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To Fiat 500 with love

Edward Green |
First, it was Topolino. Croatians called it Fićo. Japanese call it "box for yoghurt". Now it is called Pepita and it is covered with Swarovski crystals.

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At this year's luxury show in Roma the iconic small Fiat 500 Pepita was presented, all covered with 24k gold. Along with the gold painted side walls Pepita has Swarovski crystal studded gear shift, hand brake and foot pedals, the gold painted alloy wheels and the cashmere floor mats. For the price of 60,000 euros you can choose the material for the seats. It may be made of crocodile, snake, shark, skate or lizard leather. That is the Italian way to honour their Fiat 500, popularly called Topolino for years.

The story started in early 20s of the last century when brothers Umberto and Giovanni Agnelli, the owners of the Fiat Company, got an idea of producing a small, low price car. Their project immediately got the name "500", but it took years for Topolino see the light of the day. When the production finally started in 1936, the Topolino immediately captured people's hearts.

Its sale price was 8900 lire, a bit below of contemporary salary of an Italian employee. Little Topolino almost instantly became a hit. Its production last for 20 years and there were 520 thousand of pleased buyers.

Fiat 500, or Fićo as we call it, was one of the symbols of the former Yugoslav republics. Today it's rare on Croatian roads and it has mainly emotional value. In Japan there are Fiat 500 fan club. Japanese call it "box for yoghurt". Keep the smile on your face because the "yoghurt box" can reach the value of $20,000.

One man from Argentina drove his Fićo in 2000 to repair and painting. After two weeks the car wasn't finished yet. A few weeks later the car was still in workshop. Shortly, his patience last for whole six years, and then he sued the craftsman. "What I needed was just the simply painting and small repairing", he tried to explain. He was as naive and patient as Croatians, I say.

But, let's go back to our part of the world. Croatians, like a Italian neighbours, grow up with Fićo's adventures. Yesterday I mentioned Fićo to our friends and they started to recall the adventures they had with them. One friend remembered one of his business trips. Like he said, he kept the foot on the accelerator half the time, and then on the brake other half, just to be sure that it will stop when the time comes.

"But, little monster goes 120km/h", he laughs. "But it never left me on the road." We also have a green one and it had "suicide door". I will never forget how once I almost fell out.

Although Fićo was cheap and thus available to everyone, it was popular among thieves. Fortunately, those years thieves were mostly funny people. Their worst practical joke was to take a car, drive it while there's petrol in it, and leave it on the road. Policemen and car owners didn't have too much trouble to find it. The thief stole the car from one of our friends.

He finds it a bit further down the road. Latter he said that he didn't understand why he leaved the car so far away. When he wanted to start the engine he realised that tank was empty. It took a second to realise that he was been "robbed".

One Slovenian citizen travelled through Croatia to home in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Fićo, of course. A police car under blue light stopped him on the road. Instead of checking the papers, policeman asked him how much he paid for that car. Abashed men said that he paid 120 euros for it. The policeman almost started to cry: it turned out that he drove a similar car in driving school some thirty years ago. Knowing our mentality, I think that they both were hugging and crying in the middle of the road.

One is for sure. The men are weak and sentimental for cars. At the 40th Anniversary of Mattel's tiny cars at this year's New York Toy Fair the 140.000 dollars Mattel's tiny car was shown. For that car even a woman may be sentimental. And this is the most expensive toy in the world. Really? I'd never guess. It's all in 23-carat gold and it has 2,700 blue, black, and white diamonds covering the 18-carat white gold frame.

Yes, I agree, it is beautiful and glittery. Its only disadvantage is that it doesn't have a soul. And soul turns me more.