First Minivan? 1959 Fiat 600 Multipla

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Haul the kids to soccer (or, football?) practice in this tiny van and you’ll be the coolest parent there. This is a 1959 Fiat 600 Multipla and it’s in Markham, Ontario, Canada and is listed on eBay with a current bid of just over $4,500. Restored Multiplas routinely sell for ten times the current bid price and I got excited at the low price, but this one will sell for a few times the current bid price, I’m fairly certain.

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This example looks fantastic, body-wise. And, in fact it was owned by a gentleman who was “a body shop teacher for over 30 years so countless professional hours were spent to completely reconstruct the floor under the back passenger side and repaired other necessary areas in the undercarriage and also any necessary work needed around the car.” Unfortunately, they didn’t use a proper replacement floor panel, but if you’re not going to show it at Pebble Beach it should last for a few decades.

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The Multipla was made from 1956 to 1965 and it supposedly had room for six passengers, all in a vehicle that was just twenty-inches longer than the original Mini Cooper. Although, I’m not sure about six 2016 people fitting in there, humans have seemed to have gotten taller and bigger in the last few generations. This Multipla has had a lot of work done to it, overall it looks like it’s in great shape.

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The interior is where this one will need some help, but even so it’s not as bad as most of these that come up for auction seem to be. You can see the curved piece on the top of the right-side dash, that’s where the spare tire goes! And, that blacksmith tool for a shifter isn’t original so you’ll want to source one of those. The front seat back padding and upholstery is gone. I’m not sure what the story in on that that you can match it, or it may be worth reupholstering the entire interior if the selling price is right. These vans had the “groundbreaking” folding seats that Chrysler minivans have, but they had them five decades earlier.

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Here’s what the engine could look like with a little detailing. This is Fiat’s 633 cc inline-four with around 20 hp! That’s not a heck of a lot, especially if you’re going to be driving your son or daughter and four of their friends to soccer practice. So, Fiat basically used tractor gearing, 6:11, which provided the oomph to get this 1,700 pound vehicle moving with the added weight of six passengers. Unfortunately, the top speed was around 56-57 mph so it’s a good thing you live in the suburbs and practice is just a few miles away with no freeways involved. I think this looks like a great van. Most of them that come up for auction are either fully-restored with a $40,000-$50,000, or more, price tag, or they’re rusted-out heaps that would need more money thrown at them than would ever pay off. What do you think of this early “minivan”? It looks like a super solid project with a lot of the hard work already done.

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Comments

  1. Dolphin Member

    These were the ‘big’ little FIAT back when you could afford something more than a 500 or 600. It’s interesting that these are more valuable than the lesser, better looking small Fiats, especially in No America since they are so scarce. This must be one of the few intact ones left, and it’s already at $7200 with 17 bids, the reserve not met, and 4 days left. Located in the greater Toronto area.

    I have never driven one but they must be practical in what they can carry compared to the smaller FIATs. They better be because they will never win a beauty contest.

  2. Skloon

    I passed up a pair of these about ten years ago in fairly good shape for 1500 and my wife wanted to get them, sigh

  3. DolphinPorsche

    I did a 600 for my wife, put the 850 sports engine in and decambered it. It went well enough on the freeway and cornered well,– then there was the gas milage!!

  4. Alan Brase

    In reality, taking your kid and 4 others for a ride in one of these might be child abuse in some jurisdictions. Definitely involved the operator in the safe use.
    There was a stretched Isetta that was the competition. And a Citroen.
    Al

  5. Mvm

    If you’d ever have one for me in Holland, I would be the thrilled!
    Ok, you hate it or love it, for me its pure lust!
    Wonder what the towing pin (or how do you call it) was for?

    • Dolphin Member

      In No America it’s called a trailer hitch.

      Makes me wonder what it would be towing with 633cc and 20 HP.

  6. Milt Sylwester

    Back in 1975 I restored an Isetta 600. The linkage between the gear shift handle and transmission was missing. Coincidentally, I found the remains of a Fiat Multipla in a San Antonio wrecking yard, and the gear shift linkage fit the Isetta just fine. Go figure!

  7. 4-Doors-for-My-Tuba

    Growing up the next door neighbor had one of these. It was small then. Very, very small. But there are six seats. The neighbor would get in, start it up, and put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put put… you get the drift. Second gear…

  8. billy de hulst

    This old car collector business is just plain weird. Old Porsches going for 5 or 10 times what a new Porsche would cost. Truck like Austin Healeys, with a 900 plus pound engine transmission unit, as well as primitive steering and suspension, bringing 30 times their original cost.

    Then, we have these next to useless, but cute, rolling toasters selling for astronomical prices. Its a fad.

    I worked for a Fiat (and almost everything else) dealership back in the day. We had a few of these Multiplas and 600s littering the back lot. Some had a birthday or two sitting back there. Until Fiat dropped the bottom out of the price. A Fiat 600 sedan could be had for $895. Just half the cost of a Morris Minor 1000 in 1959. A Multipla for $1195. I sold our last two to a Pizza outfit for $1500 total cash on the nail. The pizza guy had them painted up garishly to advertise his business. It worked. He wanted a couple more….one for deliveries and the other the to stuff an Abarth 750 Derivisione engine into. When his little fleet wore out he had a contact in Italy who would ship complete 850 drive lines to him for a few thousand lira.

    The pizza guy was the only Multipla buyer I knew who was happy with his little beasts. They rusted in the winter and overheated in the summer as well as jumping off their wheels onto their roofs in the spring and fall. (High center of gravity and tucked under swing axles at the back). For him they attracted attention and sold his pretty good pizzas by the stack.

    Now look a the silly prices for a dangerous fad item.

  9. Howard A Member

    I tell ya’, if you hang around here long enough, you see every car you ever came in contact with, eventually. In the 70’s, I had a friend with one of these. One day, he asked us if we wanted to go for a ride.With 4 adults, it was horribly under powered, and I don’t think he ever got it into 4th gear. Felt pretty silly, hoping no one saw us. I believe, the 1st mini-van was the Scarab, but the real credit goes to the Type 2 VW. Corvair’s Greenbriar was actually the 1st American mini van, but of course, Chrysler changed everything. Cute, but no thanks. Maybe with a hemi in the back seat.

  10. William H

    If someone wasn’t worried about collector value, I would imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to swap in something air-cooled from a big bike for a little more grunt and reliability. Certainly would make for a unique little utility type vehicle for making service calls and the like. Looks like it would hold more than enough equipment and get great mileage, especially with an engine swap.

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