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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
20000 39500 GBP
  • Fiat 600

    £20,000 £20,000

    This fully restored car is available for a negotiated sale price around £20,000 which is the low range of our estimated sale price. See TradeClassics.com for a full write-up and over 300 images and videos. EXTERIOR Having been subject to a complete restoration in 2014, the exterior of the Multipla is immaculate. The cream and red paint looks deep and fresh from all angles, take a look at the media below for details. Wheels & Tyres Wearing red wheels to match the paintwork, the wheels and tyres look great on the mini SUV. Each features a Fiat chrome hubcap, the front offside hubcap having had a ding at some point in its life. Bodywork Visual inspection of the bodywork returned no concerns as to be expected from a professionally restored car. The panels and shut lines all looking true and the underside and sills showed no signs of rust. Paint As mentioned above, the paintwork on the car is great, and the colour combination looks lovely. Glass and Trim All the glass looked great across the car. The trim in some areas showed signs of pitting as you would expect for a car of this age. INTERIOR The cream and red theme continues on to the inside of the Multipla, and the interior, although sparse, has also been professionally restored. Seats and Carpets Red with cream piping, the seats all look in great condition. There are no carpets in this car, just a fresh set of rubber mats throughout as you’d expect. Dashboard Just the one gauge on the 600, and the front dash being painted cream with no covering but looking very smart. Steering Wheel / Gear Stick Beautiful original thin steering wheel and the original style, no nonsense, simple gear stick. MECHANICS The 600 Mutipla features the 4 cylinder 600cc engine, I went out for a short run with Surjit and the car performed well. Engine and Gearbox Take a look at the video to see the cold start. The starter motor may require a few attempts on the odd occasion, but generally starts on the button first time. When the car is warm the engine idles smoothly and revs with no visible smoke. Suspension and Brakes On our short run, I was surprised as a passenger at how smooth the ride is. I was expecting a similar sensation to my own Fiat 500L, but this was not the case. No noises or rattles could be heard coming from the suspension and the car braked without issue too. The Drive The car pulled away without a problem and Surjit went through all the gears without issue, including reverse. Electrics and Other There aren’t many electrics on the Fiat 600, and the Mutipla variant is no different. We noticed that the oil pressure and temperature dials on the dash did not appear to be working. It’s assumed an easy fix and may be due to wiring.

    • Year: 1959
    For sale
    £20,000 £20,000
    01926426635 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)