1972 FIAT 500L

Background

When you think of Italian cars, chances are that you think of Fiat. More specifically, you probably think of this exact car - the Fiat 500. One of the most instantly recognisable cars on the planet, these diminutive little classics won the hearts of millions of drivers around the world, with over 3.8 million 500s being built in their various trims and guises between 1957 and 1975.

The early cars were very simple in their nature, with the aim of keeping costs low and accessibility high. Powered by a 499cc air-cooled two-cylinder engine, the Fiat 500 is often cited as the first successful purpose-built city car.

Such was the success of the Fiat 500, that it spawned all manner of variants. From the sports-focused Abarth models to the stretched-out “Giardiniera” estates, the 500 sits up with the likes of the VW Beetle and Austin Mini as one of the true ‘greats’ of automotive history.

Of course, as the 500 gained popularity, Fiat identified a gap in the market for a more generously-appointed ‘Lusso’ model, and that’s exactly what we have here. Designed for those who wanted a little more from their 500, the Lusso added features such as redesigned chrome hubcaps, bumper protector bars, model-specific badging and additional chrome detailing.

Not only were there several changes to the exterior, but the cabin also received a more ‘upmarket’ overhaul. The seats and door cards were trimmed in pleated leatherette, while the dash was covered in anti-glare plastic, as opposed to being bare metal on lower-spec vehicles.

The results speak for themselves - this is a city car that stayed true to its accessible roots, while offering a little more comfort and luxury for the image-conscious Fiat 500 driver.

The Vehicle

First registered in September 1972 - when Slade were topping the music charts with “Mama Weer All Crazeee Now” (sic) - this Fiat 500L (Lusso) has had just 6 owners in its nearly 50 years and the odometer now reads 68,290. Given the limited use it has had over the last couple of decades, such a low mileage is certainly plausible but without any history before 2005, it cannot be warranted.

Our vendor, who owns a car workshop and storage business, bought the car with a few other classics four years ago from Panorama Bay Motors in Sandbanks, Poole. It was intended that his wife would be using it but with the kids getting bigger, she instead opted for a classic Beetle.

Although he’s driven the car around the yard from time to time to keep it moving and running, and also the handful of miles from his premises to ours, he has only added around 100 miles to it. Needless to say though it has been properly dry stored over the last few years.

On the Outside

The outside finish is called Blu Scuro - which like most other automotive terms sounds best in Italian but translates as dark blue. The car was repainted in 2006 as part of an extensive body restoration involving numerous repair panels and was done, we believe, by a skilled enthusiast rather than at a professional carrozzeria.

The door fit isn’t great but mostly the paint and bodywork around the car looks in good order with just a little bubbling taking hold at the base of the nearside A-pillar and around the rear of the roof opening.

The red canvas hood seems in good condition and operates simply, pivoting around a central arm either side. The paint by the offside hinge is a little scuffed and worn and there’s a tiny spot of damage on the nearside surround too (that’s the close up photo with the yellow ding) but the roof appears to function as it should.

The chrome fixtures, fittings and trims around the car are in reasonably good order with light pitting on most of the items, suggesting that they are patinated original parts or second-hand fittings. There are a few of the trim strips which have detached - two are held in with a self-tapping screw but another has bent back and is sticking out.

Although every other visual clue points to this car being a Lusso spec, the tubular front bumper extension has either been removed or was not refitted during the renovation.

There are a couple of extraneous badges, such as the Abarth shield on the offside wing and the SS lettering on the rear engine cover. It is possible that a previous owner was trying to evoke or commemorate the highly-performant Abarth 695 SS of the late ‘60s - although they had to drive around with the engine cover propped open for additional stability and cooling.

The car sits on original looking 12-inch white-painted steel wheels with chrome hubcaps, which appear in a largely good condition. Hankook Optimo tyres dated 2005 are fitted to all but the right rear wheel, which is shod with an India GT from 2007.

On the Inside

The interior of this car was completely retrimmed in late 2009, which was fewer than a “mille miglia” ago (1000 miles). Consequently the condition is very good. The red vinyl seats and door cards appear unmarked and barely creased and the dashboard’s vinyl covering is also undamaged. The only flaw there being that the plastic seal behind the ashtray has split and is coming loose. The instrumentation is incredibly simple but sufficient to the task and the steering wheel also looks to be of the simplistic original style.

For those unfamiliar with starting a classic Fiat 500, the ignition key switches everything on but then you have two small levers between the gearstick and handbrake which open the choke and engage the starter respectively. The choke lever currently isn’t connected, but the car comes with a new choke cable ready to fit.

The red carpets are in excellent order, very clean with no wear or damage and the headlining above is in an attractive diagonal weave fabric. The driver’s door handle trim has become detached though and the rubber door seal on that side sports a small patch of gaffer tape, suggesting either a gap or some damage.

Underneath

Inside the front boot is a jack and spare wheel fitted with an older Michelin tyre. The luggage space has a vinyl liner which looks in good condition and underneath the metal floor is immaculate. This is also home to the battery and a relatively new-looking fuel tank.

The undersides of this Fiat are amazingly clean and very tidy with no obvious damage and all surfaces well waxoyled. The sills and valances have a stone chip coating under the paint and everything appears to be free of anything other than a few patches of surface rust.

The rear engine compartment is beautifully simple and is also very clean and well looked after. The engine and gearbox were overhauled at the same time as the interior retrim just under 1000 miles ago. The diminutive air-cooled motor starts and runs very well with a sound reminiscent of a large sewing machine or maybe (if we’re being generous) a petrol lawn mower. This is complemented by a soft puttering from the small diameter tailpipe underneath.

History Highlights

The Fiat has a current MOT valid until June 2022, which it passed after fixing an indicator with just an advisory on the front brake binding a little. Annual inspections going back from 2018 (the previous test) show regular testing but limited use with only around 6,000 miles covered since 2006.

As well as paper copies of the MOT reports back to 2006, the history file also contains numerous invoices from late 2005 onwards. Those from 2005 and 2006 document the extensive list of parts and repair panels purchased (mostly from Italian car specialists Ricambio of Banstead), as well as paint and finishing materials - suggesting a thorough body restoration during that period.

There’s then another large invoice from ItalCorsa in Fleet detailing more restorative work done in the autumn of 2009 including overhauling the power train, converting the front brakes to discs and removing and retrimming the interior.

The only invoice from recent ownership is the purchase of electronic ignition parts - again from Ricambio - in May 2018 to resolve a starting issue when hot. The vendor also reports that his mechanics rebuilt the carburettor and all is running well - even without the choke.

The car comes with two sets of keys.

What We Think

There’s no denying that the Fiat 500 is a ‘happy’ car which brings joy to those both in and around them. This one is a very nice little car, and even without the characteristic tubular bumper extension, it benefits from the additional interior luxuries bestowed on the Lusso models.

It is in very good condition in a stunning colour combination and just needs a little bit of cosmetic work outside to lift it into the immaculate category. We think it will sell for between £8,000 and £14,000 but is listed with NO RESERVE, so as ever there’s a chance for a bargain to be had.

This Fiat 500 would be a great addition to anyone’s garage, whether to complement your other classic rides or to start off your journey into classic ownership. Why not give it a bid - it’s not a lot of money and you won’t need a lot of space for it either.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; to arrange an appointment please use the ‘Contact Seller’ button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage options plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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Seller

fridge1230

  • Location: Abingdon, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 68290
  • Chassis Number: 3088145
  • Engine: 499cc
  • Gearbox: Manual
  • Steering position: RHD
  • Colour: Blue
  • Interior: Red

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