Fiat 500 Tipo Corsa 1938

Even when Fiat tackled the low-price end of the car scale, it was incapable of building anything that didn’t exude character, verve, and speed “potential.” Italian printer and amateur racing driver Raffaele Cecchini, however, went further than most, to wring maximum performance from the Fiat 500, the 1936 car Italians nicknamed “Il Topolino” (little mouse).

Fiat 500 Tipo Corsa 1938
Fiat 500 Tipo Corsa 1938

Fiat 500 Tipo Corsa 1938

  • PLACE OF ORIGIN  Turin, Italy
  • HISTORICAL STATUS  production car-based single-seater speed record car
  • ENGINE  four-cylinder, 30.45ci (499.05cc)
  • MAXIMUM POWER  unknown
  • LAYOUT  front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
  • BODYWORK  one-door, single-seater sedan
  • TOP SPEED  90mph (145kph)

In 1938, he created this little streamliner to chase a number of 31ci (500cc) class speed records at the Monza circuit. Apart from the beaten aluminum torpedo-like bodywork, with its gaping air intake, incredible fish tail, disc wheels, and tiny off-set turret, the usually feeble Topolino engine was heavily modified. To ensure it met 31ci (500cc) class rules (the standard Topolino had a 35ci (569cc) engine, sleeves were fitted inside the cylinder, and a new crankshaft gave a shorter stroke to reduce capacity to 30.45ci (499.05cc).

Power output was boosted using a Cozette carburetor and supercharger, the side valves replaced with a Siata overhead-valve conversion, and the car was cooled with a front-mounted radiator. Considering the basic Fiat could manage just 53mph (85kph), Cecchini worked wonders turning it into a 90mph (145kph) catapult. At Monza, the driver set record speeds for 50-, 100-, and 200-mile (80-, 161-, and 322-km) stints at 85.39mph (137.42kph), 86.18mph (138.69kph), and 81.97mph (131.92kph) respectively. Not bad for a car originally intended as a city runabout.

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