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Giovanni Agnelli, Count Biscaretti di Ruflia and Count di Bricherasio headed the Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, which started business by absorbing Ceirano, on whose payroll was the talented designed Faccioli who created the first Fiat car, with a horizontal twin-cylinder 3 hp engine.
When the directors insisted that Faccioli should design a new model with the engine at the front instead of at the back, Faccioli resigned, and was replaced by Enrico, who in 1902 brought out a 1.2 litre four-cylinder model which owed much to the recently introduced Mercedes.
The years up to 1914 saw a succession of four-cylinder models of between 1846cc and 10,082cc, as well as sixes of 7408cc and 11,034cc. However, Fiat (known as F.I.A.T. up to the end of 1906) did not essay a popular mass-produced model until 1912, when the 1846cc "Tipo Zero" was launched.
The 1930 's
Post-war came the Cavalli-designed 501, with a four-cylinder 1.5 litre engine, of which more than 45,000 had been built by 1926. Alongside this, Fiat produced a very few examples of one of their few flops, the hyper-luxury V12 6.8 litre SuperFiat, of 1921-23; the 4.8 litre six-cylinder Tipo 519 was listed until 1929. In 1925 came a more modern light car, the 509, with an ohc 990cc engine, of which over 90,000 were sold up to 1929. The other principal models of the late l920s were the 1440cc Tipo 514, the 2516cc Tipo 521 and the 3740cc Tipo 525, the latter two being six-cylinder models.
A major step forward came in 1932, with the introduction of the Tipo 508 Ballila (named after a fascist youth organization), a 995cc ohv four developing 25 bhp in touring form, 36 bhp in its rare and desirable sporting form. It was license-built in Germany by NSU, in Czechoslovakia by Walter and in France by Simca (who also offered a very fast version tuned by Gordini). The backbone-framed 1500 of 1936, with its aerodynamic bodywork and Dubonnet-type ifs, led later that year to the immortal "Topolino" Tipo 500, with its four-cylinder 570cc engine mounted ahead of the radiator; this tiny two-seater continued almost unchanged until 1948.
The 1950 's
At the outbreak of war, Fiat's best-selling models were the 500 and the 1100, or Millecento, while the biggest model then available was the 2852cc six. Little of novelty appeared in the immediate post-war years, until the advent of the over-square 1400 four-cylinder in 1950. The last of the Topolino, the ohv 500C, was replaced by the new 633cc rear-engined "600" in 1955; this unit-construction saloon sold a million by 1960.
A twin-cylinder "Nuova 500" appeared in 1957, with a 499cc ohv power unit. Over 3 million examples of this model were built before it gave way to the derivative 126 in 1972. In the same vein as the 500 and 600 was the 850, with a rear-mounted four-cylinder in-line engine. In 1966 came one of Fiat's most popular models, the 124, with engines of 1197cc and 1438cc, which formed the basis of big license-production deals, especially in Eastern Bloc countries. A dohc 1608cc four, the 125, appeared in 1967, alongside the 1481cc 1500L, the six-cylinder 1795cc 1800B and 2279cc 2300; the Dino Spyder and Coupé with the 1987cc Ferrari-built dohc Dino V6 had been launched in 1966.
The 1960 's
In 1969 Fiat took over Lancia and Ferrari; Abarth was acquired in 1971. That year, Fiat launched the fwd 127, with a 903cc ohv transverse four (a 1049cc version is also available); the 128 is another fwd model, with 1116cc and 1290cc power units. The successor to the 124, the 131 Mirafiore, was available with 1297cc or 1585cc engines in various stages of tune. There was also a dohc 1995cc Abarth version,. with irs and a five-speed gearbox, developing 140 bhp and capable of reaching almost 145 mph in racing guise: A conventional "middle-class" car, the 132 had dohc four-cylinder power units of 1585cc and 1995cc: Fiat also introduced in 1973 a series-production mid-engined sports car, the X 1/9, with a 1290cc power unit and wedge-styling.