The original Fiat 500 is an automotive icon of Italy, on par with the Beetle for Germany, the Mini for the United Kingdom, or the 2CV for France. The Cinquecento (and its derivative the Steyr-Puch 500, profiled by Paul here) sold well throughout Europe, so spotting one curbside in Paris is not unusual, but this one appearing parked directly in front of one of the entrances to France’s Ecole Militaire near the Eiffel Tower presents an unusual image. If a 500 is “artillerie,” it is definitely artillerie legere – or artiglieria leggera in its native language.
This particular example is a 500L, with the L standing for “Lusso” — Italian for “Luxury” — signifying a later model with interior and trim upgrades produced from 1968 to 1972, toward the end of the original 500’s 1957-75 production run. The 500L had a revised dashboard, more chrome, wraparound bumper guards, and other cosmetic additions. Luxury being relative, they did give the 500L a bit more flair than the very basic original 500, even if they did not make it the equal of a Ferrari 250GT Lusso. An original Fiat 500 at any trim level is a charismatic little car, though, so the owner of this more than four decade old 500L can park it with pride anywhere.
CC Capsule: Fiat 500 Giardiniera — That’s Signore Biggie Smalls To You
CC Outtake: Fiat 500K Giardiniera — Where’s The Giardiniera Version of the Current 500?
Curbside Classic: Steyr-Puch 500 — A Small But Grand Finale To Austria’s Automobile Industry
I suppose the reality was that most were overstuffed with kids family cars, but the 500 looks like such a fun car to take a year or two and explore Europe with circa 1970. In Paul’s great writeup he explained how the Steyr version might be more durable for the trip. Wonder if the L package got you a reclining seat for those cat naps on the road.
Ah, that old Italian plate fills me with nostalgia, those and the tiny ones up front – I remember seeing them in Scotland as a kid.
So boring that most of Europe has almost identical white plates now.
That Milan license plate on this particular red 500 is probably a reproduction – the 1976~1985 Italian plates are supposed to come in two pieces; the orange city code identifier is separate from the number/alphabet serial. Also, the font does not look original.
Interesting. Just seeing the orange Milan part reminded me of the good old days. 😉
I’m not sure, as there is no other plate on car, Italian or French. And this car will be predate 1976
I follow an Instagram feed called PARKEDINPARIS and I am 99% sure they posted a picture of this same little Fiat. Glad to see this little guy getting his (or I suppose her) 15 minutes of fame.
I occasionally see a nice yellow old-school 500 scooting around Miami. It looks so petite even compared to the new 500s and MINIs it shares the road with. As someone who has loved tiny cars (I drove a first-gen CRX for ten years as a daily driver), this old Fiat makes me smile.
Paris might be the European city outside of Italy where you see most old Fiat 500s. They are extremely sought after. You can park them just about everywhere and they are way cooler than a Smart. These old-style Italian plates (granted, most probably a reproduction) look just right on this one.
Agreed about the numerous 500s in Paris. I was surprised at how many I saw when we there last. But it makes sense, on several levels.
Huh, I had no idea the Fiat 500 was such a cheap POS? From the Steyr-Puch 500 article linked in the 1st paragraph here:
“”…the engine was designed to be as cheap as possible to build, with no center main bearing, no proper oil cooler or oil filter, and other economy measures. And an in-line twin has intrinsically rough-running characteristics. Not to disparage it, but the Fiat 500 had a number of other limitations, as a consequence of being designed to be cheap above all else. Its transmission was completely unsynchronized, the brakes were tiny, and the engine had very low output (12.5 hp @4000 rpm), and was not really designed for continuous high-speed running. Even the main door window panes were fixed (for the first few years). ”
“12.5 hp”? My power pressure washer for washing debris off home decks & siding has more power than that! I’m surprised these cars didn’t blow up engines every other month? lol
Seems almost comical to see such low power on paper. But one must remember just what a horsepower is. That being said, the Briggs&Stratton V-Twin on my John Deere garden tractor is a claimed 20hp.
Exactly my point, as well. lol
Great pic. Great car.
You can still see them running around in Rome.
Have owned a 1959 Nuova with “suicide doors” and no sunroof and several 1970/1 500 cars with sunroofs.They may not be fast but on the open road,straight or winding,you can pull the hand throttle out and just steer,no need to slow down for corners.The 500 cornered flat yet was surprisingly comfortable.Bought mine in the late 1970s early 1980s because I wanted a car with a sunroof and the Fiat 500 was the most affordable option.A great and fun car.
The more I read about this car, the more it appears to have had a riding lawn mowing/garden tractor engine in it!!! lolol