The Fiat 600 is usually a modest little car, tiny and rounded off, and powered by a miniscule 633cc engine in the rear that blasts out a mighty 28.5 horsepower.
But the 1959 Fiat 600 that will be auctioned next week during Barrett-Jackson’s Northeast sale in Connecticut is something else altogether. Call it a resto-mod or a stoplight sleeper, this Fiat is a scaled-down version of the street-rod formula of shoving a powerful drivetrain into a small, ordinary-looking vehicle.
The car is the beneficiary of a performance transplant by a builder who took a Mazda 12A rotary engine, most likely from an RX-7, and made it fit into the cramped engine bay of the Fiat, with some alterations such as removing the rear seat.
Power is now rated at 220 horsepower from the performance-modified engine, and with a total weight of about 1,300 pounds, the car is “an absolute missile,” according to the description in Barrett-Jackson’s catalog.
“Well-known in the car world and online as the ‘Angry Mosquito,’ this Fiat was a no-expense-spared, hand-built European Resto-Mod built around 2012 by a fabricator and custom bike builder in Prescott, AZ,” the description says. “This car was engineered to perform like a mid-engine sports car.”
That’s the beauty of the rotary engine – it’s compact, lightweight and has potential for prodigious amounts of horsepower and torque. That was the key to the success of Mazda’s RX-7 sports car of the 1980s. Mazda bought the rights to the engine design from German automaker NSU and used it in a few compact cars before engineering mechanical improvements for reliability and making it a key selling point for the popular RX-7.
The unique engine – aka the Wankel engine after its German inventor, Felix Wankel – uses a pair of triangular rotors instead of a bank of pistons and can be fitted snugly into any number of small cars to boost their performance massively without adding weight or requiring too much alteration.
The Fiat 600 is still an unusual choice, however, even though performance Fiat 500s and 600s are well-known, particularly those built by Carlo Abarth and his crew into screaming race track competitors back in the day.
The Wankel engine in the Fiat has had a number of modifications to increase its power delivery, including a 40mm Weber carburetor, and it is linked with a Volkswagen Beetle 4-speed transmission that has been beefed up to handle the engine power. A hydraulic clutch and upgraded brakes also have been installed.
From the outside, the Fiat 600 looks like a clean but otherwise unremarkable little car, until you make note of the roll bar, sports seats and sport gauges on the inside, and hear the high-performance engine note. The car accelerates sharply, the rotary engine rising smoothly to its characteristically lofty rpm limit.
Maximum speed for the original Fiat 600 was just 60 mph, but this one should roar past that in short order.
Barrett-Jackson is known for the many resto-mods and custom cars sold at its auctions, but this little gem should still be a standout. It will be offered at no reserve during the Northeast auction June 20-23 at the Mohegan Resort and Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut.
For more information, visit the auction website.