Model of the car: 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.”

1938 FIAT 500 TIPO CORSA
The unique Fiat speed car created by Raffaele Cecchini had its engine capacity reduced to chase 31ci (500cc) records.

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). In 1938, he created this little streamliner to chase a number of 31ci (500cc) class speed records at the Monza circuit.

1938 Model car Fiat 500 Tipo Corsa
1938 Model car Fiat 500 Tipo Corsa

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.

1938 Model car Fiat 500 Tipo Corsa
1938 Model car Fiat 500 Tipo Corsa

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.

“Do not be misled by the conning tower, which suggests that the driver’s head is enclosed; there is a gap between the front and rear portions, as Cecchini has to breathe like the rest of us.”

“The blower,” writing in the light car magazine, june 1938

Video model car Fiat 500 Tipo Corsa8

Specification model car Fiat 500 Tipo Corsa

YEAR REVEALED: 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)
NUMBER BUILT: one