Salesman’s Reward: Fiat 500 with 4,956 Miles

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I love a barn find with a good story. Apparently, this fresh-from-the-stall 1960 Fiat 500 D was a reward to a salesman who hit big numbers back in the day for an importer of Italian suits. Unfortunately, he was too tall for the little Fiat, which arrived by boat with a shipment of suits and fabrics, so it was used sparingly and then stored. You’ll find this former prize here on eBay with a $10,500 Buy-It-Now.

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Normally, you’re inclined to poke holes in a seller’s too-good-to-be-true recounting of events, but this photo seems to lend some validity to a guy who was too tall to enjoy his prize! The fact that this photo still exists just makes this Fiat all the more appealing, as even with its limited use, someone was certainly proud of it at one time. The seller claims the one and original owner drove the car sparingly, and it has under 5,000 miles.

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The 500 D was a later example which featured a slight bump in displacement and these sweet suicide doors. I also dig the canvas sunroof, and the seller claims that it has all survived the test of time quite well. The interior is two-tone in color and reflects the low mileage claim. The engine turns but hasn’t been started; the gas tank will need replacing but the seller has a spare one for the next owner.

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This Fiat does appear to be impressively original, and while the asking price seems high, I don’t think it’s far off. These vintage microcars are seemingly always in demand and survivors like this don’t pop up too often. The seller notes it was likely one of the last cars imported to the U.S., and the remarkable story behind its arrival here is the proverbial cherry on top. What do you think – could it still be a rewarding project?

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    It would be hard to imagine someone putting 105K miles on a car like this, but I think that’s what you have here.( or a non-working speedo for a while) Unless it was kept under water, there’s no way. Underside shots tell the story. Rust, leaking oil. Seems like a 1 to 10 ratio ( or something) for claims of low mileage being actual, and the ones that don’t know what a low mileage car looks like, hence the bogus claims. I didn’t think one could top the $7,500 Vega, but here it is. Nice try, though.

    • Eric Dashman

      I don’t agree on this one, Howard. The odometer does say 04956, and I doubt you could ever get as much as 100K miles on a Fiat 500 without multiple engine rebuilds/replacements. Further, the rust is all surface stuff on the working parts and the body and underside look fine. If it were a rust bucket, there would be cancer everywhere and obvious holes. The interior is a bit dirty, but not at all tattered or worn. I’m buying the story of it sitting all of these years…and what a great story, along with that framed photograph.

  2. CAR CRAZY

    @Howard A. 105k miles in 4 years???? in this small car, ???i dont think so . look at the original 1964 plate. cars have surface rust when they are on barn floors. and how would you know, you were not there when it was found ,or heard the story when it was purchased., or seen the car in person.

  3. DAN

    beat @!!!!!!!!!!!!
    205,000 lol

  4. RandyS

    5k is legit. Original tires and battery.

  5. redwagon

    i can believe the 5k mileage.
    interior is not torn, worn or damaged
    little rust on outside consistent with summer driving and storage in off season
    fiats rust like crazy and the underside does not look all that bad

    is there oil on the underside? yes. but hey, it’s a fiat. build quality is suspect.
    does the engine compartment look brand new? no, but a small engine would bake off most of the paint and then bare metal would be exposed to rust more than the body or the underside.

    last plate on the car is 1964 from kentucky. suggesting it has not been driven on a regular basis since. i read graves county on the license plate which is southwestern ky. specifically south of paducah and east of the mississippi river. not a whole lot of snow but lots of summer humidity there. car would rust in storage, esp engine area where heat has burned off the paint.

    i cannot imagine paying what the seller is asking for this car. is it collectable? probably. but it will always be collectable because it is cute, not collectable because it is highly sought after. in my mind even a number one car would not warrant the asking price – esp since a brand new fiat 500 can be had for $12,490 in the twin cities metro area. it would be newer, safer, potentially more reliable and a much better color to boot. course it would not be a canvas topped convertible but i digress…….

  6. jaygryph

    I can believe the mileage claim. My Galaxie 500 wagon spent 10 years in a dirt floor barn, humid-ish air, but mostly dry otherwise other than the moisture the dirt floor picked up, and surface rust started in on the paint and some other spots. No cancer that wasn’t already there, but the air will just do that.

    Have a second identical wagon that spent time in the same type of structure, but at the coast. The salt air alone surface rusted the entire body and engine bay.

    This car looks like a good scrub down with CLR and a lot of buffing and waxing would bring it back to great driver quality.

  7. jimjim

    Is that one of those rare Eagle gasoline statues in the first pic with the car? If so, I think that may be worth some coin.

  8. z1rider

    I agree that this COULD be original, though only the seller knows for sure. It’s all about how it was put away, and in this case if the miles are original it was not put away very well.

    Think about it this way. The last plate is a 1964. What do you think this was worth in 1965 when the plates expired? A 5 year old Fiat in the mid 60’s when the muscle car revolution was beginning, so it was not worth very much. Most people traded cars every 3 or 4 years so the used car market for 3-5 year old cars wasn’t good for anything. So very little if any effort was put into properly preparing this for long term storage.

    Also, the plate itself is of course original and the paint on the car has held up much better than that plate. If I had to bet I would say the miles are original.

  9. Howard A Member

    Thanks to all who responded to me, however, you all can’t possibly think this car has 5,000 miles. If you go on Petes website, there’s like forty-eleven pictures of this car, and I’m sorry, there’s no way. Just the inside shots show worn door sills, and the brake pedal is worn down to the metal (and the clutch pad is gone altogether). It’s missing a defroster hose.The muffler has a hole in the pipe, and caked on grease by the trans does not happen in 5,000 miles. The engine shots show some use. I’m not fooled by a plate that anybody could have put on there, and an odometer that probably does only have 5,000 miles on it, that’s where it broke. And yes, the picture and story are a nice touch. Cars come through here on occasion that you just know it has low mileage. I don’t see it here.

    • Paul

      I have owned and restored a few of these older fiats and can tell you that if your planning on restoring this car that the photos mean nothing rockers and floors always have 2 be changed. Good buy at $4500. Makes no difference to me how many miles, engine has to be rebuilt anyways.

    • Pete

      @Howard A , i am the owner , been selling cars for over 30 years. this is a true 5000 mile car. if you where there when i bought it, you would agree. but you werent. and it had its original Pirelli tires on it , but blew out when i aired them up. the car was parked in that barn since 1964 when i pulled it out , it still had the salesman’s invoiceS from those years in the car and other items from 1963 /1964, I take pride in showing all the good and bad details about my cars. THE LICENSE PLATE WAS ON THE CAR WHEN I PULLED IT OUT, I DO NOT APPRECIATE YOU BASICALLY CALLING ME A LIAR ! YOU WERENT WHEN I BOUGHT IT AND EVERYONE ELSE THINKS YOU ARE WRONG ALSO.

      • Luki

        You were there when you bought the car but you didn’t own it for all those years so you don’t actually know.
        It’s your opinion.

      • Howard A Member

        No need to yell, Pete, I never called you a liar,( although, I guess it could be taken that way) even though, you are in one of the shadiest professions on the planet, the used car dealer. Everybody has a not so rosy story about used car dealers, no matter how much you’d like to change that and, no, we weren’t there, and allows you to schmaltz up a story as much as you want, and as consumers, it’s up to us to sort it out. I see you have some nice cars in your inventory, but quite frankly, this isn’t one of them. Best of luck.

  10. Luki

    I don’t care how many miles it has.
    It’s gonna need everything.
    You may as well buy a fixer upper and save $7500 or so.

  11. Mark

    This past winter I checked out a motorcycle that had been stored for 10 years- it had less than 500 miles on it. Unfortunately, it had been stored in a shed in the back yard- with a tank full of untreated gas to boot. A decade’s worth of New England seasons had worked its magic– hopelessly gummed up carbs, all chrome pitted, tires dry-rotted, etc. Did I believe the low mileage claim? Sure. Did I bring it home? Heck no. Unless it’s something they only made a dozen of, condition and maintenance history is far more important than the miles on the odometer.

  12. S Ryan

    Biggest question is how did either one of those guys make it 5,000 miles driving this. I’d guess they would cramp up in the first 50 miles and never touch it again.

    • Pete

      once you get it, its hard to get out!

  13. Alan (Michigan)

    A neighbor’s dad had one that was sitting behind their house. We got it running, and blasted around their acreage with it for a couple of summers. (“blasting” might be an overstatement suggesting actual speed). It was fun, probably the first car I ever drove, was maybe 12 to 14 at the time?
    I can’t imagine driving one on the road. No thanks.
    If I own a car, I want to be able to drive it safely, if not comfortably, on public streets and country highways.

  14. Rex Kahrs Member

    I wonder who is checking the “thumbs down” button on every comment. Most of the comments don’t seem objectionable in any way. I’ll probably get one for this comment too.

  15. Bill Walters

    years ago some swiss guys I was working with joked (?) that fiats rusted even in the pictures in the ads

  16. Pete

    @Howard A. you are just another internet basher who makes comments based on a lack of knowledge of the events that occurred ., without seeing the car in person. i dont have to pump up my cars, they speak for themselves. if you dont like used car dealers, which i can tell from your comments, then i suggest you go to the new car dealership in your area to buy a new 1960 something ,or better yet, go to the factory, then you could avoid the dealer.

  17. Bill McCoskey

    Howard makes some very important points. The interior is simply too dirty and worn for 5,000 miles. While the rubber mats & pedal pads are poor European grade rubber that tends to split & fall apart, the brake pedal pad is worn thru to the metal. The rubber mats are indicative of at least 40,000 miles. Note the stamped metal tower from the floor tunnel to under the dash. This is painted black, but worn all the way to the metal near the gas pedal, as the driver’s shoe rubbed against the tower. This will not happen in 5,000 miles.

    The seats in these vintage European cars are made of a vinyl that never really hardens 100% on the surface [often having a “tacky” or “sticky” feel], resulting in dirt being trapped in the vinyl surface, and no amount of cleaning can get this dirt out. I have a 40,000 mile Auto Union SP1000 coupe, with the same type of vinyl, and the seat surfaces look almost identical.

    Now about the gear oil on the gearbox – as the gear oil slowly leaked out from the seals & gaskets, as the car was driven, the dirt would adhere on the oil, and over time & miles, it would build up into a thick layer. This would not happen if the car was sitting unused. To have that thick layer of dirt & oil, would require more like 40,000 miles.

    I’m a court recognized forensic mechanic, I’m on the advisory board for NADA, I owned a restoration shop for 25 years, & have restored national first prize winning cars myself. I’m confident to say that this car has more like 40,000 miles, and it’s likely the speedo cable or the speedometer itself has been replaced due to failure.

    I would believe it was driven 10,000 miles over 4 years, and still has it’s original battery, but the Perelli tires are likely it’s second set. And remember, back in 1964 you didn’t go into a tire store and buy American brand tires to fit this car, they didn’t make them. You bought European tires. From looking closely at the first photo, it does appear to be a dirt floor. That does explain all the surface rust we see in the photos. The car was in a moist environment, even the chrome ring around the instruments is pitted.

    5,000 miles? not likely. 105,000 miles? No way! 40,000 miles? Probably. Car still needs major mechanical work [engine/gearbox, brake system, plus all the rubber parts replaced [including suspension parts]. Cost far exceeds the value.

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Thank you Bill McCoskey for a reasoned approach based on observations and experience.
      When it came to the underside shots, I too questioned the buildup of sludge (seeping oil mixed with dirt/environmental debris) on the transmission, and how it would not be there after just sitting. I ground-up restored one car myself, and participated in another group project nut and bolt restoration. A lot can be learned about how cars age when driven vs. when sitting, from doing those kind of projects.
      BF readers giving Howard A a down-vote because of his opinion should actually be thankful for people like him and Bill who can analyze old cars dispassionately, based on the evidence provided and available in photographs. You have to look in order to see.
      When it comes to things seen which don’t agree (such as wear evidence and an odometer reading) I’ll always go with the condition, instead of relying on the digits. As we all know, there are many reasons why they don’t match up, and the odometer is by far the most unreliable of the two.

      • Howard A Member

        Thanks Alan and Bill, I don’t want to upset anyone here, and am saddened that Pete thinks I’m an internet basher. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just want to help people make an informed decision and unfortunately, it also made Pete look bad. I apologize to him for that. However, if people are going to make claims like this, they should be advised, people with FIFTY years experience with cars may call them out on the claim. And I’ll continue to do so, not to bash anyone, but like Alan says, maybe point out something that someone might have missed. I know I’d sure like that when buying something I don’t know anything about. Again, let’s have fun here, but if something doesn’t look right, I’m gonna add my opinions. Something that I think is really cool about BF’s. You can make your own decisions after that.

  18. Paul

    Your time an experience is always appreciated!!

  19. Pete

    @Howard A and the rest of you armchair experts, I have 30 years of buying and selling classic cars and had more cars than all of you combined. About the grease and debris on the tranny, well it was parked in that dirt floor building for 51 years with animals . dont ya think it might leak some,and get dirty. ? furthermore, none of you were there when i purchased the car and interviewed the owner, who had no reason to lie. My reputation speaks for itself , ask anyone . I know the real deal from not, i have had plenty of them. Good Day!

  20. JJ Jones

    It doesn’t matter so much what the mileage is at this point.
    It needs a full restoration anyway.

  21. rich voss

    I am a combination of shocked, appalled, and jealous. That car sold for the full ask according to eBay. While stationed in Germany in ’67, I bought this car’s ’57 predecessor for $ 125.00 American, from a new/used car dealership. Basically same color..interior and exterior. From the photo, I can’t believe one part of the story, as I was 6’3″ then (slightly shorter now) and could have worn a top hat while driving mine. I loved that car for around town. Narrow cobblestone streets, snow & ice in Winter. Used it to jump-start my new Fairlane GTA if necessary (no garage). It helped me save lots of gas ration stamps for Autobahn jaunts with the Ford. Had to sell it in ’69 (to my tank gunner, for $150.00) when the military decided too many of us were buying European cars on the cheap and sending them back to the states. The exchange rate really favored the dollar then. Final note, we should all know by now that Fiats can’t take American climates, roads, and salt. At least not those of that vintage. My local Fiat/Alfa dealership has a restored version like my old one in red that’s a display item. When I’m feeling nostalgic I go “visit” it.

  22. Axel Ringhandt

    Well, Ithink it’s about time that I write my first comment in Barn Finds, as being a longer time Barn Finds reader, the level of emotionality on this car quite surprised me. I have had FIAT 500s since I started studying (in Germany) and worked on more than 100 since then, more than 35 years. We started a community called Cooperativa Cinquecento in 1983, which became an official Hanover Universty student body like some Delta Kappa Phi at a US university with registry in the official university calendar with a FIAT 500 garage in the city center for free. At peak times we were something like 100 people.To a great deal the community still exists, meets several times throughout Germany, with kids now starting to drive their parents’ 500s (my son goes to work every day in our 1959 500. Yes, with a different engine …).

    We had to close the group at the university after 28 years, as full time students with a FIAT500 virus were dying out … The remaining > 100 engines plus a trailer full of parts now sit in a barn in my village.
    That being sad, I truely believe this 500 has a very low mileage, MUCH less than 40.000 miles. The seat corner of the driver’s seat would not look like it does, if you drive 80.000 kilometers in it. It’s a special fabric and starts wearing out quickly. The rust on steering and engine parts and rear wheel suspension can very well be just from sitting in a wet barn, it was just painted black on mild steel then and when there was no oil protection from the ever leaking engines, corrosion processes were fast removing the paint, which was made for italian ambient conditions. Brake & clutch pedal rubbers were hardening fast so they fell off quite often, so this doesn’t tell anything. The early gearboxes and the engines had relatively poor shaft seals, which when sitting for a longer time with no turning motion, started to leak and still are frequent maintenance point.
    When the new FIAT 500 was introduced, the old 500 community got a ride to test it in a TV-spot and critized the new as it wouldn’t smell like warm engine oil, so they didn’t like it …
    From our point of view, the condition of the front “fire wall” both inside and outside and details like the crossbar under the car tell us, that 5-10.000 miles are really a realistic mileage. No way 105k.

    This car is a actually one of the last real “nuovas” built, and thus not a “D”, even though it carries already some characteristics of the latter model. The chassis number prooves that, it’s from the same “family” as Rich Voss’ car.

    It is currently very difficult to get your hands on a 500 N, even in Italy, and much more difficult in a complete condition like this one. So there is actually no “price tag” for a car of this condition. Yes 10k USD sounds high to non 500-maniacs, (and as well to us), but …. we bought it anyway.

    It’s gonna go back to Germany, probably being the only “frog-eyed” 500 there. We will NOT restore it completely, just make everything look nice again, but used. As Pete wrote: a time warp.

    Last not least: Anybody with black finger nails ever coming over to “good old Germany” in need of a coffee close to Hanover/Hildesheim and like to have a gasoline chat, just let us know. We’ll show him (her?) the car (and others like Gamines or 500 Pickups or Bianchinas …) and go for a ride.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Congratulations on your purchase, Axel, and thanks for sharing the story with us! Be sure to post some pictures when you get it to Germany!

    • rich voss

      Axel, I read your post with joy ! I lived in Bamberg and know where you’re located….been there. Yes, my finger nails have been black, regularly, have never used the gloves prevalent in mechanics now -a -days. Actually rebuilt, from the ground up, my first car, a 1950 Ford V8 two door that I bought for $100.00 when I was 12. One can actually work on old cars without special tools or computers. I wouldn’t attempt complex work on my current ’98 328is, as I don’t have (nor want) the computer training or special to BMW tools. Loved the old, and now extinct brands that “tooled” around Germany in the 60’s. One of my Army buddies had an OSI and I was really interested in that Glas. Great memories, and keep up the good work !

  23. Marino

    Hi, I write from Italy and I’m restoring the old 500D that was my aunt.
    The 500 car was very popular in Italy but above all very cheap and easy to repair.
    Its weak point is the bottom of the deck. Over the years 50/60 not existed the galvanic treatment for the body and 90% of the cars suffered from rust especially under the front seats, and the frame that supports the sunroof towel.
    The 500D, at least here in Italy, are still all parts of the bodywork, glass, engine and mechanics.
    Warning that the “D” model has many differences from subsequent “F” models, “L” and “R”, for example, they are different measures of the sunroof and also the closure is different: two hooks for the D and only one for the other models, handles of the doors (they open otherwise), measures front and rear windows, the seats have elastic straps instead of springs, the wheel hubs are different for external measures and by the number of coupling cavities with the axle shaft the rear lights are different both from subsequent models from the previous model “N” the current generator is a dynamo and not an alternator, fuel tank 25 liters.
    In the photos I’ve seen that is the model for the American market. 500 for the Europe had the headlights recessed into the front and the bolts in the bumper were optionals.
    I have included a picture of my 500 with the bottom just redone to highlight the critical points of the bodywork.
    I think you can not post more than one picture, otherwise I would have posted the engine before and after cleaning.
    …very nice car, congratulations ;)

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