1954 Fiat Topolino

Topolino means “Little Mouse” and is used in Italy to name Disney’s most famous rodent. What is not always appreciated, however, is how rare it is for a car to receive a universal and warm nickname. There is the Topolino, the Beetle and, er, um, that’s about it unless you include the Mini.

A car has to be special before it receives a universal nickname. Nobody gave such a name to the Ford Pinto, at least not a name which is repeatable; a car which receives one has to respond to people on a personal level and it has to have a quality which is out of the ordinary. Such a car is the Fiat Topolino.

There were times when Topolini formed the backbone of the Mille Miglia. For many a young Italian, driving a Topolino in the Mille Miglia was a rite of passage. Some likely lads would even enter standard road cars, drive the course until they got close to their home base, then they’d find an excuse to retire and spend the rest of the year reminiscing in the local trattoria. You could do that with a Topolino in those carefree days, but you’d get short shrift today if you turned up at Le Mans with a co-driver and a bog-standard Kia Sephia.

With a top speed of about 60 mph, and acceleration which calls for a sun dial rather than a stopwatch, the Topolino has no pretensions at being a road burner, but it will return 50 mpg and it has always been fun.

The car pictured here has come from a major Swiss collection that includes great and important motor cars from all the major European manufacturers. Finished in grey-blue with cream wheels and a contrasting green interior, it has the cabriolet body which was always more popular in Britain and the US than the saloon. The top slides rather than rolls back to give the fortunate purchaser the option of open air motoring.