The ‘new’ (not by the time I posted this) Fiat 500 TwinAir meets its older sibling. While the new one would be fine as an everyday car the old 500, or Bambina as it was known in NZ, is one for my “When I win Lotto garage”.
Have you heard of the Fiat Coupé? I’ll admit, before my father bought one when I was a kid, I hadn’t, but when he brought it home I instantly fell in love with it. The sounds of the turbo, the decadent interior, and oh boy, the looks…
I seriously thought about getting one of these when shopping for a car to replace my mighty Uno. I remember seeing them arrive fresh off the boat at Continental Cars (then the Fiat agents) and loved the style. In addition to the shapely exterior there were some really nice details like the headlight ‘bumps’ (inspired by the female form), a chunky retro metal external filler cap and body coloured dashboard panel strip.
It was a true successor to the 70s Fiat 124 Coupé and 131 Racing Coupé. A sporty twin cam engine in a stylish two door body at an affordable (if not for me at the time) price. I wonder how the new (Mazda based) Fiat 124 will be regarded in comparison in a few decades?
In some ways I still regret opting for the Fiat Bravo HGT I eventually purchased, especially when I see a Coupé on the road! Although mechanically very similar — 2 litre, 5 cylinder, FWD — it’s a far more practical, rather less stylish, three door hatch. What tipped the balance was the Bravo was ridiculously affordable, OK cheap, in comparison.
Although barely six years old when I purchased depreciation — and perhaps people scared by its rarity in NZ* — and a dealer needing the space for the new 500 models meant I paid less than 1/5 of the $40,000 it cost when new**.
That was about 1/2 the price of an equivalent age/condition Coupé, so style lost out.
* I’ve been told only a dozen were sold here!
** There was the additional cost of front brake discs & pads (not cheap) and a top engine damper which needed replacing but that was factored into the price negotiation. The previous owner had just got through a major cam-belt service and had traded the Bravo in on an Alfa.
There aren't many places in Auckland where you can still buy orchard fresh fruit — grown, picked and sold at the gate — but Dragicevich Orchard, Oratia near my home, is one. Along with freshly picked apples, pears, plums and grapes Carmela Dragicevich and her son Mate sell the best apple juice ever. They tree pick and sell (no cold store nonsense) so you only get what is in season, what is good.
Driving home through Oratia village I was rather surprised to see a lovely red Ferrari F40 turn up Shaw Rd, heading for the Waitakere Ranges. Those roads are fun in my Bravo, suspect more so in a Ferrari F40! Orchard fresh apples and a Ferrari F40, two rarities in one morning.
* The F40 photo is mine, from a local motorsport event, but not sure if it was one I saw but there can’t be many in NZ!
Christmas evening, jump in the car and hear an odd ticking noise from somewhere within the dash.
Engine off, it slows down to a stop. Power on, back again, turn the ventilation fan from Auto to Off, slows down but still there.
Realise the air conditioning is on, turn that off, it slows to no ticking. Learn, after how many years driving this car?, that the air conditioning runs the fan at Speed 1 irrespective of the fan speed selected!
Sounds like something in the fan, maybe a bearing worn or debris being knocked around, but nothing major; just bloody annoying!
In the light of day, well the light of today as I procrastinated, find it definitely is the fan which is — and here is the win — accessed by removing a single screw. No major dashboard surgery required. Pop it out, blow out with an air duster, bit of electrical safe lube spray, twist lock back in, secure with THE screw, sorted!
Bravo Fiat interior* designers!
* Not sure this makes up for the recommended — but avoided by crafty mechanics — ‘remove the engine’ instruction to change the cambelt (thanks to a long 5 cylinder transverse engine jammed in between the wheel arches)!
Over the past few weeks it occasionally felt odd, with an intermittent throttle lag I can only compare to a poorly engineered turbo installation. Bit of a concern when it is not a turbo!
A few days ago the engine system warning light came on, occasionally at first, then persisting until the ignition was switched off/on, then finally on all the time. Of course the day before it was due to visit to the Fiat wizards at Italian Autos the light went off, and stayed off. They diagnosed a dodgy air flow meter, a part made by Bosch:
A replacement has restored the FSM’s five cylinder heart to its former responsive health. Perhaps it thought it was metering a Volkswagen in a test centre?
My 128 was a 1979 NZ assembled 1300 Bello sedan which I got in the late 80s. It was mechanically sound but a faded orange by then. NZ sun and UV tests paints!
Like most 128s, especially the local ones with dubious rust prevention, it eventually dissolved a bit too far. It had a second lease of life when I stumbled upon a complete set of factory fresh doors to replace the rust ventilated originals. From, distant, memory they were from a parts sale when the local distributor changed.