Unique Custom! 1948? Fiat 500 B Giardinetta

Even without this car’s custom modifications, its next owner is guaranteed exclusivity. Few Fiat 500-based vehicles travel American roads, and this 500B Giardinetta (Estate Car) sets the Rarity knob to “11.” Buyers must don their propeller hat, embrace the vision, and finish a body of work before calling it a car. Until then it’s just an adorable trailer-load of potential. Listed here on Boston, Massachusetts craigslist.org as a 1948 “Fiat woody wagon,” the asking price of $5500 requires the appreciation of but a single human. Changes include a custom frame, Mustang II front end, GM V6 engine, automatic transmission, and a narrowed Ford rear axle. There’s no going back to stock on this one, folks. Thanks to reader Peter R. for finding this Italian wood-sided wonder.

Though listed as a 1948 Fiat, the front bodywork makes it look more like a 1949 or later model. Maybe our Fiat Giardinetta experts can straighten this out in the comments below (anyone? Bueller?). The ’80s BBS-style mesh wheels suggest this Fiat went under the knife some years ago. These days the trick would be to find wheels as stock-looking as possible with wider modern tires. One thing’s for sure, the narrowed Ford 9″ rear axle should handle any engine that’s fitted up front.

A nice wood-rimmed steering wheel on a tilt column and sharp retro gauges contrast with the woodworking clamps and duct tape holding them to the vehicle. An extra $1000 gets you a carbereted Ford V8 and four-speed automatic overdrive transmission that the seller planned to install.

The 4.3L GM V6 likely makes about 190 HP, a serious upgrade from the original 16 HP, especially considering the Giardinetta’s 1455 lb curb weight. The dual master cylinder setup with bias adjustment indicates an appreciation for safety and perhaps some racing knowledge on the part of the builder. Thanks to automobile-catalog.com for some details. How would you finish the Americanization of this nifty Italian classic?

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Comments

  1. Howard A

    Looks like a colossal waste of time and money. Should have just made a gasser out of it and been done with it.

    4
  2. Tort Member

    I was going to comment it would be a great nostalgia gasser for the street but I would not want to modify it because of condition before I read about it. New paint and get rid of the ugly steering wheel and dash and consider changing the engine.

    2
  3. OIL SLICK

    That car is very cool. He says you can buy a 302 w o\d trans for a grand extra. That thing would boogie!

    2
    • Al

      Then you would wonder why as in “Wonder Why you bothered?”

      2
  4. Derek

    Giardiniera, no?

    2
  5. George

    More inclined for a smaller ecoboost engine for more power with lighter weight.

    1
  6. t-bone Bob

    The original Fiat 500 “Topolino” was introduced in 1936 as the 500A. In 1948, the 500B had the same body but a much more powerful engine (16hp vs 13hp) which they made until 1949. Then later that year they came out with the 500C (same engine as the 500B) which looks like our subject vehicle. So, I would guess that this is really a 1949 or later 500C. But, Fiat model year designations
    are fairly murky so who really knows. A check of the VIN should confirm…sort of.

  7. Wayne

    I think that it is cool and just different enough to really gather some interest at a show or anywhere you would drive it. I respect the original builders vision and would want to complete it close to “his” original design. As for the drivetrain, I am not sure what I would use. The small block Ford would be fun but has been overdone by people with limited inspiration. The uniqueness of the car begs to have something different also. 1.8 Fiat twin cam?, 2.3 SVO turbo?, Miata, “Y” block Ford with 3 deuces?, Flat head Ford?, Turbo Charged Toyota 22RE?, Mazda Rotory?, Anyone else have a “different/unique” drivetrain idea?

    3
  8. RNR

    This is about 15 minutes from my home. Here’s one I saw in Rome a couple years ago.

    Decidedly cooler than all the Chrysler 300’s with Lancia badges I saw….

    3
    • Martin Horrocks

      The metal body Giardiniera is more common than the woody, both equally nice.

      I like Wayne´s idea of Fiat twin cam engine, easily tuned to nearly 200 bhp and seems appropriate.

      1
    • Tort Member

      The one for sale must be an older model and it is at least to my tastes a much better styled car.

      1
  9. David F

    Great write up, thanks, but just an all ‘round sad tale.

  10. PatrickM

    No engine pics, no underside pics. What’s this? Two clamps holding the dash in place??? Excuse me. I have something important to do.

  11. Doug

    I recall a beautiful little car built by Nade Borgeault – MG chassis, modified Topolino body – If I recall correctly, he modified the front using XK120 headlamps, and possibly part of the grille. Reportedly the engine was originally MG, later replaced with a Volvo B-18. Nade was really nice to me, a young high school kid in the paddock at Laguna Seca in May of 1965, explaining stuff about his mid-engined sports racer, as well as his Topolino bodied street car. I was thrilled to help him push start his sports racer when the time came for him to make his way to the starting grid.

    Sadly, the street car was lost in a fire in the Oakland CA hills after his passing, and I’ve been unable to find any photos of it.
    Here’s a link to a photo of the sports racer he designed and built – very fast !
    http://www.tamsoldracecarsite.net/MysterySportsRacer1965.html

  12. Bill Wilkman

    It’s a shame this car wasn’t restored to original specs. Of all the cars not to hot rod, this one takes the cake.

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