Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Funkengroovin Wednesday: Original vs. Retro - Fiat 500

REVISED: Please go to the updated page.

What's old is new again. It's the retrofication of the car industry, and Vagabondblogger will be doing several posts on the topic.

(Fiat Nuova 500 - Photo from the Fiat500.com site.)

The new slogan is "500 Wants You." (Sound familiar to all the VW lovers out there?) I haven't seen any Fiat Nuova 500's in Cairo yet, but I'm sure they'll be a big hit. We probably won't see any here for about thirty years, due to cost and customs. But, once they arrive, the Egyptian Fiat mechanics will keep them going, and thirty years on (that's sixty years for the mathematically challenged) they'll still be weaving through the streets of Cairo.

(Blue Fiat 500 as seen on the Corniche, Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.)

According to Wikipedia:

To meet the demands of the post-war market which called for economy cars, the Fiat 500 was rear-engined on the pattern of the Volkswagen Beetle. Several car makers followed this now nearly vanished pattern at the time and were quite successful. But only the Fiat 500 was used as the pattern for other car makers in Europe. The firms Neckar of Germany and Steyr-Puch in Austria each made cars that were legally based on the Fiat 500.

(Two-tone, black and white Fiat 500, as seen on Road 9, Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.)

According to Fiat, the 500 will not hit the American market anytime before 2010 (hahaha, if ever!) Fiat pulled out of the U.S. in 1982 and haven't been back, except with the Alfa Romeo.

Here's the official website for the Fiat 500.

It will be hooked up with blue tooth capacity for up to five different phones; it can read your SMS messages to you (for those of you idiots who message while you drive); and it's totally hands-free, enabling drivers to obtain their phone numbers by voice command, as well as answer the phone, with steering wheel buttons (great, I can't even get the ones in my Mini straight.) You can also hook up an iPod or MP3 Player. Vagabondblogger admits, it's one cool little car. There are supposedly hundreds of varietal options for paint, interior selection, etc. that should make your shopping experience like a kid in a candy store - providing, of course, you live in a country that's selling it.

(Maroon Fiat 500, for sale at the Nasr City Car Market.)

Frankfurt Motor Show: A Hands-Free Fiat 500 Test Drive

The modern Fiat 500 starts at the equivalent of $14,500 — though Fiat says many European customers are loading the retro-styled city car with costly options.
Bambino already causes stir
The Fiat 500 is expected to sell like hot cakes once it is released next year in March.

If you want to slide behind the wheel of a new Fiat 500 get to your local dealer quickly. Fiat dealers are taking orders for the car ahead of its launch in Australia next March. The Italian Motor Company in Melbourne, says up to six people a day are inquiring about the car.

Fiat 500 Appears At London Design Festival

Frankfurt Motor Show: Small Cars and a Big Mini
Volkswagen introduced the Up! concept car, a sign that it’s officially returning to its small car roots. VW was light on the specifics of this 135.8-inch hatchback, but the company did admit that the four-passenger Up! is rear-wheel drive. Should the Up! reach production (and this seems very likely) it would be the first rear-wheel drive small Volkswagen since the original Beetle.

Small car fever isn’t limited to the Germans. Fiat has an elaborate display dedicated to its successful new 500 model, and Toyota unveiled its edgy iQ concept car. Even beleaguered Ford is displaying a stylish new small hatchback called the Verve. A size or two larger than cars like the Fortwo and Up!, the handsome Verve shows that Ford is serious about revamping its small cars – at least in Europe.

VW Bug Restoration (Video news report available on the site)
It was Joan Shannon's very first car, a 1974 VW Bug. Joan tells Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, "That's the car I had since I was young. That was the car my husband rode in when he was 18 years old." Joan's bug has been at Vintage Werks in Burlington since last year.

Joan tells Troubleshooter Diane Wilson she just wants her beloved 1974 VW bug restored like she was promised and paid for, "I wish he would get it finished. I wish we could work out a reasonable sum." Vintage Werks did eventually let Joan get her car out of the shop, but Gavazzi didn't do anymore work on her car. Joan had to pay another $1,000 to get the car. In all, she says she paid $9,000 for a restoration job that's far from complete.

All the young dudes (Check out the pictures on the website)
LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa - The name rolls off the tongue like latex off a brush. Two Dudes Painting Co.

The partners have not actually shouldered ladders for a long time. Their signature orange Volkswagens are lined up in a "Microbus graveyard" in the warehouse, McCaskey said. "We can't part with them.

The dudes learned to paint exteriors as they went. When the weather got cold, they worked inside. When they needed to lug more equipment, they sprang for a dottering 1964 Microbus.

The bus happened to be the color of a naval orange. It proved to be a brilliant, if unwitting, marketing stroke.

More than half a dozen VWs later, Barber says, "People know us."

The partners have since switched to more practical transportation, though they still wring mileage from the minibuses by depicting them in murals and logos.

(People continue to send hot tips on the vehicles but a revival is unlikely. Volkswagen stopped manufacturing the Microbus in 1979, Barber laments. "What can you do?")

Pop culture has seen the rise and fall of many and, more often than not, when icons, toys or obsessions go the way of the Furby, America mourns the loss and moves on. But then, sometimes they return.

3. VW Beetle: The VW Beetle was a symbol of the age. It was hip, it was colorful, it could float. Long hair, smoking weed and Woodstock just wouldn't have looked or felt the same without it. The "New Beetle" that emerged in 1998, however, is basically just a funny-looking sedan. It is insulting that the folks over at Volkswagen thought they could erase the fact that no one can obtain an amazingly vintage, properly functioning Beetle without paying millions or taking a trip to Mexico.

Soft-top Polo loads up on style (You have to check out the photos.  Vagabondblogger truly likes the looks, but then they've never sold the Polo in the States either, sigh.)
Coachbuilder Karmann revealed a topless Volkswagen Polo at the Frankfurt show.

For sun-loving VW fans, the most exciting Volkswagen at the Frankfurt Motor Show was nowhere to be seen on the firm’s own stand.

This sharp Polo Cabrio is the work of coachbuilder Karmann, which was famous for its classic 1955 Karmann Ghia. The four-seater drop-top has been developed to showcase the firm’s latest folding-roof technology.

Along with its Polo GTI-inspired styling, the canvas top also has two sliding glass sections front and rear to let fresh air into the cabin. They are operated independently from the roof, while the rear window also allows easier access to the boot than regular supermini cabrios can normally offer. Equally impressive are the folding back seats, which extend the luggage area without the need for any intrusive body-strengthening structures.

As reported earlier:

Take 2 in a classic VW Camper Van

The classic VW Type 2 camper van, now made in Brazil, can be bought new in the UK. Mark Dixon put some flowers in his hair and took off.
The Who play gig for Volkswagen's magic bus

Talking Heads - (Nothing but) Flowers (1988)


  1. Hi Vi, I love the Fiat500. We used to have two of them. I am sure the new one will sell Good esp if the engine is in the front, a change done by VW lately. I don't think that the US will let Fiat 500 for many environmental restrictions. By the way in USA they call FIAT ( Fix It Again Tony). Remember the Smart Car by Crysler will offically be sold in US this winter. it is a strong competitor. I guess the pictures you are posting from Egypt is Fiat 600. Fiat 500 is my baby, I know it. It has a smaller sloping nose and a flat ass. Fiat 600 has a bulging ass because of the bigger engine and the positioning of the radiator.

  2. he & she:
    The Fiat 600 was an earlier edition from the 1950's, and the 500 is actually based on the 600 - just a smaller car. (Damn you, for making me do more research on this!)
    I can't even find anything in English on the Blue 750 LE (taken on the Corniche), but the design is the same for all of them. A lot are just different models, due to engine size, interior upgrades, etc. The design is basically the same, just like with the old Minis and Beetles. Unfortunately, as with some cars here, they're so old the model numbers are no longer on them, and with no owners around, I just make a best guess.

    The post is basically about how some auto makers are trying to rekindle desire for a new car based on an old design, and most of the Funkengroovin posts are based on what I find in Cairo. The Fiat 500 was a very popular car.
    Sorry if the asses are too bulging for you. Also I mentioned the Smart Car in an older post, but I probably won't be focusing on it anytime soon.

  3. Fiat convertibles of the handmade kind - ie taking a sledgehammer to the top of your old Fiat are super hot and groovy commodity in Marrakesh right now. Who would have guessed?

  4. maryam in marrakesh: Sounds like they make-do in Marrakesh like they do in Cairo, although I've yet to see a sledgehammered Fiat. But they do all sorts of other things here to some of their cars.
    As for convertibles, I saw a photo of the new VW Polo convertible which I would love to have, but it will never get to the U.S. - Just like the new Fiat 500. We Americans seem to get stuck with a very boring selection.

  5. Vi, bottom line is that I didn't convince you hah? fine. Away from using sexual words ....lol..the back of fiat 600 is convex outward and the back of the fiat 500 is convex inward beside the smaller size. I got you this link that amazingly compare the two cars in the same page. See it and tell me what do you think now