My dad had a white Cooper S in the early Seventies. He used to take me and my mum to various car rallies in and around Denmark. Maybe the many hours spent as a backseat driver in a Mini got me liking them.
I bought my first Cinquecento in Denmark back in 1999. It was in decent condition, but the weather back home wasn't very kind to the Italian steel. So I soon realised I had to restore it and in the meantime I wanted to have another set of Italian wheels. I found my second 500 through a dealer in Germany and drove the 1,100km back home to Denmark over a weekend. I ended up just swapping parts between the two and then decided to have an experienced Fiat mechanic do ‘the Italian job' on the latter 500.
Giannini was a Rome-based car tuner that specialised in the Fiat 500. Just like Abarth had the 595/695 SS, Giannini had the 590 GT. As there were already quite a lot of nice Abarths driving around in the 500 community, I decided to go the Giannini way.
The restoration itself didn't take more than a couple of months and was done by an experienced Fiat mechanic in Denmark. The 590 GT design, however, I did myself and I found many of the parts on several trips to Rome and Imola. The rest of the tuning parts were made by a classic car tuner in Bologna.
The blue grey colour was an original Fiat colour in 1969 and one of the ‘house' colours of Giannini Automobili SpA. Originally the car was painted red and orange, but after more than 30 years under the Italian sun, the paint was a bit out of shape.
The original 500 engine is a 499cc two-cylinder air-cooled engine with 18bhp. The engine has now been upgraded to 700cc and should be good for around 40bhp. Might not sound much, but the car just weighs 500kg which makes it quite fun to drive. Modifications to the engine include pistons, cylinders, camshaft, valves, exhaust and a slightly larger carburettor. The sound from the engine is comparable to The Three Tenors! It's simply music to your ears.
The list is long, but the leather steering wheel, instrument cluster, Giannini badges and the red carpet work pretty well I believe. Technically speaking, you won't find anything on this baby that you wouldn't find on a 590 GT back in 1969.
For a long time I was searching for a set of original Borrani wheels, and one day my mechanic called me to tell me he had sourced a set. They came with chromed wheel caps and have the manufactured year (1972) stamped on them.
I was so fortunate to get in contact with the Jebel Ali Cool Car Klub (JACCK) before the 500 arrived in Dubai and everybody was waiting anxiously. We meet on a regular basis and it's just cool to hang out with other people with a passion for cars. Being air cooled and without AC, it's not a car you want to drive in the summer. But so far it seems to be enjoying the mild winter, just like its owner.
The longest drive I have done so far was up to Sharjah Old Cars Club & Museum. I'm still looking for the perfect out-of-town drive, so in the meantime you'll mostly see me cruise The Walk down at JBR.
Il Tempo Gigante was a furiously fast car in an animated Norwegian movie that I used to watch in my childhood.
The 500 Abarth SS is very handsome. Unfortunately you can't get it here, so I would have to import one. Now you've got me thinking of my next project…
The first time I took it to a petrol station here, the attendant was so surprised to find the tank in the front, that he called the rest of the staff over to have a look.
Eighties Ur-quattro and 1969 Maser Ghibli.