Italy's answer to

the Morris Traveller

Fiat Belvedere

IN the early 1950s Britain was riding high with a car that would become a true design icon, the Morris Minor.

And the icing on the cake was the Traveller estate with its exterior wood framing which was to achieve worldwide fame.

Not to be outdone, Italy had its answer to the Traveller, based on the amazing Fiat 500c Topolino design.

This was the Belvedere, a compact estate which could be had with exterior wood-style framing and was a very arty little motor.

Better equipped than many cars twice its size, the Topolino, or mouse, brought a high degree of refinement to small Italian cars.

Lockheed hydraulic brakes, independent front suspension and 12-volt electrics were all features while an engine mounted ahead of the front axle helped maximise cabin space for the two occupants.

The Belvedere of 1955 was based on the restyled 500C of 1949, which was the first Fiat model to offer a heating/de-misting system as standard.

Equipped with the superior overhead-valve engine, these later Topolinos were genuine 60mph cars, though no less economical than their predecessors.

The Topolino was one of the smallest cars in the world at the time of its launch in 1937, three models were produced until 1955, all with only minor mechanical and cosmetic changes.

Some Belvederes had raised frame-effect metal panelling and some had wood effect, but they were an interesting take on Italy's view of a 50's utility car.

Its styling could almost have been British with sweeping curves, ‘alligator' side lights and horizontally barred grille.

Altogether a pace-setter in small estate design.


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