In 1955 Germany's Volkswagen Beetle, and France's Citroen 2CV were breaking sales records. Fiat wanted to create a car that was equally successful in Italy, one that most Italians, including the members of their own workforce, would be able to afford. The result was the 600, or Seiciento, Italy's own 'People's Car'.
This was Fiat's first rear engine car designed for city use. Designed by motor engineer Dante Giacosa over a period of a full four years it was a small and lightweight runabout that could carry four people, thanks partly to the rear engine design which allowed more space in the cabin. Simultaneously with launching it at the Geneva Motor Show in 1955 Fiat gain wonderful publicity by flooding every major city in Italy with hundreds of cars and it's success was immediate.
Performance wasn't terrific. The 633 cc straight four cylinder watercooled engine produced just 21 brake horsepower which was enough, just, to propel the car up to 59 mph but this was perfectly acceptable; it was meant to be the ideal car for city people to drive around locally, not for those who wanted to travel high speed across the country.
Italians took to the 600 enthusiasticlly. The country was still recovering from World War II but for the first time ordinary families were able to realistically look forward to owning their own motorcar. It became not only a status symbol but also a flagship of Italy's economic recovery. A popular advertising poster at the time, produced by Italian painter, artist and sculptor Felice Casorati was a true work of art, showing the car before a scene of nighttime Turin. The city was not only the home base of Fiat but also that of Casorati and the poster was as much a homage to Turin as it was to the Fiat 600.
It was so successful that 1 million cars were sold within six years. at the time that this milestone was passed in February 1961 Fiat announced that they were producing 1000 of these cars every single day. Production of various models continued right up until 1969 and they were exported all over the world with nearly 5 million sales altogether. If any car put Fiat on the world map it was this one.