The SEAT 600 (Seiscientos, also nicknamed pelotilla (little ball), seílla or seíta (both stand for little SEAT) and ombligo (navel, because everybody had one)) was a Spanish car made by SEAT from May 1957 to August 1973. It helped to start the economic boom, the Spanish Miracle (1959–1973), that came at the end of the slow recovery from the Spanish Civil War. It was a relatively inexpensive vehicle (then 60,000 Spanish Pesetas) and was the first car that came within the modest but rapidly growing economic means of most Spanish families from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s. The vehicle has become an icon of the period.
The SEAT company was born as a joint venture of the Spanish state holding agency Instituto Nacional de Industria (INI), six Spanish banks and Fiat, and almost all SEAT models up to 1982 were license-built Fiat based cars although the 1200/1430 Sport "Bocanegra" and 133 were models created in-house by SEAT in the 1970s.
Up to 797,319 SEAT 600 and 18,000 SEAT 800 were made until 1973. They were exported to Argentina, Mexico, Poland and Finland. The Fiat version enjoyed far less success in its homeland than the Spanish model, probably because the Italian market was more advanced than the Spanish at the time.
Among the reasons for ending production were the thin and weak b pillars, which made seat belt installation very difficult. The SEAT 600 was replaced by the far less successful SEAT 133, a modernized derivative of the SEAT 850 designed by SEAT.
Technically, the car was basic and not very modern; it was a license-built Italian Fiat 600 of 1955 with a rear-engine/rear-wheel-drive layout. The engine was a 4-cylinder, water-cooled unit formerly with a displacement of 633 cc producing 19 hp (14 kW) and later 767 cc, yielding 21.5 hp (16 kW) at 4600 rpm.
There were two initial series:600 and 600 D, distinguishable by the use of "suicide doors". Third series 600 E had normal doors, bigger headlamps, a different plastic Grille and other improvements. The final production run was the 600 L Especial, produced only for a few months in 1973.
A commercial body called SEAT 600 Formichetta was also available. SEAT 800
A slightly longer 4-door version of the same car, the SEAT 800, was launched in September 1963 and built up to 1968. It was also known as a 4-door 600, although the official designation was 800. This car was only built in Spain.
There were also tuned cars. The most common ones were prepared by Abarth, but the Conti, Autolinea or Zakspeed were known. They were equipped with SEAT 850 or SEAT 1430 engines, tuned up to 110 bhp (82 kW). The brakes and wheels were also changed, providing the SEAT 600 the unique capacity of great acceleration and relatively high speed, 215 km/h (134 mph).