Most of us are familiar with the new(ish) Fiat 500; fewer have seen the original, a car from the 1950s that served as Italy's Volkswagen Beetle.
The 500 was tiny and ridiculously underpowered, but like the Beetle it helped to put a war-torn country on wheels, and by the early 1970s its job was done. So why did Fiat feel the need to inflict its successor on their fellow countryfolk? The 126 retained not only the 500's rear-engine layout but it's completely inadequate two-cylinder engine, which put out just 23 horsepower -- enough for a ride-on lawnmower, but not a car. It had a swing-axle suspension, the same setup that had a tendancy to flip the Chevrolet Corvair onto its roof, so any attempt to get the 126 up to its alleged 65 MPH top speed could prove fatal; the only upside was that the noisy engine and lack of sound insulation meant that the occupants would never hear the crash that killed them. Note how happy the women in the photo look: That's because they aren't driving their Fiat 126.
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