Junkyard Gem: 2012 Fiat 500 Sport


Fiat left the United States after selling its last Stradas, 124 Sport Spiders and X1/9s as 1982 models, taking Lancia with it. Malcolm Bricklin continued importing the 124 Sport Spider and X1/9 (with Pininfarina and Bertone badging) for a few more years, but it just wasn’t the same for American fans of the venerable Italian manufacturer. Fast-forward to Chrysler’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009 and Fiat’s investment in the company and it wasn’t long before the announcement came that Fiat was returning to our shores. The first Fabbrica Italiana Automobil di Torino product to hit our streets as part of that deal was the 500, which debuted as a 2012 model. That’s serious automotive history, which is what this series is all about, so I have documented this first-year 500 in a Denver car graveyard.

I’ve written about many, many discarded Fiats over the years, including some respectably old cars, but the Nuova Cinquecento never sold very well here, and the surviving examples tend to be too valuable to end up in a Ewe Pullet. That car was built from 1957 through 1975 and was a huge success in Europe, with nearly 4 million units sold, and its name reminded Europeans of its just-as-beloved 500 Topolino predecessor. A retro-styled modern 500 made a great deal of sense, and Polish-built 500s hit European showrooms beginning in 2007.

While the 500 name didn’t conjure up happy childhood memories with American car shoppers, so what? The car looked adorable and those old enough to have unpleasant memories of the temperamental Fiats of the 1970s probably weren’t going to care what old Fiat model it looked like.

am old enough to remember those 1970s Fiats (my parents bought a pair of new Fiat 128s when I was in the first grade), but I was excited about Fiat’s return in 2011 and reviewed a 500 Sport in April of that year. It wasn’t a great fit with the tastes of mainstream American vehicle shoppers, sadly, and it got the axe here after 2019. A new electron-fueled 500e should be available any minute now, so the American Fiat 500 story is nowhere near finished.

This car has the Sport trim level, so its MSRP was $17,500 (about $23,959 in 2024 dollars).

It has the optional six-speed automatic transmission, which added $1,000 to the price ($1,369 after inflation).

The engine is a 1.4-liter MultiAir straight-four rated at 101 horsepower and 98 pound-feet. Members of this engine family have powered everything from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta to the Jeep Renegade.

Depreciation has been cruel to these cars, which means they’re easy to find in the big self-service junkyards.

An everyday masterpiece.

Jennifer Lopez claimed the 500 was ideal for the Bronx.

The “Fictionalization, do not attempt” disclaimer in this commercial may have succeeded in preventing 500 owners from attempting to drive their cars underwater. We hope.

Shouldn’t they have used a much shorter actress to represent the tiny 500 Abarth in this Super Bowl ad?



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Fiat left the United States after selling its last Stradas, 124 Sport Spiders and X1/9s as 1982 models, taking Lancia with it. Malcolm Bricklin continued importing the 124 Sport Spider and X1/9 (with Pininfarina and Bertone badging) for a few more years, but it just wasn’t the same for American fans of the venerable Italian manufacturer. Fast-forward to Chrysler’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009 and Fiat’s investment in the company and it wasn’t long before the announcement came that Fiat was returning to our shores. The first Fabbrica Italiana Automobil di Torino product to hit our streets as part of that deal was the 500, which debuted as a 2012 model. That’s serious automotive history, which is what this series is all about, so I have documented this first-year 500 in a Denver car graveyard.

I’ve written about many, many discarded Fiats over the years, including some respectably old cars, but the Nuova Cinquecento never sold very well here, and the surviving examples tend to be too valuable to end up in a Ewe Pullet. That car was built from 1957 through 1975 and was a huge success in Europe, with nearly 4 million units sold, and its name reminded Europeans of its just-as-beloved 500 Topolino predecessor. A retro-styled modern 500 made a great deal of sense, and Polish-built 500s hit European showrooms beginning in 2007.

While the 500 name didn’t conjure up happy childhood memories with American car shoppers, so what? The car looked adorable and those old enough to have unpleasant memories of the temperamental Fiats of the 1970s probably weren’t going to care what old Fiat model it looked like.

am old enough to remember those 1970s Fiats (my parents bought a pair of new Fiat 128s when I was in the first grade), but I was excited about Fiat’s return in 2011 and reviewed a 500 Sport in April of that year. It wasn’t a great fit with the tastes of mainstream American vehicle shoppers, sadly, and it got the axe here after 2019. A new electron-fueled 500e should be available any minute now, so the American Fiat 500 story is nowhere near finished.

This car has the Sport trim level, so its MSRP was $17,500 (about $23,959 in 2024 dollars).

It has the optional six-speed automatic transmission, which added $1,000 to the price ($1,369 after inflation).

The engine is a 1.4-liter MultiAir straight-four rated at 101 horsepower and 98 pound-feet. Members of this engine family have powered everything from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta to the Jeep Renegade.

Depreciation has been cruel to these cars, which means they’re easy to find in the big self-service junkyards.

An everyday masterpiece.

Jennifer Lopez claimed the 500 was ideal for the Bronx.

The “Fictionalization, do not attempt” disclaimer in this commercial may have succeeded in preventing 500 owners from attempting to drive their cars underwater. We hope.

Shouldn’t they have used a much shorter actress to represent the tiny 500 Abarth in this Super Bowl ad?



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