Neckar Weinsberg 500 Limousette


So-called 'premium' small cars are a thing now, I suppose.

Even my Abarth, which is as large as a bathroom cupboard, has heated seats, leather, CD player, and is so reasonably nice in most other areas that I personally feel quite premium most days on the way to work.

People love to talk about the new, as if it's really all that new. Premium small cars? Hah!

I'll spare you the somewhat long and complicated history of this car's factory—once owned by NSU and then sold to Fiat, as part of the deal NSU gave Fiat rights to use the NSU name for the small, 500-based car they'd be assembling there. (NSU's base of operations was in nearby Neckarsulm, now absorbed into the Volkswagen Group empire as a main Audi production facility.)

For the first few years at least, this car was called the NSU-Fiat—and not the Neckar—a rather confusing situation for everyone. Even today, a Google Search for "NSU-Fiat" will turn up hundreds of entries on this Neckar Weinsburg 500 Limousette, even though by 1960 or so the car was called the Neckar.

What does 'Weinsberg' mean, anyhow? Vineyard. And if you've ever been in this region of Germany, you're well aware of the often beautiful summer weather and winding roads that fall across the landscape like a net—a likely reason for why this small car has a roll-back soft top and more sporting styling cues.

To confuse things, a Neckar Weinsberg 500 Coupé was also made, with pretty much the only difference between the two being a more upright rear window to accommodate two more passengers. The Coupé has only space under its raked rear window for children. Both models had the same list price, too.

Underneath their more characterful bodywork, the pair are mostly just standard Fiat 500—two cylinders, 479-cc, 15 horsepower, and a top speed of 95 km/h (60 mph). The next time you complain about a car being slow, take note: this pretty little Coupé takes 37 seconds to hit 80 km/h (50 mph). That said, inside, you could at least marvel at an interior that was far more luxurious than the standard Fiat 500—buyers even got a heater!

The last Neckar Weinsberg 500 Coupé rolled off the assembly line in 1963, for a total of fewer than 7,000 made.