose out financially, while they’re also brilliantly fun and fabulously unusual.
 
You’re far more likely though to buy a regular 600 saloon, of one spec or another. While the earlier cars with their rear-hinged doors are wonderfully characterful and the convertible editions are enormous fun, you’ll have to buy whatever you can find as 600s of any description are very rare in the UK. That’s why you’ll probably end up having to go shopping in Europe if you want any choice, which means settling for a left-hand drive car.
 
There were some right-hand drive 600s made but there are very few left and they hardly ever come up for sale. So if you’re buying a left-hand drive car, also be prepared to look at SEATs and Zastavas – and if you’re considering the latter you’ve also got an 850 option available too. 
 

Performance and specs

 
Fiat 600D
Engine 767cc, four-cylinder
Power 32bhp @ 4800rpm
Torque 40lb ft @ 2800rpm
Top speed 68mph
0-50mph 24sec
Fuel consumption 48mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual
 

Dimensions and weight

 
Wheelbase 2000mm
Length 3295mm
Width 1380mm
Height 1405mm
Weight 615kg
 

Common problems

 
• The 600 can rust spectacularly, and while body panel availability is pretty good, don’t under-estimate the cost of a complete restoration. 
 
• You need to check everywhere for corrosion, but home in especially on the front valance, front and rear chassis legs, door bottoms, sills and wheelarches. Also scrutinise the lower corners of the front and rear screens along with the lower portions of all four wings.
 
• The 633cc engine has to be worked hard to make progress, which can lead to premature wear in neglected examples. Check for the obvious signs of wear; smoking, rattles and low oil pressure, but rebuilds are easy and cheap enough.
 
• Failed head gaskets aren’t unusual either, thanks to the engine having overheated. See if there’s a white emulsion on the underside of the oil filler cap.
 
• Gearboxes are tough but there’s no synchro on first gear. Even so you can expect a smooth gearchange. Wear is inevitable of course, but rebuilds are possible, and costs aren’t high.
 
• The kingpin bushes need to be greased every 1000 miles; on early cars the steering links need lubricating just as frequently. A lack of lubrication leads to rapid wear.
 
• The semi-trailing arm rear suspension provides a comfortable ride but it needs to be kept in alignment to get the best out of it and to prevent uneven tyre wear. So get a four-wheel alignment done, just to be sure.
 
• If the steering is vague it’s probably because the steering box is worn. Things may be able to be tightened up but if not, expect a big bill to put things right.
 
• The all-round drum brakes are perfectly adequate for the limited performance available, but if you want the added security of discs up front, a conversion kit is available.
 

Model history

 
1955: Fiat 600 launched in March; by October there’s a Zastava version being built in Yugoslavia.
1956: The 600 Multipla MPV is introduced, along with a 600 convertible that features a large roll-back fabric sunroof.
1957: Wind-down windows replace the previous sliding items. Production starts of the SEAT 600 in Spain and the Neckar Jagst 600 in Germany.
1960: Fiat 600 production begins in Argentina and the Fiat 600D is introduced, with front quarterlights and a 767cc engine.
1962: There’s now a Zastava 750 edition.
1964: There are now front-hinged doors.
1965: Production ends of the 600 Multipla.
1969: The final Fiat 600 is made.
1973: Production of the SEAT 600 is halted.
1979: The Zastava is now offered in 843cc (850) form.
1982: Argentinian production of the Fiat 600 ends.
1985: The last Zastava 750 is made.
 

Owners clubs, forums and websites

 
• www.sportingfiatsclub.com
• www.fiat500enthusiasts.co.uk
• www.fiatmotorclubgb.com
 

Summary and prices

 
Due to the much smaller number of surviving examples than the smaller 500, the more practical 600 models are continuing to rise in value, although they still lag behind the miniature icon. Savable project cars can still be found from £1500, but scruffy running examples can be picked up for £3000. While restoration can be expensive, it means that the best examples are now fetching a premium, at £8000-£10,000. 
 
600 Multipla models are significantly more collectible, and fetch very strong prices when they do come up for sale. £15,000-£20,000 is the price for a straight car, but prepare to pay up to £30,000 for a top car. 
 
Words: Richard Dredge
Fiat 600 Fiat 600 Fiat 600 Fiat 600D Multipla Fiat 600 Abarth 1000TC
Last updated: 24th Nov 2016
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Fiat 600
29500 39500 GBP
  • Fiat - 600 D - 1965

    €2,900 - €3,770 est. (£0 - £0 est.) €2,900 - €3,770 est. (£0 - £0 est.)
    Auction Date: 01 Jan 1970
    RESERVE PRICE
    Online Auction
    €2,900 - €3,770 est. (£0 - £0 est.) €2,900 - €3,770 est. (£0 - £0 est.)
    Auction Date: 01 Jan 1970
    RESERVE PRICE
    Catawiki Auctions
  • Fiat 600

    €29,500(£0) €29,500(£0)

    This 1965 Fiat 600 D Multipla is a restored example that was directly imported from Italy into the Netherlands. The body is entirely original, accident free, and bereft of corrosion. The body and interior retains all of its original hardware, including lighting equipment, glass, bumpers, trim, brightwork, instruments, steering wheel, and seats. The body wears a factory-color respray that’s in top condition today. This car is equipped with the fixed bench seat in the front and 4 fold-down back seats. It has a (100 D.008) 767 cc overhead valve inline-four cylinder engine. More information on: www.kucarfa.nl

    • Year: 1965
    • Mileage: 60000 mi
    • Engine size: 0.8
    For sale
    €29,500(£0) €29,500(£0)
  • Fiat 600

    POA POA

    Vehicle with original plates and documents, registered ASI eligible for the Historic Mille Miglia. The story of this exemplar of the car that powered Italy began in 1956, when three sisters (daughters): Margherita (class 22), Catherine (class 25) and Anna (class '34) decided to take all three licenses and buy the new Fiat 600 that is doing proselytizing among new motorists and not only. They have a small farmhouse in the province of Cuneo where they work and live. It will take 5 months to get the 600 that comes in December light green color (361) a particular tint, as it has bluish reflections depending on the light that illuminates it. Tint that Mrs. Anna would say, she kept the dust well. The car is scheduled on December 22 and is shown at Christmas Mass. The car was therefore carefully guarded and used little and in turn by the three sisters. In 1983 (27 years), sisters decide to want a more modern car (the Panda) and find Professor Vilma of Fossano, a middle school teacher in the country who is looking for a second car to go to work. The purchase is fast and the Professor uses it for this journey, home - school, until 1990. A notary of Fossano makes the court to Mrs. Vilma for her to sell her the 600 she wants to take for her wife Mariella, another was Professor Vilma's student. Mrs Mariella will also use this car for a few decades, when she will surrender it in 2000. The rest is recent history. On December 22, 2016, this car was 60 years old, a recent occurrence for a car that has been discreetly accompanied by the lives of these Italian women for 80,000 km. The car has just been cut off with head restocking, radiant masses, water pump, carburetor cleaning and adjustment. Revision valid until June 2019. Ready to use.

    • Year: 1956
    • Mileage: 46000 mi
    • Engine size: 0.6
    For sale
    POA POA
    Carlo Carugati
    3388890387 View contact number
    Carlo Carugati
    3388890387 View contact number
  • 1959 Fiat 600 Viotti Coupe

    $39,500(£0) $39,500(£0)

    The Fiat 600 was first introduced in 1955 as an Italian answer to the hugely successful VW Beetle and as a follow up to Fiat’s own beloved Topolino. The 600 was designed by the brilliant engineer Dante Giacosa, whose extensive portfolio includes the Fiat Topolino, 508, Cisitalia D46 and Cisitalia 202. With the Fiat 600, he chose a rear-engine/rear-drive layout inspired by the Beetle, though unlike the VW, Fiat fitted an inline-four-cylinder engine with water cooling. The 633 cc unit was mated to a four-speed transaxle, while suspension was by transverse leaf spring up front and independent semi-trailing arms in the rear. Four wheel hydraulic drum brakes were more than adequate to slow the car from its top speed of 59 mph (later, 767 cc versions reached a thundering 68 mph). The Seicento was a huge success for Fiat, setting sales records for the company, selling over a million examples in six years. The platform proved very versatile, with tuners such as Abarth, and various coachbuilders producing a wide variety of sporting and luxury bodies to fit the humble underpinnings. One such coachbuilder, Viotti, had a long-standing relationship with Fiat by the time the 600 was released. Carrozzeria Viotti SpA had been contracted by Fiat to build a large number of special bodies for the Balilla. Between 1933 and 1939, several thousand 508A, 508B and 508C chassis were equipped with high quality Viotti bodies. The great Pietro Frua joined as chief stylist from 1957, and, among estate cars and convertibles, the firm produced a handful of 600 Sport coupes with stylish two-seat coupe bodywork as well as deluxe trim 600s such as our featured car. However, like great many coachbuilders of the period, regular production orders gradually slowed and Viotti closed in 1964. This delightful 1959 Fiat 600 Coupe is an extremely rare and wonderfully presented example of just a handful to be upgraded by Carrozzeria Viotti. The Viotti touches lend a degree of elegance to the otherwise basic 600, and the two-tone gray and red color scheme pairs wonderfully with the styling. This car was found in Italy in 2004, imported to the United States shortly thereafter, and treated to an extensive refurbishment in 2005. It was also recently in the care of the renowned Dominick European Car Repair of White Plains, New York and it is said to be a fine driving example. The body is largely a standard 600, presenting in very good order with clean straight panels and good gaps. The gray main body paint is very good quality, highlighted by a red roof, red body-side flash and red wheel centers. Much of the exterior trim is courtesy of Viotti; with the red body flash trimmed in bright alloy, finishing with very cool detail around the side marker. “Fiat 600 Viotti” badges adorn the front fenders and a lovely, intricate faux grille signifies this as a very special model. Chrome bumpers, alloy headlight bezels and marker light plinths are in excellent condition, with only the lower sill trims showing a few minor dings. Plexiglas wind deflectors adorn the doors, presumably a Viotti addition as well. The original wheels are painted in the same two-tone as the body, and adorned with lovely chrome FIAT hub caps. Period correct Pirelli crossplys are in good order and give this little 600 just the right stance. The stylish cabin was reworked by Viotti with flashy upholstery patterns and a more deluxe, upscale feel to the otherwise basic accommodations. The seats are trimmed in a unique red and white patterned material that is complemented by solid red door cards and quarter panels which present in good order. The floors are lined with mottled red and black rubber mats as original, the colors repeating on the rear parcel shelf. The dash is classic Fiat 600, minimalist yet stylish in its starkness. The original gauge cluster sits behind an original steering wheel, with the only deviation from standard being a large brass St. Christopher medallion. Original switchgear is all in very good working order. Fiat’s 633 c.c. inline four puts out approximately 30 horsepower in standard trim but of course, what this cheeky little Fiat lacks in grunt it makes up for in copious amounts of charm. The lightweight alloy engine is very clean and impressively presented with excellent wiring, labels, plumbing, and high quality finishes on the components. Previous owners have resisted the urge to fit speed parts, thus retaining the original charm. Similarly, the front trunk is tidy and properly detailed with fluted rubber mat, an original style washer bag and a correct spare wheel with leather retaining strap. Overall, this is a very well restored example, combining a quality restoration with the rarity and uniquely attractive Viotti enhancements. We’re sure you’ll be as taken by the charms this delightful, unique and stylish little Fiat 600 as we have been.

    For sale
    $39,500(£0) $39,500(£0)
  • Fiat 600

    €31,000(£0) €31,000(£0)

    Extremely Rare 1957 Fiat 600 Coupé Viotti • Approximately 100 examples were built • Today less than 20 examples survive • Concorso Villa d’Este eligible model • A similar car was shown at the Quail More information on our website: www.kucarfa.nl

    • Year: 1957
    • Mileage: 70900 mi
    For sale
    €31,000(£0) €31,000(£0)