Big things with little cars
Big things with little cars

The “little mouse” packing a big rat motor.

Illustration for article titled 1:18: Fiat Topolino Altered Mondello  Matsubara
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1:1 History

The Topolino (“little mouse” in Italian) was one of the smallest cars in the world at the time of its production. Launched in 1937, it was produced until 1955 with only minor mechanical and cosmetic changes. It was equipped with a 569 cc four-cylinder, side-valve engine that made a whopping 13 HP. Capable of propelling the car to around 50 mph (if you could find enough straight road), it was about as far from a drag car as you can imagine.

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Illustration for article titled 1:18: Fiat Topolino Altered Mondello  Matsubara

Back in the mid 1960’s the two biggest names known around the drag racing community were Mondello & Matsubara. After the two teamed up in 1965 the drag world was never the same. This Topolino helped further to immortalize the efforts of M&M. With it’s tube chassis and supercharged 427 (7.0L) Chevy, it was a force to be reckoned with on the track.

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Illustration for article titled 1:18: Fiat Topolino Altered Mondello  Matsubara

M&M set the national record for AA Fuel Altereds with a 7.24 ET and 213 mph pass at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis in 1969, and won runner-up in Competition Eliminator. To put that performance into perspective, the low ET for Funny Cars at that event was 7.22. M&M certainly carved their names in the history books with runs like that.

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Illustration for article titled 1:18: Fiat Topolino Altered Mondello  Matsubara

The Model:

This 1:18 model was built by ACME a couple years back as part of their altered series, consisting of Topolinos and Bantams. For such a simple car the level of detail is pretty amazing.

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Starting from the exterior, there’s a stunning metallic blue paint job. It has a very minimal, but well executed, livery. The lettering is clean and the white pin-stripe is wonderfully thin, being just enough to define the upper and lower surfaces.

Illustration for article titled 1:18: Fiat Topolino Altered Mondello  Matsubara
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This car probably has the best tires in my collection. The white-line Goodyear slicks look absolutely perfect to my eyes, especially when paired with the cast magnesium wheels. The front wheels are classic staggered spoke altered wheels, and look the part.

Illustration for article titled 1:18: Fiat Topolino Altered Mondello  Matsubara
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I find the front suspension particularly interesting, as the transverse leaf spring, solid axle, and four-link design is fairly intricate. Notice that there are no front brakes as most of the braking is done by the parachute mounted out back.

Illustration for article titled 1:18: Fiat Topolino Altered Mondello  Matsubara
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The engine is really the most dominant (and best) feature of the model. Fully plumbed, with lines running from the tiny gas tank through the crank driven mechanical fuel pump and into the Hilborn fuel injection setup on top of the 8-71 blower. The supercharger is nicely detailed itself with nice ribbing and a perfect Hilborn scoop. The tall valve covers are finned with breathers adding more depth to the engine as a whole.

Illustration for article titled 1:18: Fiat Topolino Altered Mondello  Matsubara
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The white painted headers really set the whole thing apart. The individual primaries snake around each like a 4-into-1 design, but don’t actually merge into a collector. This may be my favorite exhaust setup of all time. Additionally, the left and right headers are slightly different to allow the steering arm clearance.

Illustration for article titled 1:18: Fiat Topolino Altered Mondello  Matsubara
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The interior of the car is necessarily spartan. The simple seat with its cloth harness straddles the transmission and drive shaft. Cockpit controls are simple too, with a shift lever and a parachute release. The most interesting part of the cockpit may be the parachute mounted to a plate directly behind the drivers head. The packed ‘chute looks really nice with its lines hanging behind the car.

Illustration for article titled 1:18: Fiat Topolino Altered Mondello  Matsubara
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Overall:

This is a stunning little car. The blue paint is gorgeous with all of the white accents making it pop. It has a great stance, and looks really intimidating for such a small machine. As you’ve probably noticed, it has a bit of a hood fitment issue (which is present on all of these casts) which could easily be resolved with a file if I wanted to. If you ignore that minor flaw, I’d rate this car a 10/10.

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It looks excellent sitting next to yesterday’s post on my shelf.

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I know what Wednesday’s post will be, but should tomorrow be Corvette or Cobra?

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