Zastava Fićo Some cars leave their mark on history for the technological or styling innovations they bring forth. Others are remembered for the role they have played in shaping the culture of an entire generation or country.

Few, however, succeed in being remembered for both technology and sentiment.

Few have left so indelible a mark as to become an icon of their age.

At 10am on October 15th, 2005, hundreds of fia (Zastava 600/ 750/ 850) owners gathered outside Zastava's offices in Kragujevac. They had come from across the former Yugoslavia to mark the 50th birthday of Zastava's most celebrated line: its smallest car ever, and the car which put Yugoslavia on wheels.

This was, as author Jonathan Mantle puts it, "one of the very few cars to have transcended its origins and become synonymous with a landscape; a people, and a way of life" (Car Wars, Jonathan Mantle, Arcade 1995).

Zastava 600 - fića
The Zastava 600 (fia) packed a 16kW engine. Production began on October 18th, 1955. The 600D; 750; 750M; 750S, and 850 would follow
The 600 was not the first Zastava. Yet the affordable, endearing 600 and its variants are no doubt Zastava's most famous cars (in its home market, at least), with 923,487 produced from October 18th, 1955, through November 18th, 1985. Certainly, they rank among the most characterful runabouts ever made.

The fia started life as the 16kW 633cm3 Fiat 600, designed by the legendary Fiat engineer Dr. Dante Giacosa. His brief? To deliver a small, frugal vehicle that could transport four; a successor to the prewar Fiat 500, or Topolino.

Dr. Giacosa was hypnotized by the Vespa motor scooter created by the helicopter designer D'Ascanio. What Italians wanted, he was convinced, was a four-wheeled Vespa. Within just ten months, Giacosa had created the first monovolume car ever produced. A unibody chassis saved weight; a rear-mounted engine saved energy in getting power to the rear wheels.

In most variants barely capable of 60 mph, the robust little car was nevertheless perfect for commuting, and mobilized generations like few cars in history have: think Austin's Mini in Britain, and Citroën's 2CV in France.

Zastava 600
Zastava's fia put a nation on wheels. Length: 3,295 mm. Width: 1,380 mm. Height: 1,405 mm. Wheelbase: 3,295 mm. Curb weight: 585 kg. Track (f/r): 1,150mm/ 1,160mm
Zastava 600
Zastava made both the 600 and the 1960 18kW 767cm3 Fiat 600D, which as the Zastava 750 managed a top speed of 110 km/h.

Hydraulic drum brakes sat at all four wheels. Front suspension was by a unique single double-mounted leaf spring, acting as a stabilizer, placed between the front wheels and coupled to gas-charged shock absorbers. At the rear, an independent coil-over shock absorber setup was coupled to semi-trailing arms.

All 600/ 600D/ 750 models had 3-synchro (no synchro on 1st), 4-speed transaxles.

As Italian production of the vehicle ended, it fell to Zastava to move the design forward. In 1970, Zastava rolled out the 750M, fitted with a new 795cm3 engine boasting a thermostat-controlled closed cooling system.

For 1979 came the 750S (Special), which boasted Fiat 126-inspired fascia upgrades (including a tachometer); a new steering-wheel, and a 22kW engine which brought the top speed to 120 km/h.

In 1980, the 850 was launched, with a 23.4kW 848cm3 engine propelling it to 125 km/h. A fully-synchronized transaxle and front disc brakes were introduced.

Both 750 and 850 continued through 1985 in L; LE, and SC versions.

Finally, the design was sold to the Tofas factory in Turkey, which continued to produce these cars, under Zastava license, into the '90s.

On April 4th, 2000, Novi Sad's Privatni pregled newspaper elected the fia the ex-Yugoslavia's Car of the Millennium. Certainly, the fia's endearing ability to take a beating and come back for more kept it in production with only minor changes for more than thirty years.
(C) 2007-2008, Miroslav Pai & Dragan Romevi. All rights reserved/ sva prava zadržana.
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