Dan Trent – In Search Of My Youth In A Fiat Cinquecento Sporting

31st May 2016
1960s-revival-fashion-guide-main-07032022.jpg Dan Trent

Is it ever wise to revisit the passions of our youth? Bit of an existential start to this week's column but whether it be music, hair or clothes there is considerable potential to look a bit of an idiot. Thankfully less so with cars, although nostalgia is a dangerous drug when browsing the classifieds. And entirely responsible for this week's submission of a £995 Fiat. Yes, for about the first time I've picked a car I could actually afford!


For most people these Cinquecento Sportings are just another tin-box-on-wheels supermini, the like of which are typically 'Barried' and then buried, usually through a hedge. These are the kind of cars that slip into extinction without anyone really noticing, which would be a shame. Because, if not a 205 GTi or Clio Williams in terms of its hot hatch celebrity, this little Fiat holds a place in my heart.

Mainly because my mum bought one, having taken her Tipo in for a replacement clutch. "The salesman was VERY NICE," was her slightly flushed explanation. I'd enjoyed the Tipo but the arrival of the Sporting was very good news indeed for an 18-year-old Dan. Or was until I discovered I wasn't insured on it.

Or so I understood. Then one evening I got a phonecall asking to be picked up from a pub out in the moors. "I can't, you didn't insure me on the car," I huffed. "Oh. About that…" I then had to balance the instinct to leave them with a long walk home. Against excitement at getting to drive the Cinquecento. Obviously the latter won out.


With just 53hp on a good day this isn't a fast car. But I remember thinking it looked the business with its square-cut design and tiny footprint, the latter perfect for twisty country lanes. The flimsiness of the panels and sense of vulnerability also spring to mind. The fixtures and fittings may have been cheap too but the bits that mattered – namely the gearstick and steering wheel – were both leather trimmed and tactile delights. And everyone loved the red seatbelts. The memories that really stick out though are the feel and feedback through that unassisted and pleasingly chunky wheel, the fizzy enthusiasm of that little 1.1-litre engine and satisfaction of keeping it on the boil. As my brothers and I did without fail over many happy miles on Yorkshire back roads.

And here we are. A rare rust-free survivor in seemingly original condition. Just 28,000 miles covered, most of them at the hands of its original lady owner. To anyone else that might sound like a selling point. But, of course, my mum's car would have counted as the same, officially. And I know how that got used…

But at this price and in this condition it is dangerously tempting to put my money where my mouth is and see if the modern day reality is as good as the memory. Or maybe it's better to keep it as the latter, and a fond one at that. After all, my haircut, music tastes and fashion sense were pretty awful back then too.  

  • Dan Trent

  • Fiat

  • Cinquecento

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