FIAT 500 R

Production: 1972/1975

Fiat 500R

Fiat 500R

With the advent of the 70s, years of great social changes and economic crisis, it was a common belief that the time was right to launch a new small car that, while retaining the mechanics and philosophy of the 500, however, was substantially different in the body : for the new model, decidedly more squared shapes were adopted that recalled the major 127 (presented in 1971). At Fiat, the approval of the new model 126 was preceded by a long debate on the real opportunity for a radical replacement of the 500 rather than a simple update. In any case it was immediately obvious that the mechanics, robust and economical , remained unchanged. Also on the basis of the first “safety” requests of the cars, the end was chosen for the launch of a new model; however the still substantial success of the 500 did not immediately decreased but allowed a “coaching” for another three years in the Fiat range.

At the Turin Motor Show, in November 1972, the Fiat 126 was presented as an absolute novelty, as well as the last series of the 500: the R (“Renewed”) or, as it was also initially called, “unified”.

The engine that equipped both cars, passed from the historical 499.5 cc to the displacement of 594 c.c. (this above all on the experience acquired by Abarth, absorbed in 1971 by Fiat): for the 126 the power was increased to 23 hp, while the 500 was weakened to the usual 18 CV of the previous versions.

The R, just like the very first 500 against the “600”, would never have to compete with the 126: for this reason, in addition to the weakening of the engine and the change not synchronized, presented very simplified finishes that they made it look like the previous F. Even the radial tires, standard on the L, came back here to be an option.

Main features (Interiors):

Dashboard and instrumentation: speedometer and steering wheel resumed the same shape as the F but were made of black plastic to replace the white plastic: it was not an absolute novelty because this change already appeared in 1968 on the Autobianchi production Giardiniera. The dashboard center switches were reduced to only two, incorporating the speedometer light function when the external lights were turned on; their fixing rings were made of black plastic, instead of the metal rings used until then. The R deflectors have the characteristic of having the opening handle glued to the glass rather than fixed by screw.

The upholstery of the seats and the paneling were kept in smooth, solid-colored vinyl (type F), but the rear folding backrest was abolished, instead of a fixed one. The internal door opening system was also modified, resulting in a compromise between the F and L: the F was retained by the black plastic door handle, while the L remained in the zamak opening lever, this time painted black with the chrome ring. A spherical knob already appeared on the L was mounted on the gear lever: the particularity of this component consisted in the “ergonomic” working on the lower part which showed gaps for the housing of the fingertips.


If the F was already more sober than the D for the abolition of most of the moldings, with the R it came to the total renunciation of any profile of embellishment. At the grille appeared the Fiat logo with lozenges, already appeared on the other Fiat cars. The “Fiat 500″ logogram on the engine hatch was kept in the F of the F. The same logo was also engraved in the center of the wheel rims of new conception: identical in design to those of 126, were more practical and “sporty” appearance by presenting 4 slits and visible bolts; a novelty compared to the past (but that was directly related to the origins) was the abolition of the cups, thus making it easier to maintain and replace the wheels. For the 500 the size of these rims remained 3.5 inches, but it was also possible to mount the 4-inch ones of the 126, always keeping the same 125/12 size tires.


The mechanics of the R is undoubtedly richer in novelties than the detailed changes just illustrated.

New engine with the abbreviation 126A5.000, with a capacity of 594 cc delivering a maximum power of 18 hp at 4000 g / m (in the F / L the 18 hp was reached at 4600 g / m). Weber 24 carburettor in place of the usual Weber 26. From these data we can understand how the new engine has been designed to obtain greater elasticity of gear and be more economical and long-lasting. Thanks to a relationship to the “sport” bridge (8/39: the same as the Abarth and Sport) the R reaches over 100 Km / h. Significantly more elasticity of gear and greater uniformity of operation even at intermediate speeds. The different characteristics of the engine are felt especially during the shooting: even in 4th gear, at low speed, the R no longer shows the “hiccup” behavior of the previous versions.

For the gearbox, the 126 is adopted (without the synchronizers if not in the very latest models produced) and is supported by a wraparound sheet like a “cradle”, in addition to the support in the shape of “U” already present on previous versions . The bell is modified for the different and more rational position of the starter motor that is placed on the right side, thus being more easily reachable.

Another small change in the R metal sheets can be seen by opening the motor flap: on the left jamb, a recess is observed which facilitates the removal of the air filter cover.

The sleeve placed between the air filter and the carburettor is also modified: on the R (as on the first 126 series) there is a simple uncoated metal cylinder inserted interlocking that replaces the old black tube fixed with two metal springs.

The axle shafts, weak point of the 500, are increased and strengthened on the R. It also changes the engine fastening over the same crossmember: the aluminum arm that is replaced by a concave metal disc, stopped by means of a bolt, is abolished. Always in the engine compartment the protection sheets are modified which, in the R, are reduced in size; specifically: the casing fixed with two bolts, which covers the muffler to protect the condenser and the two small crankcases under the engine crossmember. Changes also to the brakes, where the stoplight switch is moved to the pedal board: to accommodate this device, the R has a small swelling in the front compartment, visible by raising the thin black plastic coating.

Finally we report the new crick in adoption of the 126 and the R, which reports the distinctive acronyms of the two models: 110-126.

The public then seemed to prefer the 126 which, in any case, never had the same commercial or emotional success of the 500. For this reason the production in recent years, was transferred from Turin to Desio (Autobianchi), then move permanently to Sicily , in Termini Imerese (Palermo).

The extraordinary adventure of the 500 closes with the R on 1 August 1975. Last frame: 5231518 Sicilfiat production. (Owned by one of our friend)

Price: 660.000 lire (1972) / 1.064.000 lire (1975)