It is summer 1957 and people are already used to seeing cars on the streets. By now, in every Spanish city, they form an unmistakeable part of the urban landscape: large, elegant and striking, but also noisy and dark. And although we’ve all seen one, not all of us are fortunate enough to ride in one, let alonedrive one.
Then, on the 27th June, it appears. Small, colourful and with buckets of style & personality: the SEAT 600 arrives on the scene to show everybody that even the smallest can beat the giants. At first we see just a few specimens of this curious vehicle, but very soon it will become master of the streets all over the country. Thanks to the 600 (“la hormiga” (the ant), “el ombligo” (the navel, because everybody has one), “la bolita” (the little ball), the dream of owning and driving your own car no longer seems an impossibility.
And not only that. The SEAT 600 will soon prompt Spain to start speaking a language previously unknown, using terms like domingueo (the Sunday drive), and talking of trips to the seaside or even national tourism. The family back in the village will no longer seem so far away and the towns and cities of Spain will become closer neighbours than ever.
These are pleasures that we will come to enjoy, after the typical 4 year wait for the car to be delivered.
The SEAT 600 is exceptional for its mechanical simplicity and its affordable price: in an era when cars were the sole domain of the rich, it ‘only’ cost 65.000 pesetas at that time, 390€today. So driving home to visit the folks in a SEAT 600 was a sure sign that you were “doing well” in life.
The SEAT 600 would go on to become such a popular car that we would get to know it in a thousand different variations: family sedan, taxi, convertible, van…
And although it would soon be followed by the SEAT 850, an ‘improved’ version of the classic 600 (more spacious interior and with better performance), what we would understand to be its true successor would be the endearing SEAT 127.
On 3rd August 1973, with 794,406 cars manufactured, the last SEAT 600 left the assembly line in Barcelona’s Zona Franca (Freeport zone). It had won the hearts of the entire nation and left a gap that was so difficult to fill that it wasn’t until many years later that the brand would manage to create a car as iconic and mythical: its grandson, the SEAT Ibiza.
That last car was a white 600 L Especial that the factory workers waved off the assembly line with a placard saying: “You were born a prince, but you die a king”. The news filled the newspapers and for SEAT it marked the end of an era, the first in its illustrious history.
Know more about SEAT's historic models in the new Digital Museum