- Want a Fiat 500? You’ll be able to buy a brand-new 2024 Fiat 500e after November.
- But if you want an original, a company in Italy is doing restomods of the 1957–1975 classics.
- Builds start under $10,000—including the car—and Real Italian Cars is willing and able to ship completed cars anywhere in the United States.
City-car fans, mark your calendars for November 2023. That’s when Fiat North America is unveiling the American version of the 2024 500e. But as exciting as that is for buyers of stylish EVs—as well as Fiat’s current U.S. lineup—it’s not the only Cinquecento resurrection. A new company in Italy is building classic 500 restomods, and unlike Singer’s 911s or Cyan Racing’s Volvo P1800s, buying one won’t require a second mortgage.
It’s hard to find clearer, more apt names in the automotive business than Real Italian Cars. Firstly, the new shop is headquartered in the Tuscan city of Lucca in Italy. Secondly, the business’s focus is restoring an Italian automotive legend: the original Fiat Nuova 500. And thirdly, co-founders Amedeo Provenzali, Anthony Peacock, and Mattia Vita all have ties to Italian automotive culture. Vita, for example, is an active rally driver, and Peacock has consulted for Pirelli Media and written stories for numerous car publications.
“We’ve been friends a long time,” Peacock recently told Car and Driver over the phone, and he expressed their fondness for vintage 500s. Yet while “millions and millions of these Fiats were produced, they’re a little bit of a dying breed,” he said. The trio wanted to keep the ones that remained around, “to preserve something for the future.” It started as a hobby, with the initial clients being mutual friends asking for repairs. But “without realizing it,” he said, “we were trying to set up a business, one that encourages more people, particularly future generations, to get into classic car ownership.”
Regarding that business, Real Italian Cars takes on any 1957–1975 Fiat 500 model, from the base 500D all the way to the wonderfully wicker-seated open-air 500 Jolly. The shop’s services range from simple cosmetic corrections as well as interior and engine work all the way to a full restoration or custom overhaul. That includes sympathetic modern touches like an Apple CarPlay–equipped stereo. And before you ask, yes, the shop has already gotten requests for Abarth re-creations.
If you don’t want to go full scorpion, you can also have Real Italian Cars swap the original air-cooled 499cc two-cylinder engine and crash gearbox for a Fiat 126 powertrain. That brings more grunt, courtesy of the bigger powerplant (594cc or 652cc, depending on the donor’s model year) and gear synchros. Peacock’s personal 500 has the 126 swap, and he attests, “The extra power and synchromesh really make a difference.” Considering a stock 1957 500 can’t even hit 60 mph and has a quarter-mile time longer than some YouTube ads, we’re inclined to believe him. Plus, thanks to the synchros, you don’t need to grind and double-clutch to drive your classic car around town. All the better and easier to enjoy your daily dose of vintage dolce vita.
It might be getting even easier in the future. Peacock told us that Real Italian Cars is currently prototyping and testing an EV-swapped Nuova 500 build. “The only thing that’s been a headache so far are the brakes,” he said, owing to the extra weight of the batteries. But otherwise, the classic Fiats “are perfect, perfect cars to become EVs,” he claims, due to their simple mechanical nature. If all goes well, the EV conversion option might be available by the end of summer 2023. If that schedule holds, come November, there’ll be two electric Fiat 500 options to choose from in the U.S.
You read that right: Real Italian Cars is taking orders from American clients and can even arrange shipping. Peacock said the company already has someone from Florida requesting a build, as well as a California resident who wants to take an Italian summer road trip in his new little Fiat. While the registration process for a restored 1957–1975 500 will vary from state to state, these cars are all good under the 25-year rule. So are all but the last of the 126s, while the earliest ones are exempt from California’s smog inspections. Basically, if you have the money, you shouldn’t have a problem driving one of these restomods in the U.S.
Speaking of money, you won’t need crazy amounts of it. As was the case when the business was just a hobby for friends, you’re paying “mates’ rates” (Real Italian Cars has a base in London, we can use U.K. slang). The shop’s builds start at €9000; that’s about $9800 at today’s exchange rates. That includes the cost of the donor car. As with other restomod operations, the more you customize, the more you pay. And starting prices vary based on the specific 500 model. An original Jolly restoration, for example, starts at a little over $27K. But considering an original non-wicker Nuova 500 typically goes for $10,000 to $20,000 these days, these prices are surprisingly reasonable.
We wonder how much re-creating Lupin III’s 500 will cost?
After discovering car magazines and Fast and Furious movies in high school, Matthew Skwarczek wanted to create cleaner fuels to keep automobiles around. But after a brief engineering career, the Chicagoland native realized he preferred researching and writing about the cars themselves. That’s how he found himself first at MotorBiscuit and then at C/D. Today, when he’s not reading, he’s daydreaming on Bring a Trailer, backpacking, or riding his motorcycle or bicycle.