Wheeler Dealers S5 Ep3 1971 Fiat 500

With only a £5k budget Mike’s job was to find a suitable Fiat 500 and Ed’s job was to make it good enough to sell and make a profit. The original model was launched in 1957 bringing affordable and stylish motoring to the Italian market. Designed with a rear engine gave plenty room inside the car at the expense of a bit of luggage space.

Mike Heads Off To Italy

In order to find the right “500” Mike travels to Turin in Italy home of the Fiat factory. He buys lots of newspapers and flips though the classifieds to find the right project. The first car Mike goes to see has too much rust and even inside had too much work to do, and realises even in Italy not all vehicles are in good condition.

The second car is a 1971 model and is for sale is in a trade garage not too far away and is much more promising, looks good and drives good, but it is clear the paint work needs some additional attention. It is advertised for 300 euros, Mikes gets him down to 2900 euros, normally Mike would get more money off than this.

A Big problem On The Way Home

Mike ten attempts t drive the Fiat 500 the full 800 miles home, but after 100 miles the engine starts to make some strange noises for Mike is forced to pull over when eventual it dies on him.
Forced to call out a friend with a 4×4 and trailer to pick him up and the stricken Fiat 500.

Back at the workshop it was apparent even before it was taken off the trailer that the engine had separated from the chassis. As usual Ed had a few moans over the work that needed t be done. The engine and a special paint job is the agreed strategy.

The Work On The 1971 Fiat 500 Begins

Ed decides that in order to do full re-spray everything needs to be taken off the car, he sets off to work. Ed uses masking tape to make notes of where the wires go, to ensure they go back where they came from. He also uses masking tape of the glass work to ensure that when taking it out it doesn’t fall on the floor and smash. The whole interior is also stripped out, because of the internal metal work on show. Ed estimates in labour charges from a garage it cost around £1000 to do this full strip down.

To The Spray Shop

Then a full rub down takes place on the body shell with circular motion to prepare the old paint for the re-spray.
The Fiat is put up on the ram in order to remove the engine, exposing that broken mount. A tool box is put under the engine and the car is lower down on the ramps unbolted the rear valance unbolted and then because the tool box is on wheels the engine was then just rolled out. Then a conversation with Mike investigates if the estimate £500 to repair the engine is worth the effort, or whether they should look for a reconditioned one.
In the meantime the rolling chassis is sent to a spray booth, where a primer coat is added and then straight after a top coat is added, this is called “wet on wet”. The chosen colour is old English cream and both inside and outside is painted. It is left overnight to dry then the red and green stripes then applied, which are actually made of vinyl

Fiat Replacement Engine and Gearbox For the 500

Mike goes out and buys a rebuilt 650cc engine that came from Fiat 126, which is powder painted and is converted to run unleaded petrol, together with a replacement synchronised gearbox, cost is £1400. By now the £5000 budget is blown.

RE-Assemby Of The Fiat 500

The gearbox is then bolted to the new engine, the mounts also have to swapped over to accommodate the bigger power unit. Oil is then added and the new unit sides straight into the engine bay.
The wires, pipes and cables are reattached then the fuel tank. The headlights are refitted and some of the wires are re-soldered just make sure the connections are better. When the fuel filter fills with petrol the little car then turns over, Ed is mighty relieved.
Then the windows are re-fitted with the relative rubbers using “paracord”. The rest of the re-assembly now occurs with door cards, carpets, seats as well as the folding roof.

The Numbers
The Car = £2300
Travel = £500
Engine= £1400
Re-spray = £1000
stripes = £300
Spares = £200
Total = £5700

Several potential buyers look over the car, Mike gives a hard sales talk and walks away with £6500, £800 profit.