Decision Time

In 1977 we had need of a second car. A challenging prospect at that time because it had to be economical and cheap!

We were living in a small village in Oxfordshire and by chance we heard that there was a Fiat 500 for sale “behind the garage” in the village. First Registered in 1968, with about 43000 miles on the clock, it was an opportunity not to be missed and so we were introduced to the world of 500’s.

Our children were thrilled and over the years grew to view Toppy with great affection.

She became a real little “workhorse”. Luckily, a friend of ours, who had also owned a 500, was able to service and maintain the car for us and my husband, Jack was always willing to learn along the way. Having, previously, owned a 1937 Morris 8 Series 2 and then a 1947 Morris 8 Series E, he had had some practice tinkering with old cars with help from my Dad and another friend. Inevitably we had the odd hiccup!  I recall one particular incident when the car slowed to a stop and I was some five miles from home. I opened the back and realized that something was missing, the elbow above the carburettor! I walked back along the road to see if I could find it but had no luck. Reluctantly, I had to ring for help! Jack had to get from work to home, change and scour the route that I had taken. Again, with no luck. Scratching his head and wondering what to do next, he put his hand down the back of the engine to discover that it was resting on the apron under the engine! We were soon back on the road.

We used Toppy through all kinds of weather and covered some 10000 miles a year. Another memorable occasion was when I had to get our son, some seven miles, to catch the school bus after a heavy downfall of snow. The little car sailed through the newly fallen snow with no problem, only for us to discover that the bus was not running!

The car could “turn on a sixpence” and so parking was really easy. With such a low powered engine, Toppy enjoyed going down hills much more than up them! On one occasion I greatly challenged a Jaguar driver going down a steep hill. Having built up a good speed, with my son and his friend travelling in the back shouting “overtake”, I did in fact sail past, much to the indignation of the male driver, who then let us know that he could go a lot faster as he screamed past us!

In the following years with the children getting bigger, the space at the back inevitably became cramped. The position of the heater switch was a constant source of their amusement as, without notice, they switched the temperature from extreme cold to sweltering heat.

All was well until, after about four years, the engine blew up at 84500 miles. Jack resorted to trawling all the scrapyards in a ten miles radius for another engine and that is a story in itself. Suffice to say, ultimately, he was successful and we were mobile again. In the next 18 months the milometer was getting close to 99999 miles. Jack took the car to work knowing that it would pass the milestone somewhere on the way home. The children were on Summer holidays so it was arranged that he would ring me so that we could join him and watch the spectacle of the milometer rolling over and starting again.

I shared a school car run and, on another memorable day, I collected my son and his school friend and, on the way home, I could not understand why people passing us were smiling, giving the “thumbs up” and laughing. The reason became clear when I realized that swimming trunks were being held up through the sunroof to dry. Finally, with Rugby kit, musical instruments and other paraphernalia and the remark from my son that “they would soon need to put their legs out of the window”, the replacement engine failed and we reluctantly decided that it was time to retire Toppy and move on to a Fiat 126.

The car had completed 100993 miles and, with work needing to be done, our 500 went into retirement. So Toppy remained, uncovered in the garage. At that point in our lives it was not possible to lay out the money for a restoration. The commitment to a growing family had to be our priority. In later years, it was our daughter’s wish to travel in the car to her wedding but it remained forlorn in the garage!

After an unbelievable 40 years and, well into our retirement, we needed to make a decision! That decision was once again put on the “back burner” as other priorities came to the fore, one of which became our main expenditure priority. Our Daughter, Son in law and Grandchildren were now in Australia! It was becoming a challenge as to whether a restoration could ever happen!

Then, the world faced the Corona Virus pandemic and we went in to “Lockdown”. With our minds focused and life turned upside down we reviewed our options. We had known for some considerable time that the asbestos ceiling panels in our garage had to be removed to conform to building regulations. To facilitate that happening the garage had to be completely emptied. We were at a “T” junction – turn left and sell the car as it was (our daughter, son and grandchildren wouldn’t countenance) and so – we decided to turn right and have it restored.

Where would be the best place to get the task done? Jack and I remembered that at one of the Club’s Annual dinners, a number of years ago, we sat next to the owners of “Weenie Fiats” which had recently opened in nearby Swindon. We had greatly enjoyed talking to Manj and Amelia, the owners, and Manj was clearly very interested to hear that I had been born in India and that my father had been in the Motor Trade there, including servicing Rolls Royce.

We decided to go in and speak to Manj and seek his advice. The emphasis was to retain as much of the original as possible. The following morning, Saturday, Manj came out, gave us an honest and helpful assessment. We had absolute confidence in placing the work in his enthusiastic and capable hands as he winched Toppy into the back of his “Weenie Fiats” van. The adventure of restoration had begun!

Throughout the period, even with lockdown, we have been kept informed of the progress being made and have greatly appreciated all his sound advice which has come from his very detailed and expert knowledge of Fait 500’s. He undertakes the restoration and likes the owner to take some part in the process. With us it was to rub down, paint and spray the wheels. Often one is left feeling that it is the only car being restored! To see the car stripped was somewhat daunting! His workshop is an amazing vista of Fiat 500’s in all states of restoration. It is a clear demonstration that many other people also have complete confidence in his ability to return the little car back to its former glory! Manj’s meticulous attention to detail, obvious enthusiasm and superb workmanship throughout the process has manifested in us now having a beautifully restored Fiat 500.

Road testing the car was a nerve wracking experience after so many years!  How things have changed Off the road since 1982 means that it pre-dates DVLA records and we have had to apply to register it with its original number plate. A complicated process for which we have needed authentication by the Club and Secretary, Paul, supported by his wife, Christine’s, guidance, advice and assistance have been invaluable.  

Hopefully, by the time this article is in print, we will be able to take Toppy on the road with its original number plate registered with the DVLA. We may only make it to Rallys and Events near to us but, thanks to Manj’s undoubted consummate expertise, we now have a gem of a much loved little car.

                                                                            Gillian Thornton

June 2021

The Fiat 500 Club UK magazine for June 2021 is now available to members. Contents include:

Minutes of the 28th AGM of the Fiat 500 Club (via Zoom on Sunday 21st March 2021); The sun roof of the 500 – A sports story by Guus Belien; Decision time  by Gillian Thornton; Speedy Gonzalez naked again! by Felicity Greenfield

Members can access this issue in the ‘members only’ Magazine section HERE but only if you are registered.

An uplifting experience

Ever since I started Fiat fiddling I have always thought that a car-lift would be a great addition to my garage. The problem that I had, as have most other car fiddlers, is the ceiling height of our garages. So for years I have been searching for a suitable lift but to no avail.

Back in 2019 my wife and I decided that it was time to downsize so we sat down and made a list of must haves for our new home. On my list was a four car garage with a high ceiling, not too much to ask for.

When we moved at the beginning of 2020 did I get my wish list? In one word, NO!

Once we had emptied the garage of all the boxes from the house move I assessed how best to use my two car garage with an 8ft ceiling height.

With plenty of time on my hands (due to lock down) I put up a new ceiling, installed new lights and decorated it throughout. My next task was to go onto the internet to see if there is now a mid-height lift suitable for low ceiling garages. I came across an American manufactured lift called MAXJAX with a UK agent, what a great result.

NO, as it turned out, MAXJAX had gone bust so no stock was available. I did some more searching and discovered that a new company had taken over the manufacturing rights of MAXJAX. A quick phone call to the new company in the US established that indeed they had started up production again. After a few more emails and phone calls I found a new MAXJAX agent in Holland and, even greater news, they had stock.

I talked to this company and the only advice they had was that to make sure that when this lift is bolted down to the floor the foundation of the garage is able to hold fixing bolts of 90 ft-lbs torque.

Within two days of ordering the lift it was delivered on a vehicle with a tail gate lift, the weight is over 10cwt so a heavy box. Once I had unpacked the lift my first job was to test the structure of the floor which I suspected would not be strong enough as the property is built on piles. My worry was proved to be correct so a builder was called in to strengthen the floor under the two lift uprights, only a days’ job.  I then lined up the two uprights, as per the instructions, and drilled the five fixing holes into the floor for each upright to secure them to the ground. Once in place each bolt has to be torqued to 90 ft-lbs hence why the floor needs to be strong enough to withstand these pressures

Another great advantage with this lift is that the uprights are on wheels so if you need more space in your garage you can unbolt them and store it in a difference area.

When I connected the hydraulic hoses to the pump it was time to test the lift and I did so without any cars being lifted.

As testing went without a hitch it was now time to try a car on the lift, which I can confirm was a very tense moment. With the car going up inch by inch and my checking it every few seconds, the only other problem was making sure that the roof of the car did not hit the ceiling before the lift reached its maximum lift height. I can confirm that I had only two inches to spare.

So now, with the lift in constant use, was it worth all the effort? I can say a big YES and to any member thinking of fitting a car-lift in their garage, please get in touch with me so I can point them in the right direction.

The company who supplied my car-lift from Holland is LiftMotive and their website is www.liftmotive.com

                                                                               Rod Scanes

April 2021

The Fiat 500 Club UK magazine for April 2021 is now available to members.

Contents: 1971 Fiat 500 – coming out of retirement!!; An uplifting experience; Fiat 500L in a van!!; I don’t want an Electric 500; Our new edition….; Gamine Register request

Members can access this issue in the ‘members only’ Magazine section HERE but only if you are registered. If you are a member, but can’t get access you can register for your access code when you are asked for your username (at the bottom of the screen) – please have your valid Membership Number ready. Please note, we do check this before accepting registrations and it could take up to a week to get access approved.

AGM: 2021 (MEMBERS ONLY)

As detailed on page 20 of the Februrary 2021 magazine, our AGM and Winter lunch in November at Sharnbrook Hotel had to be postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The AGM was re-arranged at Sharnbrook for Sunday 21st March but, as this can no longer take place due to the continued restrictions, a Zoom meeting will be held on the same date (21st March) and at the same time (11.30am).

This meeting is for Fiat 500 Club members only.

Those members wishing to attend the Zoom meeting MUST register their interest by thending their name and membership number to the Club Secretary at secretary@fiat500club.org.uk by the end of Sunday 7th March 2021.

February 2021

The Fiat 500 Club UK magazine for February 2021 is now available to members.

Contents: New Electric Fiat 500 – report by Steve Rider, Club President; Lapland aka Silverstone Track; To EV or not EV, that is the question……….

Members can access this issue in the ‘members only’ Magazine section HERE but only if you are registered. If you are a member, but can’t get access you can register for your access code when you are asked for your username (at the bottom of the screen) – please have your valid Membership Number ready. Please note, we do check this before accepting registrations and it could take up to a week to get access approved.

The new Fiat 500 Electric

The New 500, the first fully-electric vehicle from FCA will be arriving in 2021 alongside the current 500 which is the bestselling city car in Europe. So, rather than add a bunch of fiddly details, Fiat’s gone back to basics for the new 500 and made it look smoother, more rounded and even more minimalist than before.  The New 500 is a little wider, longer, the wheelbase is broader and even the wheels are larger, while the interior boasts a roomier passenger compartment. Also, Fiat have unveiled the Fiat 500 3+1 which makes the New 500 even more accessible.

The 500 returns to Turin and will be built at the FCA Mirafiori plant in the city. It’s the first fully-electric vehicle designed from the ground-up on an all-new platform from Fiat. Orders for New 500 in December with first UK customer deliveries expected in March 2021.

Pricing and specification announced, priced from £19,995 OTR (inclusive of PiCG). It’s available as Hatchback or Cabrio, with three trim levels – Action, Passion and Icon, with two battery options – 24kWh and 42kWh, with up to 85kWh fast-charging.

There are also two motor options – 70kWh and 87kWh.  0 – 62mmph 9.0 secs, top speed 93mph, with a range of up to 199 miles (WLTP).

The specification highlights through the range include level 2 autonomous driving, AVAS, 10.25-inch touchscreen, Dynamic range mapping, charging point locator, 360-degree parking sensors, wearable key and passive entry.

The New 500 3+1 four-door (only available in LHD!)

A more (slightly) practical version of the standard 500. Fiat designers have been working on a smart solution with identical dimensions to the cabrio and hatchback versions, but with a small third door on the passenger side, just like the first 500 in 1957, which featured doors hinged to the rear.

The result is a new body, to add to the hatchback and cabrio, with unchanged dimensions. The only difference is a weight increase of only 30kg, with no effect on the car’s handling or range. The third small door opens in the opposite direction, and given the lack of a centre panel in the door itself, means rear passengers can jump in more comfortably and load and unload large items more easily.

For more information on any of the New 500s visit

www.fiat.co.uk/500-electric.

Review from the Press launch, courtesy Rockingham Cars

Noddy

In 1970 I was working in Malta and was looking for a replacement for my Nash Metropolitan car when I saw an advert in Vogue magazine for Aquascutum featuring a Vignale Gamine.

I tracked the car down to Frixos Demetrious’ showrooms in London – a very strange set up – and on my next visit to England bought one. (The price then was £700 which compared with the £769 cost for an M.G. Midget.)

It was love at first drive, which was an epic one from London to Malta.  Noddy caused much interest along the route and nearly brought traffic to a halt when I drove round the Arc de Triomphe, very reminiscent of the scene in the Jacques Tati film Traffic.

When I stopped for a night in Calabria the owner of the hotel insisted I drove it into the foyer as he was worried it might be stolen.

After 2 enjoyable weeks “on the road” my little car and I arrived safely in Valetta, it having lived up to the advert which claimed it would be stylish, colourful (I chose bright blue from an array of 60’s hues), parkable, economical (it averaged 55 miles per gallon) and fun.

When Mintoff forced all serving Forces personnel to leave in the 70’s my car was transported back home by boat.  Straightened finances for the island caused a change of heart and we were all invited to return.  Noddy and I then did another epic trouble-free drive from London to Malta.

Along the line I acquired a second Gamine in bright red (very Noddy like) which I kept in England.  When I finally returned to the U.K. I drove my cars on alternate years.  They were used everyday until 2018 when new hips – mine not theirs – necessitated buying a new car, inevitably the new Fiat 500!

I still have both cars.  Blue Noddy, having had one careful lady owner from new, is now being restored but sadly Red Noddy has been used for some spare parts.

Hopefully I will be back in the driving seat of my little much-loved car, which always makes people smile, next summer.

I was delighted, during a visit to Sorrento last summer, to be allowed to be photographed in an immaculate Red Noddy belonging to the owner of the hotel in which I was staying.

I never expected to be a cover girl at my ripe old age and was delighted to discover myself being just that on the August 2020 Fiat 500 News.  What a surprise!

                                                                                   Mave Turner

December 2020

The Fiat 500 Club UK magazine for December 2020 is now available to members.

Image of magazine

Contents: Noddy, the story of Mave Turner’s Gamine; Lego 500; The Portable Pumpkin; The New 500 Electric; Sky Drive – the new look roof of Lingotto

Members can access this issue in the ‘members only’ Magazine section HERE but only if you are registered. If you are a member, but can’t get access you can register for your access code when you are asked for your username (at the bottom of the screen) – please have your valid Membership Number ready. Please note, we do check this before accepting registrations and it could take up to a week to get access approved.

Capesthorne Hall

At last with the lockdown measures easing a car show to attend in my classic 500! Having just completed an engine rebuild during lockdown with the great help of Craig Anderson (albeit remotely) this would have been the furthest the car had travelled. Knowing my luck, it would probably end badly on the side of a road!

Capesthorne Hall is a perfect venue for a car show which I have been meaning to attend for a few years. The weather was good and I made my way there with my dad (and chief mechanic) riding shotgun. Normally at the North West events I am the only classic 500 in attendance. However, this time was different. No fewer than four other 500s were there, one of which was fresh out of restoration and looking fantastic. Chatting to the owners and looking round the different cars is always good fun, as is swapping stories of how we came to own them. Having swapped ideas, tips, tricks and updates it was time to set off home.

To my great delight all went well, no problems at all. The engine didn’t miss a beat which is credit to Craig’s great advice! Overall, the show was fantastic with cars from different eras so it catered for every possible interest. It was very well organised and with all the various safety measures to keep everyone secure. I think it was a great success. Anyone around that area should definitely consider a visit even if it’s just to see the hall itself.

                                                                         Carlo Alberti

To Bicester or Not to Bicester, that is the question!

I really wish I was a natural early starter, my 6am journey to Bicester was most enjoyable with mist lying low in the fields and a glowing sunrise.  I arrived on time to meet up with 6 others, to be greeted with “Tinker shouldn’t be here, it’s no dogs”.  I didn’t want to go home so we just hoped no-one would notice her!  We did well till around lunch time, when I was approached by Security saying she had had to report me to her Manager who was on his way over, and thought it a rubbish rule.  Said Manager arrived, also agreeing it was a rubbish rule but had had to report me to the Event Organiser and could I “do anything with her tomorrow”, but no I could not as I was in a hotel overnight.  Tinker then spent the day either in the marquee with me or if I went for a wander she was in the car, which has plenty of air holes as we know too well, however like the owner she is happy to do nothing all day so was content.

The event was not very busy on Friday, which was just as well as we had to pay particular attention to the marquee and tent to ensure they did not blow away, but the sun was shining down on us and it was lovely to sit and chat.  Although it was not busy we still had plenty of interest, some joiners and 1000’s of smiles.  A photographer took a shine to Tinker who was watching him out of the window, and he wanted to take some photos of her and the car, it turned out he was from The Telegraph, now as gorgeous and cute as she is, even I did not think she would match up to the immaculate vintage Rolls or tip-top Mustangs etc to make publication

We were told we could leave around 5, so with some trepidation that I may not be allowed back in the next day, I said my goodbyes and went in search of my Hotel – which was a pub 😊.  Being a rather frugal, some say mean, Midlander I found the beer rather pricey so, after a pie and a pint, went for a wander through Bicester centre but not much was happening so I squeezed back into my miniature bedroom and watched TV with a bottle of beer I had with me.

The next morning, I went to the show early to try to sneak in without Security but they beat me, and were more concerned that I did not have a Smart phone for Track and Trace so in I drove, dog and all.  We had just re-erected the tent and marquee when Security came around again and I was frog marched off to the Organisers tent – I was tempted to take Tinker for the walk but thought that may not be the best idea!  Anyway, I explained again and the organiser agreed it was a rubbish rule and said she would allow me to stay, I thought it was more of a case of easier to hide the dog that do a Health & Safety Risk Assessment allowing me to leave a busy public event!

I could not believe it when Tinker and Speedy took over a third of Page 2 in the Sunday Telegraph, and just hoped the public and Event Organiser did not see it till Monday!  The picture above was one the photographer did not use, but I think is brilliant – “if you don’t want me here, I’ll just leave”

                                                                                           Felicity Greenfield

October 2020

The Fiat 500 Club UK magazine for October 2020 is now available to members.

Contents: Classic Car Drive In Weekend at Bicester Heritage; Hever Castle Classic car Show, 1st August 2020; Local shows in Kent; Capesthorne Hall car show; Cowley Classic Car Show on tour

Members can access this issue in the ‘members only’ Magazine section HERE but only if you are registered. If you are a member, but can’t get access you can register for your access code when you are asked for your username (at the bottom of the screen) – please have your valid Membership Number ready. Please note, we do check this before accepting registrations and it could take up to a week to get access approved.

At last!

The day we had all been looking forward to……. the chance to drive our cars and go to an event!! The ‘Clear your mind drive and pizza’ at the Sharnbrook Hotel.

We all met at a car park near Great Denham and each parked 2m apart. Lovely to see everyone but still strange to have to keep our distance to chat.      

One person who was originally booked to attend was Felicity (& Tinker, her dog) but due to further lockdown measures in Leicester, she was not allowed to leave the city!!

A lovely scenic drive (thanks to Amy for planning this) through some very picturesque villages, great to be back in convoy – 9 classic 500’s and 1 new model.

Arriving at Sharnbrook we were marshalled into place by our host Ciro and then we had more time to catch up with people.         

Pre-ordered and pre-paid pizza and soft drinks were then delivered to us and we sat at socially distanced picnic tables – the most enjoyable Al fresco dining experience.

All too soon it was time to leave but everyone certainly enjoyed themselves. Thank you to Ciro for suggesting the event for car clubs and to Laura for organising our get together. Let’s hope there will be some more events to attend before the end of the year.

Christine Anderson

A (very) amateur mechanic

I was on another Fiat website recently where a thread was asking what tools were included in their car’s toolkit, which got me thinking (having little else to do!)…

When I first became interested in cars most came with reasonably comprehensive quality tool sets (think Jaguar, MG etc), and most fastenings were Whitworth & BSF. Both used the same size spanners, albeit one size different. My spanner set consisted of Williams spanners, comfortable, well made & quite a thick profile.

Moving on and a change of allegiance to Rootes required a new spanner set in AF sizes. Rootes bean counters dictated that bolts in general be dropped one thread size smaller. I also found that the engineering, although pretty basic, was simple, logical & easy to work on with 4 spanners (3/8”, 7/16”, 1/2” & 9/16”) covering most fixings. Some special tools were needed for major work but a 1/2” drive Elora socket set proved to be a useful purchase.

Fast forward a few years, maturity(?) and available finances produced a Peugeot 205GTi. A magic flying machine but gone is the easy access to anything and the increasing use of mastics, single use plastic fastenings & clips. Hidden locations didn’t help & necessitated a set of removal tools.

Of course, a set of metric spanners was now needed together with On Board Diagnostic Readers & computers. It’s now becoming nigh on impossible to fix problems without needing a visit to the local dealer.
Now retired it’s back to the future & I’ve free time to indulge in a 1964 500D. Quite surprisingly the official toolkit comprises 2 open ended spanners, a wheel nut spanner, screwdriver, plug spanner, pliers, in its own plastic box I found to be perfectly adequate. A couple of BA spanners for the electrics & a test light cover the essentials. Obviously, life is easier with a few extra sockets for the more adventurous jobs.

Now I’ve learnt over the years that quality counts and you get what you pay for. I was disappointed to find that now I could afford Britool tools they had been sold off to Draper/Stanley eventually to become a 2nd string to ridiculously expensive Facom with a certain loss of quality. Searching the internet tool shops I’ve managed to buy the original n.o.s spanners I wanted and have never regretted the extra cost; after all combination spanners double as both open ended and rings and all the main sizes needed are 8, 10, 13, 15, 17 & 19mm. Add some 3/8” sockets and Bob’s yer uncle.

Once upon a time a bolt was just a bolt which fitted a certain size of spanner. Now we are confronted with an increasingly large range of fastenings including hexagonal, socket, spline, cross, Philips, Pozi, et al; all of which confusingly require a different spanner type.

Thank goodness for simplicity of FIAT 500’s for “a simple life”.

Derek Baty

August 2020

Contents: At last!!   ….post Covid event; My first Fiat 500, including ignition technical tip; Reminisces of a (very) amateur mechanic; A bit of nostalgia; We’re all going on a summer holiday..(sometime?)

Members can access this issue in the ‘members only’ Magazine section HERE but only if you are registered. If you are a member, but can’t get access you can register for your access code when you are asked for your username (at the bottom of the screen) – please have your valid Membership Number ready. Please note, we do check this before accepting registrations and it could take up to a week to get access approved.

Our Fiat 500 Giardiniera

My fondest memory of going out in our beloved Fiat 500 Giardiniera is when my dad and I attended a microcar rally in September 2019. The ride was usual for a classic car – windy, quite loud and absolutely amazing. The day was strangely nice for the time of year and the open top allowed the sun to come into the car, illuminating the interior and highlighting its austere beauty.

My first memory of the rally was driving to the visitor’s entrance, where we were told our car should be in the main event. We immediately jumped at the opportunity and drove around to the display car park. We were right on the edge of the rally but our car was quite prominent and afterwards, I found a photo of it on Google, which was cool. We walked around the other cars and it was intriguing to find out about them and what makes a microcar (it’s because it has an engine of 500cc or less, so the Giardiniera was only just eligible for microcar status, because its 500cc) and the cars there were quirky and the sort you would never usually see, like the Peel P50, made infamous by Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear.

Despite the huge array of weird and wonderful cars surrounding me, there were no other Giardinieras there, which made me slightly sad because I love Giardinieras but many people have never heard of or know anything about them and this was a place I’d hoped we may find someone else who loved them like we do.

Despite this, I also felt proud to own such a rare and unusual car, in a place where the Reliant Robin was common and even bland in comparison to some of the other cars.

This event was memorable to me because it was the first time I became really interested in cars, especially small cars that were deemed fast if they could beat a Vespa in a drag race. The craziness of them astonished me and really got me interested in how strange and ingenious cars can be.

The trip home was a completely different experience to me, as I realised that even this tiny Giardiniera was a huge feat of engineering and I was so aware that, even if the ride wasn’t perfect, there were huge gaps between the door and frame and the noise of the wind when you go beyond 35mph is unbearable, it’s still an amazing piece of machinery to look at and experience first-hand.

This event was also very special to me because it was the last car event I went to with my dad, the owner of our precious car, before he sadly passed away, meaning I won’t be able to get his insight and knowledge about cars at events again so I have done my best to remember every detail perfectly. He too was enthusiastic about cars, especially Giardinieras so that is how I learnt about them and almost every other car, too.

                                                                                                Billy Smith

Editor’s note:  We welcome Billy to the Fiat 500 club as a junior member – so sorry to hear about the loss of his Dad but pleased that Billy is taking over his Dad’s membership. Hope Billy is able to take this very special car to more events in the future.

My Fiat 500s and the club (from my perspective)

I wrote about my highly modified 1967 Fiat 500 in this magazine in 2018 and since then, have completed the body painting to make it look quite smart (see below). The bonnet is propped open at the rear edge to allow cooling air to exit after passing through the front mounted radiator (hence also the grille below the moustache badge).

The car has a 180bhp Suzuki Hayabusa 1,300cc motorcycle engine and gearbox, mid-mounted behind the driver, which gives it a sizeable turn of speed and a fairly thrilling ride if you use it hard. (0-60 is 4 sec – in 1st gear!). In truth, it’s too much power for such a small, tall and narrow car but great fun.

I was planning to hill climb it but have now shelved that (expensive & dangerous) idea and decided to soften the suspension, tuning it for road use rather than the very hard track setting which I had arrived at previously. It is now firm but compliant and quite ready for Fiat 500 Club events whenever we are allowed to get back to them. Of course, sharing the cabin of the car with a large, powerful, noisy and hot engine does have its drawbacks (even though it is inside an insulated, fire-proof box) but ear plugs and all windows & roof open just about sorts it. However, if it rains, it is a bit like driving a kettle. The bright green paint is the main thing people notice when I drive through villages – it is an extreme and cheerful colour which suits this characterful little car very well. I always drive slowly through villages and towns and it is only on the open road that I let it rip occasionally. Particularly good fun when I find an unsuspecting BMW or Audi 😊.

On track, foot to the floor, scampering round a 1st gear hairpin bend.

However, I have glossed over the main point – now that we have no club tours, events, meetings or shows to go to due to Coronavirus, life has become quite empty. It makes me realise how much I enjoy these events and meeting all the friends and members of our club who turn out for them, both regulars and virgins – the latter instantly turned into the former when they realise how much fun it is. (I think that came out OK.)

I have been using my other Fiat 500, a standard 500R, for as many “essential” journeys as possible. It’s driving this, and the green car above, that always reminds me how much pleasure they give me and also the people I pass driving through villages – young children pointing, smiling, waving, etc. I think uncontrolled laughter is crossing the line so, in cases like this, I usually give them a really hard Paddington stare. If I get in too deep, Frank protects me – he is my Jack Russell co-driver who goes everywhere with me. He much prefers the 500R because 18bhp is much easier to cope with than 180!  He’s not very good with hard cornering but especially braking – ends up in the footwell and, if he’s lucky, still on his bed. Still – could be worse – Amy could take him for a “nice walk”.

Keep safe chaps and I look forward to seeing you all when we’re allowed to mass gather once more.

                                                                                              Colin Smith

June 2020

The June edition of the magazine should now have arrived in the post for all Fiat 500 Club UK members.

Contents: LOCKDOWN EDITION: Italian wedding and more…; CTC 86E owner found!!; Lego model build; Not so much of a Lock-up as a Lockdown; Our Fiat 500 Giardiniera; My Fiat 500s and the Club (from my perspective); It pays to shop around

Members can access this issue in the ‘members only’ Magazine section HERE but only if you are registered. If you are a member, but can’t get access you can register for your access code when you are asked for your username (at the bottom of the screen) – please have your valid Membership Number ready. Please note, we do check this before accepting registrations and it could take up to a week to get access approved.

London Classic Car Show Report

Show report from the London Classic Car Show Olympia London 20-23 February 2020

2020 marked the next chapter in the history of the London Classic Car Show as it moved to the prestigious Olympia London in Kensington. It was previously held at Excel London.

Now in its sixth year, The London Classic Car Show has firmly established itself as the must-attend event for discerning classic car owners, collectors, connoisseurs and enthusiasts. This was the third consecutive year the Fiat 500 Club was invited to display in the Car Club area, this time located on the gallery of this fine Victorian cast iron building with the bonus of natural light flooding in from the vast glass roof.

Our load-in slot was Wednesday evening which involved each of our cars taking an industrial lift to the gallery, a first for all of us. We had been allocated a very long plot which enabled our five cars to have space to show them off to full effect.

Taking centre stage, Laurie’s immaculate cream 1964 500D was transported by trailer from Essex and this was the owners first experience of a Fiat 500 Club event. It is to be hoped that it will not the last as it would be fair to say this car was the highlight of our stand. With only 22,000 miles on the clock and one previous owner it was a lucky “barn find” in 2016 which has been painstakingly restored by Laurie with the assistance of Alto Autocare. Several admirers across the weekend made offers to buy it such was its desirability.

Botty- Vikki’s gorgeous pale blue 1965 500F – made a welcome return and is becoming a popular fixture at the big events with the Fiat 500 club. Vikki had very cleverly rigged up a digital photo album in the side window with a slide show of photos of the car being transformed from a wreck to a beauty. After spending 30 years in a Hampshire garage patiently waiting for her engine to be rebuilt, Botty found herself on eBay. Restoration work started in April 2016 and was completed in December 2018. The car was also selected to be featured in the official show guide, thus ensuring the classic Fiat 500 and our club was represented amongst all the super marques.

Having been driven from Cambridge on a dark, wet Wednesday evening by a friend of the owner, who had never previously got behind the wheel of a Fiat 500, Paul’s navy blue 1970  500F made it on to the stand in the nick of time before loading bay doors were bolted shut. The car was on the club stand at the LCCS in 2018 and was welcomed back this year. With its cherry red upholstery and matching mohair roof, it is the perfect contrast to the navy bodywork. Its understated good looks received plenty of admiring looks.

The oldest car on the stand was courtesy of James with his 1959 500D which he drove from south east London. The car is a rare right-hand drive model and has many original characteristics of the earlier 500N including the original 500N fitted petrol tank also showing no ashtray in the centre of the dash. Remarkably it has only had 4 previous owners. James has had it in his possession for the last 9 years and regularly displays it at club events.

In contrast the youngest car on the stand was my red 1973 500L, fully restored by Weenie Fiats in 2011 with a nod to Abarth styling. The restoration included a bare metal re-spray in Rosso Corallo, fitting a 650cc engine from a Fiat 126, synchro gears, sporty alloy wheels and disc brakes. It has 38,000 miles on the clock. I had a surprise when the car’s previous owner introduced himself to me at the show, so I got more background history about it.

The show was constantly busy with over 25,000 visitors across the weekend. Compared with the previous two LCCS we found the visiting public to be a highly engaged audience. It was a pleasure to chat to many members of the club who took time to join us on the stand for a chat across weekend.  New members joined up at the stand and along with this, interest in our cars was high with a few visitors commenting owning a Fiat 500 would be their entry point into the world of classic cars. Dante Giacosa got it so right when he designed this car; it has become an icon.

On Sunday, we were told by an attendee our stand was the best in the show which reflected well on all the hard work put in the by the team. I am indebted to Vikki, James, Laurie and Paul for displaying their beautiful cars. Janet, Roger, Paul and Christine for bringing the backdrops and banners and Suzanne and Julian for staffing the stand on Saturday. A second mention for Vikki who was my wing woman on Friday and Sunday, assisting with the constant stream of visitors asking all manner of questions about the cars or sharing fond memories of their experiences with Fiat 500s in the 1960’s and 70’s. One man told me that, as a small child in the late 60’s, his father had one and trips out consisted of his dad driving, his mum in the front seat, his 2 grandparents in the rear with him and his 2 younger siblings on the laps of the adult passengers. Family motoring at its best!

The organisers of London Classic Car Show have now announced it will return to Olympia on 18-22 February 2021.

                       Lisa Bardsley London and SE Events rep