A quick peruse of the superb PistonHeads website brought me to their SOTW (Shed of the Week) page and a Fiat X19. I had one of these some years ago and although it gripped the road like poo to a blanket, I don’t recall really driving it too much, my memories of the late seventies has faded somewhat, must be the beer.
I had bought it from a garage in London, when it was still very much a rarity in the UK, or even Europe. In fact I think the salesman told me that it was the first RHD model ever made and we all know that car salesmen never lie! Whatever, as is usual with all my car dealings common sense went out of the window, rapidly followed by the contents of my wallet; I had to buy it….
In those days I was in the Army and based in Paderborn in Germany, so the car came with me to the Fatherland. For various reasons I didn’t use the car much whilst there, but on one trip out the car broke down with an electrical fault. I called out ADAC (the equivalent of the RAC) who arrived to investigate. They found that the car had been adapted from LHD to RHD and moreover rather than using the correct wiring loom, ALL the wiring connections had been done in green earth wire! Disaster! Any wiring faults were therefore impossible to trace.
I had the car towed by one of our Land Rovers back to barracks…. It may still be there.
Been running this car for around 6 weeks and already covered 3500 miles. What a tremendous vehicle, I absolutely love it, it is such a joy to drive and I rarely stretch it and go more than 3000 rpm, it doesn’t need it. It is comfortable, easy to drive and feels so well made and secure. I will admit that it is not too easy on the pocket, but I am not surprised. When I first got the car the average MPG over the previous 12000 miles was 16.5, I have now got it up to 17.5, but I am driving quite long distances across the motorways of Northern England. I am also trying to fill with Shell V Power or failing that at least a BP, Esso or other 97RON. It is a little pricier, but almost universally recommended for these engines.
A tale of two journeys..
It’s the throaty rumble and noise that really is the car’s USP though. I was driving towards Bradford from home, The Better Half and No.2 Son in tow and there is a tunnel under the airport. As we approached No.2 Son and I dropped the car windows and I dropped a couple of cogs. I enjoyed the Tinkie Tickling noise for a moment. The Better Half looked across with a withering look, “you are both so childish….”
Whenever I’ve sold a car there is always a slight lingering pang of regret, usually financial, and a desire that the new owner should look after her. I have a habit of referring to cars, in fact most mechanical objects, as female. It is well known that sailors always referred to ships as ‘she’ and perhaps this habit has carried on to motor vehicles, like women they are beautiful and complicated. There is this quote from many a US Naval wardroom:
“A ship is called a she because there is always a great deal of bustle around her; there is usually a gang of men about; she has a waist and stays; it takes a lot of paint to keep her good-looking; it is not the initial expense that breaks you, it is the upkeep; she can be all decked out; it takes an experienced man to handle her correctly; and without a man at the helm, she is absolutely uncontrollable. She shows her topsides, hides her bottom and, when coming into port, always heads for the buoys.”
Now that comment may be a little chauvinistic but it may help to explain why we anthropomorphise vehicles and most complex mechanical gear with a female gender. I’ve had far more cars than girlfriends, but each has left fond memories and their foibles that at the time were very annoying have faded in the recall.
The Sunbeam Lotus that was forever snapping clutch cables.
The Mini that wouldn’t start, rain or shine, without a squirt of WD40.
The Clan Crusader that consumed more coolant than petrol.
The Lotus Elan Sprint that tore fingernails off when putting the roof down.
The Citroen Xantia with the iffy brakes and that made me car sick on long journeys.
The Smart (sic) car that had to be driven so hard to make any decent progress that it was really uneconomical.
The TVR 420SEAC that… too many problems to mention.
Generally when I change my car it is through a thief car dealer and they are particularly unemotional about them, so it was nice to receive an email from the purchaser of my MX5. He had seen this site and remarked that I was not very complimentary about the Mazda but that he had bought it has a ‘high days & holidays’ car. I replied that the car was in reality very good and was exactly as described in countless motor magazine reviews, I just didn’t like it. I also remarked that should it ever be in this part of North Yorkshire again I would be happy to demonstrate in 6.3 V8 form why I sold her.
The list of cars that I regret selling will be listed here soon……
Contentious argument here: The MGB GT is rubbish, and always has been almost from its inception. I just cannot understand why they have become so revered. I recall a friend buying one in the seventies less than a year old and I thought then that the crinkly metal dash was a tad out of date. At the time he could have had a Datsun 240Z for around the same money – crazy.
The MGB was a car introduced in 1962 and to be fair it was a good car at the time. Still in production in 1980 and way past its best, it should have been shot in 1968. A limited production “revival” model with only 2,000 units made, called RV8 was produced by Rover in the 1990s, the ultimate example of trying to polish a turd.
Examples abound of cars that were rapidly outdated after their initial production outliving their ‘raison d’etre’ and becoming sentimental memories. Morris Minor, Jaguar XJS, Austin Cambridge (and similar derivatives) and the Mini to name but a few. Have you noticed that all the examples I have mentioned are British? It may be that I am looking at this from an English perspective, but I am not sure that Europeans or the Americans have the same fascination with their own poor quality cars.
I traded in the Mazda and to be honest I’m glad to see the back of it. Don’t misunderstand, it was (is) a very capable car and was exactly as all the motoring magazines and pundits said. It was very good to drive, well made, quite good value for money (except for trade-in!) but I found it very disappointing. If one wanted to drive like a loon, as though one’s pants were on fire and get the back end out round corners all without breaking too many speed limits, it was great. However if one had to be in Newcastle at 07:00 in the morning, wanted to listen to Radio 4, wanted somewhere to put one’s phone and keys and it was raining, it was a miserable and claustrophobic place to be. Artics cut you up because they can’t see you, one felt vulnerable on motorways and the fuel gauge would drop from 25 miles remaining to less than 5 in around 3 miles. Every time a corner was taken the keys would slide from the centre console and disappear under the seats. 3/4 vision was very poor with the roof up and the lack of any sort of storage space in the cabin was infuriating.
I hope the Merc and I get on, we are going to firm friends with the local Shell garage and spend much money with my local tyre man. I can’t wait.