- $29,900 , best offers considered
- Item Location:
- MACEDONIA, OH
- 350 cubic inches
- 3-speed automatic
- Seller: HarwoodMotors
- Phone: 440-565-5335
If you were on the racing scene in the early 1960s, you saw plenty of these nose-up drag race machines that we now refer to as “gassers.” That’s a derivation of the fact that they ran in gasoline-fueled classes, as opposed to Nitromethane or methanol, and the nose-up attitude was one of the purest expressions of form following function. The prevailing theory was that if you raised the front end, you would put more of the car’s weight on the rear tires, improving traction. In addition, the solid axles used on these conversions (often borrowed from commercial vans and pickups) were lighter than the independent suspensions they replaced. Altogether, it formed one of the most exciting, diverse, and innovative periods in hot rodding history, one that is still celebrated today with cool cars like this 1948 Fiat Topolino.
Now you can be forgiven for not knowing what a Fiat Topolino is, because it was never sold in the US. It was one of the smallest cars in the world when it was launched in Europe in 1937 and eventually it was available in more than a dozen different body styles, including this very cool 2-door panel delivery. For drag race enthusiasts, it made sense that using a smaller car meant less weight and more performance, so city cars like this Topolino were extremely popular in the 1960s. Combined with the gasser movement and you got wild and wonderful creations like this. It’s worth noting that this is a fiberglass re-creation of an original Topolino, and given the willowy construction employed at Fiat in the 1940s, this is probably a superior car in every way. Panel fit is surprisingly good and someone clearly spent a lot of time prepping, smoothing, and sanding the bodywork before the vivid green paint was applied. The entire nose tips forward for excellent access to the Chevy V8 underneath, but the rest is very much the way it would have been if it were built the Italians. The doors open suicide-style, as original, and the rear door opens to allow access to a good-sized cargo area that makes this little car even a bit practical. The headlights perched atop the fenders is one of the Little Mouse’s most endearing qualities, and yes, that’s how it was built originally. Turn signals were added up front and there are ’39 Ford taillights out back, but those appear to be the only major deviations from the original design. It really looks cool!
Inside, it’s quite a bit more polished and comfortable than your typical gasser, with handsome two-tone gray upholstery, bucket seats, and a surprising amount of room. The late-model buckets look like they were born there and a custom center console does a good job of both staying out of the way and making the Lokar shifter look finished. Power windows are a nice bonus, and while you may laugh at the tiny sparkling green steering wheel, it makes it much easier to climb behind the wheel and provides a direct connection to the front wheels—it’ll feel natural after just a few minutes of driving. The dashboard is full of white-faced Auto Meter gauges to monitor the engine, plus a Sunpro tach strapped to the steering column, racer style. A custom overhead console houses a Kenwood AM/FM/CD stereo head unit, which powers speakers in the cargo bay that actually sound pretty good. Plush carpets with plenty of sound-deadening materials underneath help it feel a little more civilized and the one -piece headliner looks great and adds to the polished feeling. Access to the fuel cell is through the cargo hold, as well as the battery and on-board charger which are hidden under a hinged panel with a master shut-off switch on top.
Tip the nose forward and you’ll find out why those big tires out back are required. That’s a 350 cubic inch Chevy V8 topped by a pair of Edelbrock 4-barrel carburetors. Yes, as if just the V8 wasn’t enough, they gave it dual quads! Beautifully assembled and a very strong runner, this engine gives the 1500-pound Topolino some explosive performance, to say the least. However, it’s also quite docile, and if you stay out of the second carb, it’s happy to putter around town without getting cranky. It starts quickly and easily, and no matter how many times you fire it up, you probably won’t get used to the healthy V8 cackle from the exhaust coming out of this little car. Pure cognitive dissonance. It runs and drives beautifully, showcasing an engine and chassis that are properly dialed-in, and once it was running right, they dressed it up. There are chrome air cleaners up top with a matching alternator, a set of aluminum valve covers, and bright yellow plug wires to add some contrast. A big radiator up front keeps everything cool and all the wiring is new. Special long-tube headers tuck into the fender wells in true gasser fashion, with a pair of Flowmasters and full tailpipes that exit out back, so the sound is more than manageable at speed.
Obviously there’s not really any room for a clutch or shifter, so it sports a built TH350 3-speed automatic transmission with a high-stall torque converter and shift kit, but it retains fully automatic operation so you can keep both hands on the wheel at full throttle. The chassis is too diminutive to fit on our lift, so we can’t show you photos, but it’s a custom-built frame made from box-section steel with reinforced crossmembers and satin black paint. The front suspension is a tubular axle on leaf springs, while out back you get a custom modified Ford 9-inch with easy-cruising 3.25 gears inside with a set of hairpins and coil-over shocks. Wilwood disc brakes up front and big drums in back give you more than adequate stopping power for such a flyweight vehicle and steering action is light thanks to the gasser front end. 15-inch Rocket wheels have a traditional race look that suits the car just fine and wear a big-n-little combination of 5.50-15s up front and 275/60/15s out back.
We know this car isn’t for everyone, but if you were there, you know this thing is way cool. Fast, fun, and funky, you’re guaranteed to have the only one at every show you visit and with its surprisingly user-friendly nature, you won’t be afraid to drive it—this is no trailer queen. Get in, turn the key, and be ready to be the center of attention.
To see over 50 photos please visit www.HarwoodMotors.com