Fiat’s 500 C Convertible Car – WSJ. Magazine – WSJ

Photograph by Ruy Teixeira

Back in pre–auto bailout 2008, in the darkest of these automotive times, rumors started that European carmaker Fiat Group was toying with the idea of saving beleaguered Chrysler. Some may have thought, “Yes! The Dodge minivan will live on!” (the marriage went through, and it does), but most auto cognoscenti asked, “When will I be able to drive a Cinquecento?” And that time is now. Almost.

The hardtop version of the Fiat 500, the spunky, wildly successful update of the small car that will have Mini/Honda Fit/Smart car owners looking up trade-in values, comes stateside this month. But to experience what midcentury Italians actually fell in love with, you must wait.

The car debuted in 1957 as a convertible, and we’ll get ours, the one you see here, next summer. Back in the day, the 500 C was a symbol of Italian postwar ingenuity. Today, it’s the perfect representation of a different kind of motoring good life in America. One that’s not about SUVs. Or hybrids. Or sports cars. Or hybrid sports cars. It’s about being small and economical while also looking like you’re having the time of your life.