March 2 will be the first "World Italian Design Day". In over 100 locations worldwide, 100 Italian Design Ambassadors (designers, business men and women, journalists, critics, communicators and teachers) will be illustrating a project of excellence and explore the special bond linking products, the manufacturing capabilities of their makers and their provenance.
The event, promoted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation as part of an integrated plan to promote Italian-made products and promoted together with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism and the Fondazione Triennale di Milano, will be presented in Rome in the afternoon of March 2 at the presence of Minister Angelino Alfano. An exhibition showcasing a selection of design objects that received the prestigious "Compasso d'Oro" award, the first, most influential and recognised industrial design accolade established in 1954, which since 1958 has been bestowed by Associazione per il Disegno IndustrialeAssociazione per il Disegno Industriale (ADI), will be on display in Palazzo della Farnesina, the headquarters of the Foreign Ministry. Two Fiat 500 will be on display in the forecourt of the building, one dated 1957 and the other dated 2007, both of which won the award in 1959 and in 2011, respectively. The two cars belong to the official FCA Heritage historical collection.
Object as these cannot be judged simply for their looks nor should be seen good examples of engineering in which form follows function. On the contrary, they are examples of a powerful alchemy of revolutionary design and concept that redraws common reference points. When this occurs essential masterpieces of industrial history are born. Fiat 500 one of them. The history that binds the two models on display, which are genuine symbols of Italian creativity and have become rooted in international collective imaginary, is fascinating.
Fiat presented the Nuova ("new") 500 in the summer of 1957 hoping to replicate the success of the "Topolino". The car inherited a two-seater body type updated to implement the most modern technology of the day from its forerunner. Unitised body, rear engine and four independent wheels; the engine was an air-cooled two-cylinder, the first of its kind made by Fiat. The launch price was 490,000 lire. Within a few years, the 500 was asserted as the new iconic car of Italian youths and sold rapidly worldwide, from the United States to New Zealand, where approximately 5000 units were assembled. Over four million units of the car were made non-stop - across five series - until 1975.
On July 4, 2007, precisely 50 years after the launch of its forerunner, the public saw the definitive version of the newest incarnation of 500 at last. Similar yet profoundly revolutionised, the modern 500 picked up the successful style that won over entire generations. As could be expected, the major changes concerned the mechanical arrangement: the car now had a front-engine, front-wheel-drive arrangement. There was no shortage of style references to the past: round headlights with two auxiliary light clusters and the Fiat logo on a red background framed by the unmistakable chrome-plated moustache were prominently displayed on the front. The interiors were superior and packed with vintage references, like the white steering wheel, the circular dashboard and the dashboard in matching body colour. The small Fiat was more than half a metre longer and 30 centimetres wider that its namesake and immediately imposed itself as an authentic worldwide icon; approximately two million units have been made in ten years since its launch. The car on show made in 2007 was the first 500 with Opening Edition trim level.
For more information on the first "World Italian Design Day", go to the website of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.