A recent “Hidden Heroes” article on Honest John got my attention. They think my Fiat Bravo HGT is a future classic and there are only 21 left on the road in the U.K.
There were never many HGTs in New Zealand; I was told maybe Thirty total and just a dozen of the later 2001 HGT 155 model I have. According to some recent research (by a fellow Fiat enthusiast) there are now probably only three left on the road. Probably why the 155HGT plate, acquired last January, was still available over a decade after I first considered getting it!
My HGT is still in pretty good shape, despite being my daily drive (since 2008) and clocking up 255,000km. I have retired it to second ‘project’ car status but still drive it regularly. One day it will get the respray it deserves - mainly to address a minor passenger door carpark ding, softening clear coat on the roof and stone chips - to bring it back up to scratch on the exterior. I replaced the rubberised exterior door handles in 2013 as the originals went hard and crumbled in the Kiwi ultraviolet. I don’t know if Fiat changed the recipe but the replacement ones still look as good as new.
The interior has held up well, leather especially, other than the drivers seat bolster being a bit soft. Two ‘soft touch plastic’ window switch surround plates feel ‘gummy’ (Kiwi UV again I suspect) but the dash and other trims are like new.
It is still a good car to drive but is certainly more ‘Grand Touring' than ‘Hot Hatch’; especially compared to the Abarth Esseesse which took over daily duties!
“It’s funny how time skews your perceptions. Back when it first appeared in 1997, the Fiat Bravo HGT was very much an also-ran in hot hatch terms”
“Indeed, in a contemporary Performance Car road test, it was even beaten by the Ford Escort GTi, though that’s one we find particularly hard to understand.”
“Yet today, the Bravo HGT is a car whose classic credentials are right up there. Not only does it look like no other hatchback of its era, but it’s mechanically interesting, too. Neither of which statements apply to the Escort GTi”
“But today, the Bravo HGT is a very rare car indeed. At the end of last year, there were just 21 examples taxed and registered on the UK’s roads. From over 2,000 sold in Britain, that’s an astonishing, and quite tragic, attrition rate.”
I went for a bike ride after work tonight to try out my “Happy Birthday to me” present which arrived the previous day. It’s an upgrade accessory for my CX/Commute bike, a gorgeous Tailfin Rack and Pannier. The ARC-3 doesn't have rack mounts and although I could, did , use my MTB seat post pannier it was a bit clunky and not really what the frame was designed for.
The Tailfin is a light carbon ‘arch’ which mounts, with quick release clips, to an extended axle. A stabilising bar loops around the seat post and two waterproof pannier bags quick release lock to pegs on the arch. It makes for a light, elegant and (even on gravel as I found tonight) rattle free bag system. Thanks B for the recommendation!
The other reason for the ride was to collect my faithful old Fiat Bravo HGT. It clocked up its 252,252’nd kilometre on the way to work today but I abandoned it halfway home tonight as collected a new (to me) companion. The balance of the drive, extended by an excursion around ‘The Scenic Drive”, was in a (Fiat) Abarth 500 Esseesse.
Although the HGT mechanicals are now fine after the gearbox fix last year I had started thinking about another car. The problem is I like Italian cars and manual gearboxes which narrowed the field somewhat. In the end I decided the sort of money I needed to spend to get the same/better performance was just too much for a car which didn’t inspire me.
When this Esseesse appeared in my TradeMe “Fiat” search I realised I could keep the HGT and have it too. The added overhead of another rego, WOF and Insurance really don't amount to much, especially for two cars I love!
This 1.4 Turbo roller skate was NZ new, has had just one loving owner and will partner the Bravo HGT. It is a hoot to drive, but the short wheelbase, firm suspension and tiny dimensions mean the HGT still has a role to play. I can get a bike in the back of the 500 (seats folded, both bike wheels off) but squeezing people (especially elderly family) into the rear seats isn't really practical.
I watched lots of YouTube clips, read lots of reports and the overwhelming consensus is: “In spite of the foibles, every time you drive an Abarth 500 it makes you smile”. So far, I can only agree!
The 500 will become my main daily drive and I will take the opportunity to give the HGT a cosmetic makeover, fix a carpark door bruise and a respray, to bring it back up to scratch. Although not expensive they are rare, maybe 10-20 left in NZ?, and it will be a neat ‘project car’. The 500 really wasn’t on my radar, dismissed as too small to be an ‘only car’, but has made for a very special “Happy Birthday to me 2”!
The odd symmetry is I got the HGT over a decade ago, for a very good price, as the dealer needed space to fit an influx of (then) new 500 stock on the yard. The HGT replaced a little (but not this little) white Fiat Uno 45s which I loved driving. Now I am back in a little white “Fiat 500”, albeit an Abarth with much more of a sting in its tail.
Found this HBO documentary about Gianni Agnelli on Sky NZ while grazing the Soho schedule a couple of weeks ago. Recorded it, just got around to watching it, and so glad I did. While the Agnelli FIAT connection got my attention this was very much about the man, the family, their impact on Italy and its place in the world, rather than a dry profile of a business man or car company history.
Beautifully shot, a mixture of modern interviews and archive family footage, in stunning locations (many their homes!) it is a wonderful, and honest, portrayal. They didn't skip over his failings, dubious dealings (both within the family and business/politics), or the terrorist/political problems they lived with. In the 1970s FIAT management, along with Italian Politicians/Justice figures, were literally being assassinated in the street by ‘the Red Brigade’. The documentary is broken into ‘chapters’, the "Years of Lead" being one.
It seemed, from what I know of the family, fairly presented. They lived a privileged life but also paid a high price for it. I don't know if Sky will repeat it, no sign in the current schedule, but if you have access to HBO it’s well worth a watch
Tradition prepared him. Passion defined him.Considered by many to be “the prince” of Italy, legendary industrialist and jet-setter Gianni Agnelli was a cultural icon who embodied strength, calm and prosperity in the aftermath of World War II and into the new millennium. An intimate portrait of the man who became a symbol of Italy’s post-war renaissance, Agnelliis directed by Nick Hooker, and executive produced Graydon Carter (HBO’s Public Speaking, His Way, Everything Is Copy – Nora Ephron: Scripted & Unscripted).
Chronicling the dramatic life of the charismatic head of FIAT, this compelling portrait features intimate interviews with nearly 40 family members, friends, professional confidantes and rivals, including: his sisters and other relatives; former lovers; current and former FIAT employees and executives; his butler and cook; and journalists, historians and friends, among them Henry Kissinger, Valentino, Jackie Rogers, Sally Bedell Smith, Roger Cohen, Jas Gawronski, Lee Radziwill and his niece, Diane von Furstenberg.
Agnelli features newly discovered Super 8 footage shot by Benno Graziani and iconic portraits by Richard Avedon and Ugo Mulas, along with a wealth of archival video and personal photos that help paint a complex portrait of the FIAT leader, who was an urbane, well-spoken international figure of intrigue and a politically powerful, restless jet-setter who valued family, but had failings as a father.
Agnelli had its world premiere at the 2017 Venice Film Festival, and is executive produced by Graydon Carter; produced by Matt Parker, Carly Hugo and Annabelle Dunne; directed by Nick Hooker; edited by Chad Beck; directors of photography, Sofian El Fani and Wyatt Garfield; music by Paul Cantelon.
Nick Hooker: Gianni was a huge political power, not just in Italy but also in representing Italy on the world stage. We had this challenge to somehow zoom in in a very intimate way, in terms of his family and way he lived his life, and then to zoom out and see him operate on a bigger stage…
Seeing a green Fiat 132 in this Telegraph article reminded me of the first Fiat I drove. Although a slightly earlier model (and GL not GLS) our ‘family car’ was similarly rare, but not exotic, car in New Zealand. Although cheap to medium priced mass market cars in Europe Fiat in NZ were comparatively rare and even a bit ‘premium’.
The interior ventilation fan on the mighty Bravo started making an annoying noise - tick, tick, tick – then stopped entirely. Given it runs almost all the time, not much airflow without it, I guess 16 years spinning had taken its toll.
I imagined you’d need to pull the dashboard out or something horrific to replace but not at all. It is easily accessed from the passenger foot-well, literally one screw and a very affordable new replacement from fiatparts.co.nz installed in minutes.
Who said European cars are expensive and difficult to work on…