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Mini Cooper

Mini Cooper Published: 19th Sep 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mini Cooper
Mini Cooper
Mini Cooper
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Why should i get one?

Penny-watching motoring has rarely been more fun than in a Fiat 500. This cute cheeky chappie may shout economy motoring but it does it in such style – and this goes for the modern interpretation, too. Launched before the Mini, the Italian not only makes an inexpensive classic but, best of all, also a classless one; everybody loves a Fiat 500. With excellent spares and specialist support, they can serve as practical daily drivers once some suitable upgrades are incorporated. The ‘new 500’ is one of the best modern retros around and while totally different in concept, share a similar character.

What can i get?

Produced between 1957 and 1975 and replaced by the 126 in ’73, pre-’65 cars featured rear-hinged suicide doors and are rarities in the UK. Unless you’re after an original, the later the car the better, with the 500L and 500F particularly good bets. Look out for the rare end-of-theline 500R which boasted 126 power but, as it’s such popular upgrade, so do many 500s now. Leaving out the super but super-pricey Abarths, other noteworthy versions include the family-sized estate Giardiniera (1960-77) and the larger 600 offshoot which is more than merely a pumped-up 500 as it features water-cooled engines and, on some, a novel useful ‘transmission brake’. By-and-large, 600s can be half the price of a 500, the exception being the people-carrying Multipla, the world’s smallest minibus, where £30,000 price tags aren’t unknown.

The 600 was also made by Seat, with an optional four-door offering, but you’ll have to go to Spain to find them. Head over to Austria for the Steyr-Puch for a 650 TR, a special 660cc-powered 500 made from 1964-68 if you prefer something different.

What are they like to drive?

If you ever needed proof that classics don’t have to be fast to be fun, take a stroll in a 500. With a nominal 18bhp, original mouses can barely top 60 and even 126-powered versions will find it hard to break the legal limit. With such little power, the handling rarely causes concern although the Mini remains in another league. But within its pedestrian limits, the 500 is a laugh a mile and nippy and nice enough for urban use plus it’s easy to tune them to make out-oftown motoring more bearable. If you’re considering a 500 as a learner driver classic, bear in mind its ‘crash’ gearboxes are primitive and hardly conducive for novice driving; 126 transmission retro fits are far friendlier in this respect.

What are they like to live with?

According to leading 500 specialists, such as http://www.motobambino.com (Fiat 500 parts and restoration business) the car is DIY friendlier than a Mini and in the main, spare parts availability is excellent. There’s a wealth of upgrades at modest costs. For example, simply fitting the later 126 engine gives virtually Abarth 595 pep at a fraction of the price. Talking of which, you can expect to pay £12-£20,000 for the best on the market, values which exceed brand new ’16 platers, but 500 (and to a lesser extent the 600) values are on the ascendance.

Verdict

Commuting needn’t be a grudge and minimalist motoring has never been quite so appealing if you drive a riotous rodent. Just ask the legendary designer Gordon Murray, of Brahbam F1 and McLaren fame, who regularly drives his. Life in the slow lane has never been so pleasurable or so logical.

 



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