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Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Fiat 500 Forever Young: The global icon ‘arrives’ in London in the 1960s

The iconic Fiat 500 arrives in 1960s London
  • The second episode of the web series celebrating 60 successful years of the Fiat icon, is now online at
  • There are photos, videos and documents on 'Swinging London' bringing you back to the Sixties, when the great-little car ventured out of Italy and established itself in the four corners of the world.
  • This fascinating multimedia journey is part of a wider communication plan celebrating the long path that made 500 a global icon, with nearly six million units sold.


On it is now possible to see the second episode of the web series celebrating the 60th anniversary of Fiat 500, the timeless icon. After leaving Turin - the first episode showed a reproduction of Dante Giacosa's studio, where the 500 was born - the 'little' Fiat moves to 1960s London, to Piccadilly Circus to be exact.

This fascinating multimedia journey is part of a wider communication plan which will run on the web, radio and TV, as well as a series of initiatives including a tour of Europe's loveliest squares, involving fans and collectors of Fiat 500 models from the past and present. A product that is also history, art and lifestyles: Fiat 500 has come a long way since 1957, influencing fashion, society and habits and turning into a true global icon, with nearly six million cars sold to date.

We return to London in the fabulous Sixties, the 'Swinging London' movement, when Piccadilly Circus was at the centre of new social, musical and artistic trends, where you could meet some of the greatest stars of the time, like John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Sean Connery, George Best, John Osborne and Harold Pinter.

It is precisely this corner of London that is reproduced in the second episode. A 1965 flaming red Fiat 500 stands in the middle, surrounded by monuments, shops, buses, newspapers and neon signs: each of them is a hotspot that gives access to text, photos and videos. They recall the excitement of those years, when the Fiat 500 was spreading throughout the world, even as far afield as Tahiti. This is documented in a 1962 picture, taken at the same time and in the same place where Marlon Brando, another global icon, was filming Mutiny on the Bounty.
The website features two pictures of other legendary world cinema stars: Sofia Loren, Oscar winner in 1962 with La ciociara, and director Michelangelo Antonioni, who made a film about Swinging London in 1966, shooting his masterpiece "Blow-Up", winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, in the English capital. There is even a movie star who fell head over heels for the Fiat 500: Jack Lemmon. In Billy Wilder's 1972 film 'Avanti!', which was shot in Ischia, he fell in love with his co-star, a Fiat 500 of course, and asked the producer to let him take it to his Beverly Hills mansion, deducting the cost from his fees.

The multimedia journey goes on. On the home page, next to the historic Fiat 500, the unmissable red London phone booth, another icon of the collective imaginary showing the acceleration of telecommunications at the time. From being an object of the elites, the telephone became a presence in almost every home, and then long distance and even international calls became easier from 1970, as they did not need to go through the switchboard. If you pass the mouse over the neon sign, you discover how advertising also became a global affair at this time, in response to the needs of the burgeoning multinational industry.

You will then discover a record store, where you can just about spot a TV set on display: this recent invention quickly showed its potential for bringing down national borders and being a key testimony of its own times - just think of the incredible live coverage of the Moon landing in 1969. If you click on the television set, you will be able to view two videos from the Fiat Archives, filmed between the Sixties and Seventies. It is not hard to imagine the iconic Fiat 500 with the young Londoners who shuttled between Piccadilly Circus and Carnaby Street, listening to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

The Fiat 500, a symbol of the Sixties' mass motorization, is well suited to stand next to a double decker bus, the famous two-storey red bus that, together with the intricate underground and vintage-looking taxis, helps visitors discover the length and breadth of the English capital. At the top of the home page, you can see a Boeing crossing the skies: after all, the 1960-70s were the golden era of air travel. It was on one of those planes that, on 7 February 1964, four boys from Liverpool landed at New York's JKF airport, just renamed after the murdered president, and Beatlemania officially started. As shown in a picture of those times, several Fiat 500 were also waiting on the tarmac of the Rome Fiumicino airport, ready to board for faraway destinations.

The historic Fiat 500 is now a cult car and English fans, who are also great collectors, are ready to go out of their ways for it. One example? In 2015, Sotheby's auctioned a wonderful 1965 Fiat 500 for £17,920, while specialist British website Classic Driver offered a 1959 Fiat 500 for £40,000: it was sold in an instant. It had been restored by Graeme Hunt, a sort of living god of classic cars. Even former British Prime Minister David Cameron used to own a Fiat 500, which he sold for nearly €23,000. Why? To buy another one.

The Fiat 500 is much more than just a car: in 60 years it has become an authentic pop icon. A symbol of Italian style that never goes out of fashion. Over the years, it has attracted fans of beautiful and original things. Colouring everyday roads worldwide is the mission that the Fiat 500 has fulfilled everyday since 1957: the iconic Fiat is a real work of art that complements the surrounding environment. This is how a global icon can look to its 60th birthday with the same passion and light-heartedness as the young people who gave life to Swinging London.
The Fiat 500 really is Forever Young.

After Turin and London, the great-small car will move to a new location for the third episode of the web series, telling a new story of a time when the car was a leading actor.
The story continues...

Turin, 4 April 2017

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