1973 Fiat 500 Giardiniera Estate
(Featured on 9th July 2013)
Registration: RAU 971M
Sellers original description:
A once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire the lowest mileage, best original condition 1973 Fiat 500 - Autobianchi, Bianchina Giardiniera 120 (very, very rare Station Wagon or "Panoramica") available for sale anywhere - worldwide.
Left hand drive, first registered in Italy in September 1973. Imported and registered in the UK in 2004. Just 27,504 kilometres -17,003 Miles.
Clearly always cherished and kept undercover the car is today remarkably, if fact amazingly, rust free and is quite simply absolutely stunning in every way.
A very rare car that is presented in almost unheard of totally original and un-restored condition.
Never welded, retaining all of its factory fitted panels and glass plus practically all of its original factory applied paint finish.
The very best of the best. We doubt that you could possibly find a superior, lower mileage, un-restored example in its original paint finish for sale anywhere – worldwide!
The tiny classic Fiat 500 is now a trendy cult car, its miniature size and looks endearing it to millions. Designed as utilitarian transportation for the masses, it put Italy on wheels during the 1960s and spawned several variants. More than four million saloons were built in a 20-year production run.
In May 1960, Fiat reintroduced the 'Giardiniera' (Gardener) name that had been used for the wooden bodied Fiat 500B Topolino Station Wagon in 1948.
The new version had an all metal body. The integrated body/chassis assembly used on the rear engined 500's allowed an increase in the wheelbase with only minor modifications to cables and pipework. Many of the components of the saloons were used, but the engine, brakes and rear suspension were unique to the 'Giardiniera'.
The distinctive and lovable design of the front end was untouched and would still only allow a minimal amount of 'soft' luggage to be squeezed in under the bonnet. Despite this, a heating/demisting system and window washers were fitted. Front opening 'suicide' doors were retained and, unlike the saloon, these would be fitted for the entire duration of the Giardiniera's production life.
A single, side hinged rear door opened onto a spacious by Fiat 500 standards cargo platform that was so low that it was hard to believe that an engine was hidden beneath. But the standard 499.5cc engine had been cleverly adapted to lie on its side and was accessible beneath a flat hinged lift-up section of the rear floor.
The cargo area could be extended to give a very useable storage area with a length of 1180mm (3'10.5") by folding the one piece rear seat down against the backs of the separate front seats. For bigger loads the front passenger seat could easily be removed by just sliding it off its runners.
The roof of the Giardiniera was quite long and the almost full length folding top could be opened up far enough to expose the rear seats, but leaving a reasonable sized covered area behind them.
The Giardiniera station wagon, or Panoramica as it was known, was produced alongside the Fiat 500D until the Spring of 1968, when production was transferred to the Fiat SpA (Sezione Autobianchi) factory in Desio just outside Milan of which Fiat had become sole owner of in 1963. At that time, the Fiat badge was replaced by the Desio badge and the car became known as the Autobianchi 'Giardiniera', the name stayed until production ceased in 1977.
Autobianchi produced just 120,000 500 Giardiniera in total - not that many at all really. They were not produced in right hand drive format by the factory.
With so few made they were/are far, far less plentiful than the 500 saloon which today are two a penny by comparison.
Very few Giardiniera Panoramica's survive in fact they are an ultra rare car. Of those that do remain almost all of them have been, or now need to be, restored. They are a highly sought after collectors car and very, very desirable.
As I think we all know Fiats, in fact Italian cars in general, from the seventies suffered terribly with rust and this has taken its toll on the majority of the Fiat's that remain. Consequently you would be hard pushed to find even a Fiat 500 saloon that was totally original today. For the most part, of those that are claimed to be original, almost all have at the very least been repainted.
As for finding a much rarer Giardiniera that's original and never been repainted - well surely that would be an impossible task one might think!
However quite remarkably one actually does exist. Not only has it never been repainted but it has never been welded, has all if its original panels, glass and trim and it has covered just 17,000 miles since it was new forty years ago. In fact it is almost certainly the lowest mileage most original un-restored example available anywhere - worldwide and here is a once in a lifetime chance to own it because .....
...... it's on sale right now!
In September 1973 the first owner of RAU 971M, or 426780 BS as it was then, travelled the few kilometres from her home in Rezzato in the province of Brescia near Lake Garda Italy to F.LLi Albini, Fiat Dealer. There rear window sticker still remains.
The purpose of her visit was to collect her new Autobianchi, Bianchina, Giardiniera 120.
The owner was 43 at the time having been born in 1930 and this would almost certainly have been the first new car, indeed probably the first car of any type, that she would have owned.
The Giardiniera would have been ideal for the narrow streets (Via's) of Rezzato. It is unlikely that the owner would very often have ventured outside of the town.
The Via where the owner lived, Via Broli, and where 426780 BS spent most of its life was is typical of the backstreets of Rezzato. They had not been built for motor cars. However the owner lived in a large house on the corner of the street and it is clear that she was able to get her beloved Giardiniera undercover - after all not much inside space was required to accommodate it!
As the owner advanced in years use of 426780 BS became even more infrequent. By 2004 with the original owner now in her mid seventies the car had covered less than 10,000 miles.
In September 2004 426780 BS was driven without issue from Italy to the UK Midlands where it was submitted for its first ever MOT with 18,358 kilometres. It failed. However not on much. The obvious things like the lights dipping to the wrong side and no seat belts. It also failed on the tyres, which would have been the factory fitted originals, being perished and split on the walls. Other than that though the only real problems were one shock absorber and low hand brake efficiency. Testimony we think to the way that the car was previously cared for.
On the 28th October 2004 426780 BS was issued by the DVLA with RAU 971M and registered in the UK.
The new owner of RAU 971M continued the use the car sparingly the MOT in 2005 shows 19,355km and in 2007 20,074km.
In 2008 the car was sold to its third owner a collector and enthusiast. Whilst in his care it completed the Leige, Bresca, Leige classic car rally from Belgium to Italy and back without issue.
Now back in the UK RAU 971M has been re-commissioned, MOT'ed, checked over and serviced by one of the country's leading Fiat 500 specialists including new battery and terminals, 4 new wheel cylinders and 4 new correct Pirelli Cinturato tyres.
Today RAU 971M is presented in exemplary original condition.
When we acquired RAU 971M we really could not believe just how good the bodywork was. As we say most Italian cars from the era are renowned for rust the fiat 500 especially so. Yet here was an example that not only appeared to be absolutely rust free but one that, it would seem, had never received any paint rectification, repairs or touch ups whatsoever - astounding!
However as good, sound and rust free the car is it was not without chips, marks and small dents caused no doubt after 3 decades of the narrow Via's and Italian drivers in Rezzato. There were also blemishes related to age, cracking of the surface paint around the hinges and a couple of other places, that sort of thing.
This left us, and our body shop owner with a real dilemma which we debated at length. Here was possibly the only Giardiniera left anywhere in its original factory paint finish. Furthermore there were no signs whatsoever of any paint rectification ever having been carried out.
Our body shop were concerned that they would be unable to match the forty year old dark blue paint well enough to carry out localised "blow ins" on panels and argued that each panel that had a mark would really require that panel to be entirely painted. They went on to say that by the time you had done that and faded the new paint into the original paint on the panels that weren't marked it would be more cost effective to repaint the entire car in order to give an even colour match.
No we said most certainly not!
It was not a matter of cost once the car was repainted it could no longer be classed as original. Furthermore the uniqueness of almost all the factory paint on a car of this age and type would be lost and finally the new owner would not be able to see exactly what they were getting - we all know what sins new paint can be concealing.
We decided that we should maintain the integrity of the original paint finish at all costs and keep any work confined only to cosmetic rectification of the worse of the man made defects, the small dents for example.
There were really only 3 dents that detracted from the appearance greatly. The largest and worse on the N/S/R wing was very shallow and the size of a dinner plate which had broken the paint in a couple of small areas. We had this dent carefully removed by an expert panel beater until almost invisible then localised paint was applied just to that area. The match is excellent even an expert would be hard pushed to tell it was there.
The next dent was to the passenger door and had not broken the paint we had this smaller dent removed by a paint less dent removal specialist. No paint was applied here and if you catch it from the right angle you can just make it out, but most would not notice it.
The third dent was were the external mirror is. This was very minor but had split the paint. The mirror was removed the paint flatted and a tiny localised repair made to the paint finish.
RAU 971M had, unusually in the early seventies, been undersealed from new, which would help to explain its condition.
This underseal extended a few centimetres up the sill area on both sides and remained black which looked a little unsightly. Again the debate do we remove it? Again the same answer - it's been there from new and if we damage the paint during removal it would mean having to cover yet more of the original finish we have tried so hard to preserve. Cosmetic compromise - put the 40 year old underseal in colour - so we did!
The whole car was then machine and hand polished. Chips and blemishes were carefully touched in by hand with a brush which although are still visible if you look hard are much improved. Age related items that give a patina that cannot be reproduced such as the cracked paint in places were left well alone and remain, as do a few other blemishes.
After four decades the factory paint now presents extremely well and maintains a superb lustre.
Not one single panel has been ever been repainted in its entirety and our body shop have excelled themselves by keeping the paint 95% original through their skill and hard work.
The roof operates exactly as it should and has no rips or holes.
The delightful and sought after suicide doors have new check straps fitted.
The front bumper has a slight crease the rear bumper is new, the old one had a small dent but is available should you require it.
It goes without saying of course that no welding has ever been carried out and that none is, or will be, required if the car is kept in this condition. The underside is excellent.
The interior can only be described as in exemplary, totally original condition.
You could be forgiven for thinking that it was a couple of years old rather than forty.
The rubber mats are virtually unmarked and show no signs of wear having been covered by the bespoke over mats shown in one of the pictures from new.
These Giardiniera mats themselves are now collector's items and it this condition will be highly sought after. Of course they will remain with the car.
The caramel coloured seats piped in black set the car of fantastically and contrast so well with the Dark Blue paint. They are unmarked and have not lost their shape. The rears look as though they may never have been used.
There is no headlining in these cars but the paint finish is unmarked on the roof, inside the doors and on the dash.
Door cards, wheel arch trims, rear liners are all original and excellent.
All the glass is original and the quarter lights and rear windows work as they should.
UNDER THE BONNET:
Spare wheel with unused tyre.
Unused wheel brace in correct plastic box.
There had been a brake fluid spillage which had stripped some of the paint on the N/S/ inner wheel arch a little, our body shop has repainted the arch.
Correct and undamaged floor mat.
Rock solid spare wheel well.
UNDER THE ENGINE COMPARTMENT:
The engine bay is spotless and only through such limited use could it present so well and correct.
No sign of rust to the body or inner wings.
Original stickers remain
Most of the pipe work gleams and there is little sign or deterioration to the visual appearance of components.
Once again you would never know the age of the vehicle from an inspection in here.
An oil leak that was an advise on the MOT has been rectified.
IN THE BOOT:
In keeping with the rest of the car the car the load area trim is in exceptional condition.
The rear seat folds down and there is lots of room which makes the Giardiniera so much more usable and practical than the 500 saloon. We think that you could easily get luggage for four or a tent and associated bits and pieces in here!
Under the mat the boot floor is spotless.
ON THE ROAD
The car starts with first pull of the leaver with manual choke.
Climbing in through those suicide doors the pleasure starts even before you set off.
We love it, with recent better weather and the roof open we had an absolute hoot on our test drive.
We always prefer Left hand drive in classics when they were designed to be that way - LHD VW Beetles are another example of this. Plus of course being left hand drive is no real disadvantage with Giardiniera's because you are not far away from where you would be if the steering wheel was on the other side anyway and with a top speed of around 60 MPH you aren't going to be overtaking that much!
There are no untoward noises or smoke
No trace of oil leaks.
The gearbox changes up and down just as it should.
On the road the car drives like an absolute dream, the engine sounds and behaves like a 17,000 mile Fiat 500 should.