Many vehicles are known for being faster, more agile than others or because of their technical complexity, however, today, we are dealing with the history of a model that changed a country and made a big difference in how distances are currently understood. We are referring to the SEAT 600, which was the first car for a large part of the post-war Spanish population, when owning a car was a luxury that very few people could afford. This was the intention of the dictatorial government of Francisco Franco by creating SEAT in 1950 through the INI (National Institute of Industry), manufacturing under license FIAT that would be, moreover, a technological partner having a 7% of the brand. This supposed an industry participated mainly by a state taking as example other companies created by governments to enhance the automobile industry of a country, like Volkswagen, the German brand founded under Hitler’s regime.
The model on which the SEAT 600 is based is the FIAT 600 created by Dante Giacosa born in Italy and one of the greatest geniuses in the motor world. Designer and author of other iconic vehicles such as the FIAT 500 or the FIAT 127, also marketed by the Spanish brand under the name of SEAT 127 obtaining great success for both companies.
The SEAT 600 was launched in the Hispanic market in 1957 and would be manufactured until 1973 with great success, reaching 783,745 units manufactured under the name of the company based in Barcelona.
Today, in the absence of one, we have two spectacular copies of this myth on wheels, the E version, the newest, belonging to the Efraín family and the D, the oldest, edition owned by Luis’ family.
This yellow SEAT 600E keeps a story behind, it is a vehicle registered in 1977 and was purchased in Madrid by Efraín’s grandfather, who was the creator of the electronics of the rallye legend from Ourense known as Alpinche. At that time, the little 600 was almost new, it was 6 months old and around two thousand kilometres. The car represents the history of this machine with the country, according to what its owner tells us, it was with which three generations learned to drive. This model is practically preserved in its original state, keeping chromes, worn by the passage of time. Despite its small engine, this vehicle reaches 110 kilometers per hour and according to Efraín, “it is a lighter”, it consumes practically nothing at all. It’s an old model with crossbow suspensions; you have to pay attention especially when it rains because it’s easy for the car to get out of control. He also tells us about his frustrated project of converting it to Abarth due to homologations, especially due to the shape of the front bumper.
The blue unit is owned by Luis´ family who recognizes that his 600 D of the year 1962 is the spoiled car of the house to be always desired by his father. Despite being its second owners, the vehicle has a redone engine, a mirror and the driver’s belt changed, the rest of the car is in its original state. According to Luis, this unit reaches 70 kilometers per hour of maximum speed, which prevents it from traveling on the highway. Like Efraín, Luis tells us that they are very hard cars with a laughable consumption even compared to today’s cars.
The differences between both vehicles are clear, from the distance the SEAT 600 D has doors known as “suicide” that open from front to back while the rear model (600 E) has doors which open in favor of the wind, changed to minimize risks of them opening up by the action of the air. Popularly it is said that the way the doors were opened was changed because when the women wearing skirts got out of it, they showed their underwear and for that reason it is known as the 600 “Mirabragas”. In addition to this, in the original models E and D only changed the rear lights and the front bezel. There also was another more modern version called L with the evolution of every component of the car.
Considering engines, all units were produced with four-cylinder in line carburated engines, in all versions mounted a Bressel 28 ICP-6/10 except in the original 600 that had a Weber 22 IT carburetor. Displacement was also different while the original engine was of 633 cm3, the rest of the engines had 767 cm3. The powers ranged from 21.5 HP of the regular version to the 29 HP that had the L as well as the 25 HP of the models E and D; the protagonists of this article.
This vehicle was prepared by Abarth, among other brands, by inserting its A112 engine of 982 cm3 with 58 HP. There are preparations with bigger engines due to the nature of this model and the large number of fans it has, but the most remembered will be the Abarth´s one which was one of the greatest successes of the Italian enterprise.
When a car is so popular, brands are quick to have enough versions to cover the entire market and the SEAT 600 wasn’t less. Most variants came from the FIAT 600 as the Multipla (in Spain called Multiple) that was a 6-seater van version or the Formichetta, which was the industrial van edition of the 600. As well as many others, one of the most outstanding was the SEAT 800 that had four doors, the front ones are “suicide doors” and the rear with conventional opening. This model was special because it was developed especially by and for SEAT because the FIAT 600 wouldn’t get to have this version.
This model represents the story of many people who, with all their illusion toured the country for the first time, feeling, despite the turbulent times their moment of freedom. This illusion is seen in the moment that our two protagonists circulate and, when the elderly people is seeing them, they remember the exploits that took place half a century ago behind the doors of those cars that keep thousands of stories.