Back in 1976 Fiat cars were built to last…oooh… anything up to two years. Which is about how long this heap of rubbish lasted. Rain water leaks, poor starting, rusting bodywork… bad, bad, bad.
This Fiat 128 was bought new – something I tend not to do any more – and, thinking back, it was my ‘poor man’s Alfa Sud‘.
For the first six months, engineers tried to find the cause of the more-than-intermittent missing acceleration. Bravely, I planned a three-week holiday driving up the Rhine valley to the Black Forest and the Bavarian Alps. The week before the holiday I took the car in for its service. I was assured all was now well.
We set off in the early hours to travel down to Felixstowe – over the Pennines then down the A1. A policeman flagged us down with his torch in the middle of the A6 in Whaley Bridge. Where were we going to at this hour in the morning? “The ferry at Felixtowe.” He was impressed by my adventurousness and wished us well for our holiday.
Driving down the A1, the acceleration once again began to falter. I lost my rag and just floored it. I didn’t care. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Whoosh! Suddenly the car leaped forward and we flew along. It was if a giant had given the car a kick up the backside. Problem solved. And it never returned.
We had a wonderful holiday. My mistake was not selling the car as soon as we got back.
It had to be parked facing downhill for morning starts. Gravity and a rolling start were vital ingredients. Eventually the seals around the back window went and let rainwater in, soaking the back seat which I regularly had to take out to dry in front of the fire. Sometimes the car smelled as though it had a dead rat hidden in it.
Two years from new, rust was eating through the doors. The lowest point was when I parked the car in central Manchester and returned to find someone had knocked the door-mounted mirror off, leaving a rusty gaping wound in the door. How did Fiat stay in business? Their cars were only suitable for clogging up the streets of Rome.
Note: The yellow VW beetle seen parked at the top of the hill in the photo belonged to neighbour Ted King. Ted was a character: a great racing pigeon man and a fine veg grower.