In July 1957 Fiat launched the Nuova 500 or Cinquecento. Designed by Dante Giacosa as a replacement for the Topolino it was a cheap and practical town car. Just under 3m long and powered by a 479cc two-cylinder air-cooled engine, the 500 was enormously popular throughout Europe and was in production in various forms until 1975, nearly 4 million were made.
The 2017 Goodwood Revival was celebrating the 60th anniversary of this little classic and that special part of West Sussex became a part of Italy for the weekend. Mario has been part of the Revival since the early days as a taxi and although he is a variant of the Fiat 600 – the 500’s bigger cousin, he was invited along to play and join in the party.
Everyday the track opening parade was dedicated to the Fiat 500 and there were upwards of 120, 500’s, variations and derivatives on track – I believe the biggest parade Goodwood have ever had.
For once we were encouraged to use our horn and the exuberance of 120+ made it a very noisy affair. The cars gathered every morning in the gravelled area by the Old Control Tower which was festooned with lights, bunting and Italian washing! Tables with checkered cloths, an Italian bar, pizza, an Italian Job Bullion Van selling coffee and the GAG (Goodwood Actors Guild) in their element as a Mafia Boss, Nonna’s, pretty girls, a white gloved and suited traffic policeman and ‘Mario the Sicilian Lemon Seller’ who we shared much banter with – he thought our ‘Mario’ looked like a Lemon!
In organised chaos we were directed onto the grid and lined up 6 or so across – the grid still stretched back to the track entrance. A mass of colour and excitement with girls standing up out of sunroofs and loads of bodies crammed into the tiny cars. After photo opportunities galore we were led off by a course car and Robert Menghini’s immaculate 1957 Fiat 500N ‘Vettri Fissi’ one of the very first production models of which only around 25 survive across the world today.
It was probably the slowest parade to ever take place at Goodwood, with many of the cars only having 14bhp but I suspect the most fun, certainly the noisiest and seemed to bring a smile to the early rising spectators already in position around the track.
We did this for three days and it improved everytime. Friday was a little grey and damp and a bit mad as nobody knew what they were doing, Mario had James and Craig as passengers. Saturday was a lovely sunny day, Mario was about five rows from the front. Our day was made when Lord March (Duke of Richmond now) spotted us and came over for a hug and a chat about how long we’d been taxing for and the ‘Mario’ coat, all this appeared on the live feed but unfortunately my Mum missed it! Saturday’s passengers were friends Trevor and Max, they were sitting relaxed and comfortable in the back waiting to leave when James and Craig managed to jump in at the very last second, Craig didn’t even get his seat up and so did the lap sitting on the floor!
By Sunday we were all well practised and Mario got herded up the access lane by the Marshalls and we ended up on the front row of the grid. As the only 6 seater there we had to have a full contingent of passengers. Our four friends from Derbyshire who we have seen at the Revival for many years, had been offered a trip round and James popped in the front to make up the six. The boys are ex Rugby players and are always amazed at how well they can squeeze in the back of Mario. We might have ruined Goodwood’s little Italy theme as they turned up as the cast from ‘It ain’t half hot Mum’ and performed the ‘Boy’s to Entertain You’ at the front of the grid. We had an amazing time and James used FaceBook live for the entire two laps. Starting at the front we held back and let the majority of the field overtake so we got them all on film. The marshals around the track were all enthusiastically waving their green, white and red flags and there was an amazing buzz around the circuit.
It’s so much fun to be a part of something like this, people seemed genuinely pleased to see all the little cars on track and there was some great coverage online, TV and photographs. We certainly won’t forget Revival 2017 in a hurry.
As you can guess we have loads of pictures of the Fiat Celebrations, thanks to Mike Dabell (one of the Derbyshire lads) for lots of the images which appear in this post. We challenged members of the FaceBook group, The Independent Goodwood Photographers Guild to take pictures of Mario at the Revival to illustrate this blog but they were so good and so varied that I think they deserve a post on their own… coming soon.