Like the Volkswagen Beetle and Austin Mini, the Fiat 500 was a European people's car that was relatively inexpensive, giving buyers a simple automobile for getting around. Former Evo magazine editor-in-chief Harry Metcalfe bought a classic example at auction and brought it to a model specialist in London to restore and upgrade the vehicle. Little did he know, there were already plenty of upgrades installed. 

According to the auction listing, this car belonged to the general of police in Palermo, Italy. He allegedly had a staff of 30 people servicing around 250 vehicles. The sale claimed the car was stock. But the engine tells a different story.

Firstly, this is not a wholly original Fiat 500 power plant. The block is right, but the boring brings the displacement up to 594 cubic centimeters. There's also a hotter camshaft and modifications to the carburetor.

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Even with all of the existing upgrades, Metcalfe plans to do more modifications to the mill. An Abarth-branded, higher-capacity oil pan will help with cooling. There will also be a higher-performance camshaft and machined cylinder head. He'll upgrade the headlights to be brighter, too.

The builder tries to tempt Metcalfe with additional modifications. It's a lot more work, but he could fit parts like bigger pistons, aluminum cylinders, and an oil cooler. However, Metcalfe's wife doesn't want the car to sound too aggressive, so he can't install an exhaust with loud, trumpet-like outlets.

The Fiat 500 (also known as the Cinquecento) went on sale in 1957 with a rear-mounted 479-cubic-centimeter two-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels. Later, there was a 499-cc variant. Famously, Abarth modified 500s for racing with even larger, more powerful engines. Massive aftermarket support meant that owners could have anything from a stock vehicle to a fully built race car.

We look forward to seeing what the technicians can do to make Metcalfe's 500 more exciting while keeping it appearing fairly stock.

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