Sunday, October 03, 2010

Fix It Again, Tony

I've been driving small cars most of my life, from the junkyard-special '60s Ford Falcon my Dad thought would be a great first car* through two MGBs, a Suzuki Samurai (love! Yeah, I know, I'm weird; but that little beast was willin' to try anything I asked of it) and my current string of three Hyundai Accents (cheap, dependable ...easily totalled).

So perhaps you will understand when I admit that the Fiat 500 -- coming to the 'States in December -- has done stole my heart. Sure, it looks like a steam-iron with ambition...but it's a kewl steam-iron!

Undoubtedly priced right outta my league. (You can't buy a new car for what I paid for my last three put together). But it sure is kawaii. When it comes to lovable, they've got it fixed.
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* It kind of was, though I have not seen a "three on the tree" manual transmission since.

21 comments:

CGHill said...

It's priced in Mini territory, they tell me: in Hyundai-speak, this puts it above the Accent and about even with the Elantra.

What's charming about it is pretty much the same thing that's charming about the Mini: it looks like it's forty years old, yet it's completely up to date.

The Samurai caught a lot of flak from Consumer Reports for an alleged propensity to roll over, though the actual owners never seemed to roll any of them.

joe said...

and if true to form the Fiat available parts train will be 10 years behind it.....

Roberta X said...

Samurais would give you a lot of advance notice before they were ready to roll over; they were excellent seat-of-the-pants cars. And the test procedure simply never anticipated anything as short, narrow and tall. --However, if you you did roll one, even a hardtop like the one I drove? You were going to be badly hurt. They were built with the understanding they'd be driven with caution -- there was even a bold-print, permanent notice in the cab that said as much.

As for prices: I buy used. My present '02 Accent was a $2K special. It's not as nice as the one I paid $5K for. I have this stupid thing about paying cash, you see...

Fiat parts: Remember, I drove MGBs, and did so years after most of the OEM parts were gone, gone, gone.

Timmeehh said...

I love the 500! You should see the special "Essess" version. BTW, the Italians are so afraid of being called fascists now, they spell it out instead of using the universally accepted SS.

http://www.netcarshow.com/fiat/2011-500c_abarth_esseesse/800x600/wallpaper_01.htm

Shermlock Shomes said...

My favorite car was the '63 Ford Falcon (I think it had 3 on the tree) that my Dad had bought for my brother and I. This was '73 or'74. The ball joints were shot and it would pop out of 2nd if you didn't hold the shift lever. But it had an 8-track and somehow we had two tapes I remember: Mitch Ryder and the other was Tiny Tim's first album: God Bless Tiny Tim. I still have the latter as my brother held on to it. God knows why.

John B said...

had me worried, I thought the 500 was the engine displacement in cc's.

Standard Mischief said...

Those 'zukis are commonly driven off-road. They have a two range transfer case and everything. I think many people swap in Toyota electric locking axles and there's even a sweet engine swap, any VW rabbit/golf four-banger (I'd chose a turbo-diesel myself) I guess I'd add a rollcage to the mix too.

If I wasn't elbow deep in another project, and a low-rust one came by with a blown (inexpensive) motor, I'd snap it up right away.

Gewehr98 said...

Owned two Fiat 124 Spyders over the years. Second one was a Spyder 2000 version - I'd buy an updated version of one of those in a heartbeat.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Been seeing those Fiats on Top Gear for a few years now, and I'm glad they're taking a swing at getting back into the U.S. market. Heard the Abarth version is SWEET! Got to drive a Seat 127 (Spanish version of the Fiat 127) back in the day. Excellent car! Actually, we'll be due for a replacement Commuter car in the next couple of years, and the pickings have been a little slim lately. So I hope they get here soon.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Oh, if you get the chance, try to watch the Top Gear Special about the Bolivian Jungle Road Trip. James May chose a Suzuki to drive through the Amazon and the Andes!

BGMiller said...

I dunno....
It kind of looks like one of VW's new Beetle had a one night stand with a Mini Cooper.

Mind you, if it gets the job done reliably I'll happily shut my big mouth and drive one.

BGM

Rob K said...

The only brand new car I ever owned was a 99 Chevy Tracker - the same thing as the Suzuki. I loved it and I miss it. I took that thing all over and did some really dumb stuff with it too.

I learned to drive on a 71 Chevy 1/2 ton pickup with 3 on the tree too.

Homer said...

Years back a friend had a Fiat 850, which taught me what Fiat stands for: Freaking Italians' Attempt at Transportation. I wore out three sets of wrenches on that thing.

With the trend to smaller in full swing, I'm wondering when Honda will bring back the N600.

Tam said...

G98,

"Owned two Fiat 124 Spyders over the years. Second one was a Spyder 2000 version - I'd buy an updated version of one of those in a heartbeat."

Driving back from the grocery store yesterday, I found myself sitting at a sunny Broad Ripple intersection right next to an immaculate BRG Fiat Spider 850, with the little hardtop on.

I swear that thing was barely as long as the Z3's wheelbase and I was looking down on him like I was in an SUV...

Jay G said...

Heh. I owned a 1980 Chevy stepside pickup with the straight six and three on the tree for exactly one day.

I paid a buck for it from a friend as a potential restoration project. Before I could make arrangements to haul it home, his mom called a wrecker and had it towed to the junkyard...

And I never got my dollar back, that bastard...

Rabbit said...

I've put 200k miles on a Sidekick and plan to keep rolling them up. If the engine (ever) lets go, I might swap in a Chevy 4.3 since VW diesels (that fit easily) are getting scarce. On Sammies, if you swap out the rims to those common to Ford F250's with the 6 lug pattern you can add about a foot of track width, which makes them a LOT more sure-footed in quick avoidance maneuvers.

I got on the mailing list for the 500 early-on. Had an email last month offering me $500. off on a 'limited edition' model which might be here in December if I sent a check today for it. Sorry, but I've only bought one car unseen and that was a '79 RX7; One is as far as my luck holds. I sure want to drive the 500, though; if that Abarth is all they promise, I might be in on it.

Tennessee Budd said...

Hell, I still own & drive a three-on-the-tree ('72 Cheyenne). With the current crop of young drivers, the combination of the shifter & no power steering is practically its own anti-theft device.

rickn8or said...

Tennessee Budd--

Just wait until they break the turn signal lever off trying to dim the headlights...

Joat said...

The Samurai was an attempt to copy the old military jeeps, it's is the same wheel base, track width, wheel bolt pattern, about the same horse power and gear ratio also, and they work off road about as good as the old jeeps did to. In stock form they will drive places that the new Wrangler Rubicons can't.

Roberta X said...

The Samurai also had one of the more unusual tire failure modes: the tread never wore out. Eventually, you'd have to replace them because the rubber had aged too much.

If I remember correctly, the last set of tires on the one I drove came from my ex's '81 Jaguar XJ-6, after it was hit and totalled. (And there's another car to miss. Ten years old at the time, the exterior looked terrible thanks to a nasty repaint job -- but the engine and interior, suspension and so on were in great shape. It was quiet and smooth at 90 mph -- at which point you'd look at the speedo and realize you needed to slow way down).

Tennessee Budd said...

Rick, every time I get out of it & into a newer vehicle, I nearly stomp a hole in the floor trying to go high- or low-beam.