Nothing against the car, or brand, but it is a bit sad to see, on the lunchroom table at work, that Citroën can use this brochure headline in New Zealand:
At one time the Fiat car range in NZ was Bravo, Punto and 500 but that didn’t last. Fiat don’t offer a Bravo here any more…
For the past few years a new Fiat meant a choice of 500, 500C or, 500 based, Abarth. If you were really Fiat mad the bonkers 695 Tributo Ferrari (& its Maserati cousin) were on offer; a 500 based car for extremely silly money.
However, while researching this post I found the Fiat NZ website showing Punto & Panda as options:
I haven’t seen any news about the Fiat range expanding. Did the change to Australasian distribution make a difference I haven’t noticed until now?
It started as a day out, in lieu of to birthday present, for my Dad but had a surprise ending even I didn’t anticipate. The Whitianga (Mercury Bay Aero Club) Warbirds and Wheels Air show was the drawcard but our mode of transport was an attraction itself, even made the local paper.
We flew from a rather gloomy damp Ardmore to sunny Whitianga in the Fly DC3 Dakota. The last time I flew in a propeller piston Douglas Commercial was a QANTAS DC4 Skymaster which operated into the mid ‘70’s servicing Norfolk Island. TEAL/Air New Zealand chartered these aircraft for the Auckland–Norfolk Island route from 1955 to June 1975. I think the Island was too small for large jets and the rules didn’t allow twin engine aircraft to fly that far over water. My grandparents lived at Norfolk and I still remember the, seemingly endless, flight I did at about age 6 or 7.
Fly DC3’s aircraft looks almost new with smart RNZAF colours. After the usual pre-flight formalities we were off to Whitianga. The crew are all current/former commercial airline staff dedicated to sharing their love of flying in this beautiful old aircraft. Although it was only a short 20 minute flight scooting over the Coromandel hills made for a fun flight.
The air show had a great mix of aircraft from WW2 era fighters, lovely Spitfire included, to modern super aerobatic aircraft.
The DC3 did several joyride flights during the day including taking up bunch of parachutists (more on that later) who did a brilliant display. Although it looks like a Mustang the 3/4 size Titan T-51 (bottom right) was interesting to see. I know someone who is building one and hope to get a ride when it is ready for passengers!
It wasn’t all overhead action with the local stock-cars racing on the Speedway Track beside the airfield.
Although we arrived pretty early, so the DC3 pilots could attend the air show briefing, the day literally flew by! There was a mix of formation and solo displays, aerobatics and even a gyrocopter to keep people gazing skyward.
Some modern hardware on display included jet trainer and winch patient recovery by the Westpac Helicopter.
We were supposed to fly home on the DC3 but arrived to find it wasn’t looking quite as smart as earlier in the day. A propeller seal had leaked spraying the engine & cowling with oil. I suspect old aircraft use a bit of oil but it appears this was a little bit too much!
Unfortunately the repair required removing the propeller, and a lot of cleaning I bet, so we weren’t able to fly home. The Fly DC3 folks were great; arranging a bus and DC3 wing shade bus stop to await its arrival!
Although it didn’t quite end as expected it was still a great day & I’m planning to Fly DC3 again!
The Citroën AX was always pretty rare in New Zealand, to see one now even more so. Although the styling is incredibly Euro-drab, especially for a Citroën, the minimalist design is supermini at its best.
I remember the late great LJKS praising elegant efficiency of the AX design when released. Notice the 3 wheel bolts? All it needed, so all it got.
Quite a contrast to the bloated parody of ‘Mini’ the current MINI has become.
It was in the car park above one of my favourite West Coast beaches. Anawhata is a bit of a hike, especially back up the hill, but worth the effort. There were two cars in the car park, just 4 people and 2 dogs on the beach that day!
This listing on trademe reminded me of a fine little Fiat didn’t own and only ever drove a few times. The price seems a bit OTT but if as good as looks in the photos would be in my “When I win Lotto Garage”, if I had won Lotto.
My Aunt owned a yellow, or was it mustard?, Fiat 850 Coupé until the early 80s. She’s partially responsible for my Fiat fondness as I remember at least one other 850 and a 1600 124 Coupe in her automotive past.
I vaguely recall going with her to Tim Bailey’s “Town & Country Motors” (which became Continental Car Services) to collect them after servicing. Later I used to go there by bicycle, ~60km!, and still call by occasionally, to see what CCS (Coutts & Giltraps too) have on the lot. A huge amount of the NZ/Euro car history cluttering my brain is due to those pilgrimages!
She decided it was time to get a new car and we went to try the Mitsubishi Mirage (the twin stick mk1) at Todd(?) Motors Albany. In those days Albany was a village on the main highway North, not today’s suburb bypassed by motorways, so the drive was mostly open road. I'd not been driving for long and drove her 850 for the first time on the way there and, even though it was an old car by then, remember it was fun.
The Mirage test drive included the Albany hill which, thanks to its 1200cc engine, gave plenty of opportunity to shuffle those gear levers. I’m not sure exactly why the Mirage had a 4x2 8 speed box but it was certainly novel. It reminded me of riding a derailleur multi-speed bike where the next highest/lowest gear might require a double shift onto the other cogset. I suspect once the novelty wore off the second ‘box’ was probably only ever used as an overdrive gear in top. Later models had a conventional 5 speed manual so it mustn't have been a component of the Mirage sales success. They were popular cars back in the day, something the recently re-launched range seems to be trying to resurrect!
Anyway she liked the Mirage, ended up buying it, but going home up the same hill I remember the 850 surprised me. I’m not sure how the actual performance figures would compare but the 850, with 1/4 less engine but probably quite a bit lighter, felt far more peppy. Maybe it was gearing, just having 4 to choose, or engine noise but the 850 impressed up the hill. Later I owned a Fiat 127 so got to know that awesome little 903cc engine very well.
Continuing on to the Coatesville – Riverhead road revealed even more. Today this is a speed limited 50/80 km/h sanitised almost suburban road but back then it was a 100 km/h, narrow twisty country road. I remember my Dad ‘enjoying’ it and after travelling the route many times as a passenger, cyclist and driver could call it, rally co-driver pace note style, from memory!
I’m sure the ultimate limits of the 850 were low, skinny tyres, but it handled pretty nicely. Although inferior in many ways it was more fun to drive than the 2 decade newer Mitsi!
PS: Aunties Mirage, and my Mum’s Fiat 132, were both written off by a ‘stolen’ bus (fortunately when unoccupied & parked). Its replacement was a Fiat Uno 70SL so perhaps her Fiat addiction was only briefly suppressed…
I’m not a fan of drifting, waste of tyres I reckon, but this video got my attention. I’ve ridden the Crown Range road twice, both East and West, so have been up and down the hill shown on a bicycle. Although the downhill was extremely fast (maybe 70-80km/h?), extremely fun, the uphill was probably more life threatening.
At one stage on the steepest bit a car coming down the hill stopped a few hundred metres ahead of me. The tourist driver got out to take my photo, saying: “You’re an extremely brave man!”! I could only gasp in response “Foolish!”
Photos from my 2004 & 2005 cycle trips
I’ve also been over the Crown Range in my Fiat Uno 45. Not quite as quickly as the Red Bull car but it was, literally, full throttle all the way!
There was an Accord Euro just in front of me as I headed for the petrol station. Only one free pump, both sides empty, and I was in a hurry to get back on the road.
Would he go to the left side, meaning I’d get the right and hassle of pulling the filler hose over to my Fiat’s drivers (right) side petrol filler?
That’s not a really big deal but the Flying Spaghetti Machine was just out of the paint shop having had the left guard and hatch top wing re-sprayed*. To risk dragging a hose across the back, near those areas, wasn’t particularly palatable.
He went for the right, then I realised why. Although ‘Euro’ by name, and quite European by nature, the Accord has its filler on the left hand side like other Japanese cars.
I was quite pleased the Accord Euro is not truly Euro.
* The re-spray was to fix some crazing clear coat, not a prang!
It was policing an arrow straight 100 km/h limit motorway section on a fine sunny evening. I presume it was set to nab those doing 5–10 km/h over the limit on a road that probably safely handle 150 km/h or more.
Five kilometres down the road there is a long term interchange reconstruction underway. Lanes have been narrowed, flanked by concrete barriers, and a sensible reduced 70 km/h limit imposed. At that speed I watched cars and trucks fly past at 20–30 km/h over the limit with no sign of a ‘safety’ camera. Safety or revenue?