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