Fiat Topolino mini rod

A 5/8-scale Fiat Topolino mini rod by Rick Werner

Photographers: Tony Rabbitte

QUEENSLANDER Rick Werner is a cool-car buildling machine and we’ve featured his work more than a few times over the last 20 years – including his Summernats Grand Champion-winning ’32 Ford pick up.

This article was originally pubished in the July 2003 issue of Street Machine

Rick’s daughter Danielle was only two when he built her a 1/3-scale electric ’57 Corvette, which eventually appeared in our Iron Maiden section (SM, Aug ’01). She used to complain that it wasn’t fast enough and she had outgrown it by the time she was four.

Having looked around, Rick stumbled on a 5/8-scale Fiat Topolino body pieced together by Wizart’s Barry Burton. That sat well with what Rick was after: something different.

“Originally it was going to have a Briggs and Stratton motor until I found a burnt-out Honda Spacey – a large water-cooled 250cc scooter with electric start and automatic transmission,” Rick says.

Our man flipped through some old drag racing magazines for ideas on how to dress up the chassis, settling on TIG-welded 19mm thin-walled steel tube and a polished four-bar stainless steel centre-pivoted drop axle up front to allow for driving on uneven surfaces. 

Ten-inch in-board disc brake with the Spacey caliper and master cylinder are linked through the floor tunnel to the pedal. The cut-down Ford Laser handbrake – also running through this tunnel that houses radiator lines, electrics and throttle cable – operates the original drum brake in the rear hub. Engine cooling is via the original bike radiator and electric fan.

Rick opted for a fake blown Hemi under the bonnet – a huge task. He crafted a wooden pattern for the blower, had it cast in aluminium and built the injector hat from a 3mm aluminium sheet that also houses the horn. Front wheel centres, rear hubs and the brake hub were also cast from patterns he made. Stainless steel was used for the fuel tank, rocker covers, oil breather tank, exhaust system and zoomie headers. 

The car is designed to accommodate one adult and one small child and the steering wheel can be positioned either in the centre, left or right. Rick operates the pedals and Danielle sits next to him and steers. It will stay that way until he gets around to putting a throttle stop on it to govern the speed.

“I have had it up to 80km/h and it still has more. I reckon it would do 100km/h if I were game enough,” Rick says.

Painted in Debeer two-pack red with white, yellow and orange flames with a turquoise edge, the Fiat’s other eye-catchers include LED taillights, custom-made grille, billet hub caps, hinged body and lockable engine compartment in the boot.

Rick’s next project, after sitting a 6/71 blower on his ’65 ’Vette, will be a half-scale ’41 Willys in pre-production at Barry Burton’s. A few more and he could have his very own Mininats – now there’s an idea!

Photographers: Tony Rabbitte