Fiat 525 SS – A gem from the 1930s
In our weekly trip back through the archives for Throwback Thursday we go way, way, way back to the 1930’s…
The 525 SS, of which only a few dozen were made, is rightly considered one of the most beautiful pre-war Italian cars and has always been very successful in Concours d’Elegance.
In the 1920s and 1930s after the Great War, optimism and light-heartedness pervaded the western world. New styles and trends appeared in arts and design. Art Nouveau evolved into Art Deco and spread to the emerging world of cars. The elegant 6-cylinder Fiat 525 from 1928 is an example of this new trend. The new high-end Fiat was created to meet diverse market demands with several different body versions, namely a sumptuous saloon, a torpedo (both with seven seats) and a compact, sporty version known as the 525 S.
Fiat signed up three 525s to compete in the Coppa delle Alpi in the summer of 1929, which was one of the most important races of the day. The cars driven by Nazzaro, Salamano and Pastore were made even lighter and more powerful. The “double-S” designation, standing for Supercompressed Sport, that hinted to the higher compression ratio of the engine, appeared on these cars for the first time. The press of the time declared that the Fiat 525 SS had clocked an impressive average speed in excess of 50 km/h on the Pordoi and the Giovo mountain passes.
The lightweight chassis and boosted engine power attracted the attention of designer Mario Revelli di Beaumont, considered by many to be the first freelance designer in automotive history and trailblazer of the profession that would spread only after the Second World War. Having joined Fiat at the beginning of 1929 as a consultant in the Special Bodies department, Revelli was struck by the two-colour paint job of an Auburn Speedster he saw at the Paris Motor Show and drew inspiration from that car to develop the new bodywork of the 525 SS. The car was appreciated by the top management of Fiat, who promptly ordered the production of several prototypes.
With an increased compression ratio (5.9:1) and higher peak rpm, the 3739 cm3 straight-six engine of the FIAT 525 SS was bumped up from 68.5 hp at 3200 rpm to 88.5 hp to 3350 rpm, allowing for a top speed of 120 km/h, also as a result of the special lightened bodywork of the car. The brake system was also significantly enhanced for greater control in races.
The first wins of the Fiat 525 SS came in 1930, consecrating the car as “the dominator of speed”. At the beginning of the 21st century, it was named “one of the five most beautiful cars of all time”.
The cars made with the new bodywork designed by Revelli were lined up at the 1930 Coppa delle Alpi, where they won a well-deserved victory. Average speeds increased significantly. Almost all stages of the race are travelled at an average speed of over 90 km/h, marking a resounding success for the 525 SS and for Fiat. The team order to “make sure you are the first one they see along the entire course” was respected by drivers of the cars to the letter.
Due to its seductive lines, lighter body and major improvements to engine power and braking system, sales of this luxurious sports car, which is advertised as “the dominator of speed”, were rather good.Over time, the 525 SS gained the favour of the public and of the specialised press at many Concours d’Elegance winning numerous awards. The prestigious American magazine Automotive Quarterly named it “one of the five most beautiful cars of all time”. One of the few surviving examples belongs to the FCA Heritage collection. It is usually on show in the Centro Storico Fiat and often travels to important international events.
Regarding FCA Heritage: this department, created in 2015, has developed an entire set of services aimed at collectors and fans of Italian brand cars in the group. The site dedicated to the group’s heritage, www.fcaheritage.com, is available in several languages. An online display of the FCA Heritage department and meeting point for all those interested in the history, events and initiatives dedicated to classic models of Italian brands in the FCA group, the site allows fans or owners of classic Fiat, Abarth, Lancia and Alfa Romeo cars to discover the available services, subscribe to a dedicated newsletter and submit a request for a certificate of origin online. Owners of classic cars of the four Italian brands can also make use of the restoration services and certification of authenticity offered by FCA Heritage.