A Different Kind of Vintage Car
When you think of a classic vintage car one of two types of automobiles probably comes to mind, either an upright antique similar to a model T or a sporty hot rod such as a Lamborghini, Mustang or Porsche. Yet, when someone brings up vintage automobiles, my first thought is the iconic Fiat 600 Multipla, a very different type of vehicle.
The Birth of a New Fiat
In the 1950s Fiat faced the challenge of designing models suited to the reality of post-war Italian life. Any new car would have to meet the needs of modern Italian families while being as popular as the hugely successful pre-war Fiat 500 “Topolino.” Introduced at the Geneva Motorshow in 1955, the Fiat 600 Multipla met this challenge with a style that was completely unique for the time.
Scandalous Car Design
Fitting 6 passengers in three compact rows, the Fiat 600 Multipla was both compact and efficient. The novel droplet shape was the result of moving the driver’s seat forward over the front axle. Even the two car doors were considered innovative since the hinges were affixed towards the rear end of the vehicle. This new look caused quite a bit of scandal at the time since when the car door swung open it gave a clear view of the female passengers’ legs. Given that most women wore skirts and hemlines were becoming shorter, it was inevitable that magazines offered up articles on the correct movement for getting in and out of the Multipla without arousing too much interest from passing men.
The Revolution in Car Travel
The Fiat 600 Multipla was born at the same time as consumer culture in Italy. The car was marketed as being the perfect vehicle for families who now had the time and resources to enjoy travel, vacations and leisure activities. Smiling children, doting parents, and sweet young couples enjoyed camping trips off the beaten track and sightseeing outings in the city in Fiat’s print and television ads. The message was clear: you have no more excuses because the road you’ve always wanted to travel is accessible thanks to the Multipla!
Some designers were so inspired by the idea of the Multipla as the ultimate vacation car that they tried to make it ideal for the beach as well. The famous Italian design firm Pininfarina produced the Multipla Marina, an open-top version of the original and designer Giovanni Michelotti created the open-sided Marinella which featured wicker seats. While neither of the beach versions was a success, the Multipla continues to be an icon of Italian car design even today. It was not only a new and revolutionary concept for the time, it was also the birth of the minivan!