A 50 Year Wait

When at college many years ago I was forced to visit the library to research some educational philosophy (yawn). I never considered myself an academic and after about five minutes I became distracted and went over to the Technology section where I spotted a book on Italian Car Marques. So, I quickly settled down to thumbing through the pages. If I had given my official studies this level of attention it would have benefited my formal education considerably.

It was in that book that I first saw a photo of half a dozen Fiat 500s, all with lowered suspension, fat tyres, taped up headlamps and boots propped open to cool the engines while flying round a racing circuit. They were called Abarths. I was intrigued, as at the time I was the owner of a rather slow 500D complete with leaky windscreen, which had cost me the princely sum of £92.50. Attending an all-male college made my car the butt of many jokes but it got me from Birmingham to Windsor numerous times and I can still tell you all the places it broke down on the A34 during those three years.

Ever since discovering that black and white image I have had a lingering ambition to drive or even own an Abarth.

Last winter while driving my trusty old Punto we decided to go for a pirouette on some black ice. Sadly, the front got remodelled by a bank and hedgerow. Ah, the wonders of cable ties and Gaffer tape, but it was never going to be a good repair. After driving for a while with one headlamp squirrel spotting and the other wobbling about a bit too much I decided that I had to find a replacement, but I wasn’t really looking very hard.

By chance I went with my son to his friend’s lockup. All the cars were covered with sheets and I was drawn to a small lump of a car. We pulled back the covers to reveal a 695 Turismo, two tone grey with red leather seats. I was invited to start the engine which rumbled into life. How much do these fetch? I asked, and it only took me a few minutes to make the decision – well I needed a car, didn’t I? and after all I had waited nearly fifty years for this opportunity. My son was very encouraging and thought it was a great deal (mainly because he wanted to get behind the wheel). So the deal was done.

A 500 Abarth is probably not the best choice for an everyday car for someone of my mature years. Especially on country roads with adverse camber, potholes, raised white lines and cats eyes. All of which can prove a bit of a challenge, however it is perfectly good on flat road surfaces and motorways. The seats are really comfortable, but the rest is a bit like a go kart. It is of course far too fast for me, but it is great fun at traffic lights. In spite of my occasional lapses into childhood while enjoying the spits and pops from the exhaust, it’s returning 45 mpg. It also looks rather good on the front drive.

So, for anyone out there thinking, shall I? Shan’t I?  –  go for it, because you owe it to yourself.

                                                                                            Ade Long

February 2019 Newsletter

The Fiat 500 Club UK magazine for February 2019 is now available to members.

Contents: Stony Stratford Car Show report, GIU GIU – The 595 Abarth Elaborazione, A 50 year wait  (New 595 Turismo), Fiat 500 Club UK and Instagram

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.


Planning to round off our 500 touring season, we headed off down to Petersfield with Chairman Rod and First Lady Sally and after an overnight stop rendezvoused with Vince and Joy, Paul and Christine, Roger and Janet and Jack in his immaculate D.

Jack had a new engine fitted just before he came and on the journey down it had developed a misfire and done its best to jettison most of its oil.

So the six of us set off for the Portsmouth ferry with Jack coaxing his car along the M3 and determined to get on to the island.

After a very pleasant crossing we made the short trip to Ryde but Jack expired (his car that is) very shortly after landing.  There was little the Fiat Fiddlers could do at this point on a busy road but Simon and Laura, good friends of Jack’s living on the island, came to the rescue with a tow to our digs.  Some intensive Fiat Fiddling ensued and, with the AA man also involved, they managed to cure the misfire but the more fundamental problem of the chronic oil leak remained with all agreeing that this would mean a recovery back to the mainland.

Not a man to be beaten that easily, Jack coaxed the car along short distances for the shows on the first couple of days and then fitted himself into the rear of our car for the remainder of the trip, supplementing our walkie-talkie instructions with semaphore hand signals wherever he could!      

So, after a traditional fish and chip supper the night before, Saturday dawned and we made the scenic overland trip the first day of the show on Newport Quay. This was a great setting with lots of exotic machinery for the men to drool over, the sun shone, there were lots of crowds and we had a chance to explore the delights of the town.                                                     

After a hearty and very sociable evening in a Sandown Hostelry we were up bright and breezy the next morning for the short drive for the second day of the show on the Esplanade at Ryde. The sun shone again and this time we had our own very special display area on a viewing platform suspended over a lake that only 500’s were able to access because of their small size. This turned out to be a delightful day, exploring the sea front, pier and great beaches.   

With the formal business of the shows out of the way we had a couple of days to explore the island and on Monday morning we had a break from the cars and walked along the promenade from Sandown to Shanklin where a reviving coffee awaited before catching the bus back or returning on the IoW coast path, depending on the energy levels.

We then set off in convoy to explore the east coast of the island dropping in at the highly recommended Isle of Wight Pearl Centre where my wallet became somewhat lighter.                

We then visited Jack’s good friends Simon and Laura  (the Good Samaritans mentioned earlier). Simon and Laura moved to the island a few years ago from London and have taken on a wonderful old farmhouse in a very isolated location but with fantastic views. A whole article could be written about the house and our afternoon there but suffice it to say that the house and its gardens were very unusual and would keep Simon and Laura occupied for a lifetime and the collection of cars (including a Steyr and Simca special), spares and memorabilia meant that men had to be physically dragged away when the time to go came. Many thanks to Simon and Laura for their wonderful hospitality!

Steve and I have only been on the island once before for an hour or so but nevertheless, it was agreed by the others that we would be in charge of the itinerary for the last day – a very brave decision.

We headed north to East Cowes and crossed on the chain ferry to Cowes proper causing great interest and amusement to the ferry crew who halted the oncoming traffic for photographs!         

 As we posed for photographs on Cowes Quay, the wind blew Sally’s designer cap into the sea.  This caused great hilarity to the rest of us but distress for Sally. Never fear Vince is here – calling upon his past scouting motto of “be prepared” he quickly acquired a crabbing line and after some expert modifications and a couple of practice casts, he managed to hook the cap and haul it back to dry land to a round of applause from us and quizzical looks from the locals who thought we were bonkers!                 

We then followed the coast road – very dramatic with the wild sea – to the quaint town of Yarmouth for lunch and a bit more exploring. Our final stop of the day was the famous Needles where the more intrepid amongst us ventured to the Old Battery where we explored the historic fortifications and hung on for dear life as the high winds continued to batter the island.  

 We returned back to our digs along the Military Road, which was ranked in the Daily Telegraph’s top ten drives and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Wednesday dawned and we made the short trip back to Fishbourne for the ferry to Portsmouth, some of us nervous about the crossing because of the very high winds, but we need not have worried, the ferry made light work of the crossing with the gale blowing us home.

Regrettably, our favoured route home along the A34 was closed so we had to divert to the M27 and M3 which, given the strong cross winds, was a bit of a white-knuckle ride at times.

Once again we would like to thank all our fellow club members who make these trips so special and full of laughs. And a big thank-you to Florence, our trusty little car, who once again didn’t miss a beat.

                                                                            Mandy Edmonds

December 2018 Newsletter

The Fiat 500 Club UK magazine for December 2018 is now available to members.

Contents: Minutes of the 26th AGM of the Fiat 500 Club; Manchester Classic Car Show; International Classic Car Show on the Isle of Wight; AGM & Winter lunch report; Middle Barton Garage Tour; Club Film Show Report

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.

Vote for your Club!

This year Footman James are on a mission to crown Britain’s Best Classic Car Club in partnership with Practical Classics and the Fiat 500 Club UK needs your help. Click on the image below to vote for your favourite club – which is our Fiat 500 Club UK, of course! Please note, nominations close on 3rd January 2019, and results are announced in July.

“Stuck at the Lights”

If I had a Euro every time I heard “stuck at the lights” it would have paid for my holiday tour.  Other memorable comments are “good, good”, “toppie, toppie” “don’t go without me” and “ice-cream”

I am not experienced in overseas holidays, let alone driving overseas, let alone driving in an unpredictable 1972 Fiat so believe me when I say I was out of my comfort zone more times than I can count.  However, I was not alone when we all had to make a sudden turn off to the left.  What on a Motorway? A left turn? Surely Paul has his left and right mixed up? Surely the Sat Nav is upside down? No both Paul and Sat Nav were correct, pull over the two speeding lanes to join another motorway on the left, we just made it with a couple of chevrons to spare!

The first 2 night’s accommodation could not have been more different.  Night one was on the Harwich/Hoek of Holland ferry – loved it, loved it, loved it.  Relaxing with a beer, entertainment from the local constabulary dealing with a miscreant, who was eventually handcuffed, and literally, carried away face down and, more importantly, millpond seas.  I even got a friend to travel with me – an orange model balloon dog.  After retiring to the very comfortable room (no Sally I did not have a Porthole), I lay in bed after my shower to watch the TV through a camera on the front of the boat, so could see us on the move.  I was pleased that this experience will be repeated on my last sad night.

The second night – Oh my word!!  We loaded the little babes onto the train transporter and went in search of the rooms.  Cramped, hot, no water. I asked if there was a bar or communal area and was told “this is a sleeper train” to which I replied “not at 9pm it is not!”.  The Scanes and I squeezed in with the Shirley’s for the evening and we had a beer or complimentary sparkling wine and made the most of it.  At least the noise drowned out any snoring, and they did do a very good breakfast.  I woke on a stationary train and on peering out of the window was shocked to see commuters peering back in!  Not being en-suite I hoped to sneak out of my cell room, unseen, in my PJ’s, only to be face to face with a nightie clad Dee looking for a working shower – what makes people get up at 5.30am when there is no work to go to!

Don’t panic – I am not going to describe every 16 rooms (otherwise Christine may edit me!), suffice to say some were better than others, only 2 with a bath ☹, and I may take my complaint about discrimination to singletons to the European Commission, having slept in servants quarters whilst the couples had luxury!!  I felt I managed my suitcase manoeuvres fairly well for a first attempt, having a different hotel almost every night does test the sanity, and memory – now what has been worn already?

By the third day I threatened to go home – one more eyeroll from Paul or tease from another and that was it.  Mind you that is what makes these events, it was all given in jest (I hope) and received in jest.   The more relaxed I got the less they were able to successfully tease me, and I knew when to expect an eyeroll 😊.

Time became a source for discussion once we met up with Lidwina/Tom in Holland, and Christina/Barnie in Hungary – I still do not understand why six thirty really means five thirty on the continent or was it the other way round?!  Then there is the question of how many minutes is “prompt” or “at” or “ish”, I just made sure I was early (so they “don’t go without me”!)

Breakfast chats were comparisons – who had a bath (not me), did your shower head light up(!), how comfy the room was, what complimentary items were taken whether needed or not, and, for a few days, a competition over mozzy bites i.e. quality or quantity – I lost on quantity but won on quality and had to make for a Chemist for some stronger cream, but, I am pleased to say my Lake photo is rather good.  Assistance was rolled out from the first person as to how to use the coffee machine, where a spoon or milk was but most importantly in Sopron – don’t put the chopped prunes on your yoghurt as it is actually pickle 😊.  A daily mystery to me was, what seemed, the illogical layout of the breakfast buffet i.e. butter not near the bread, and pickle near the yoghurt!

Evening conversations were, mainly, about the day’s excitement, Fiat Fiddling, splendid views, have we really just parked inside a mountain!  But it became apparent I seemed to be the only one who saw anything smaller than a mountain!  Apart from the Storks which were abundant and made themselves comfortable atop chimneys or electricity posts.  My spots were carrot/asparagus fields, huge chairs, huge bowling pin, Christine narrowly missing a scurrying mouse. But even I could not spot a Pig!

Apart from the standard traffic queues behind us due to our max speed of 50mph, we also caused a few to the side. This was due to being filmed or photographed, we were waved and smiled at, hooted and flashed (all in a good way). Now surely that is why we all drive these lovable cars?

We only got lost twice that I knew about, and that was only some of us, yes you know who you are!  Once when we opted to walk back to the hotel, and within minutes we were onto Google, trying to remember what landmark was in the area to use as a pinpoint, I remembered the name of a little supermarket selling cheap wine!  And the second time, the next day, was in a Car-Park.  Vince and I stood in the lift, for it to wander up and down and deposit us back on the same floor, we could hear the other few sussing out the different staircases and we all made it out safely in the end.  We found out the next day that the lift did not belong to the Car-Park!

We had our fair share of car “issues” but only 2 major(ish) ones, Gino/Dee had 3 concerning hours whilst various diagnostics were tried and tested, finally I believe it was the petrol filter at fault.  Rod/Sally had a similar time when Lidwina thankfully spotted Rod’s engine trying to escape!  A mounting had slipped. We pulled off the Motorway to find a lovely little grassy area, with a couple of trees for shade and “the boys” set too.  Half way in and a gorgeous 1963 Volvo pulled up with a local offering help.  Rod hoped he was about fixed but we took his number anyway.  Unbelievably, 15 mins later Josef rolled up again with his wife and a flask of coffee, biscuits and cakes.

Other issues around the group were – wobbly wheel, 2 punctures (same car, same day!), spark plug cap, 2 fuses (different cars), clutch adjustments, 2 oil leaks (one minor, one major), lost accelerator return spring, juddering first gear, lost window latch, squeaky door, loose nut, replacement points – this is all normal (“no leaking oil, means you have no oil!) but what really matters is that we all got home on our own four wheels.

This holiday, yes holiday, had all emotions running – worry (will I breakdown today), fear (crossing 2 lanes of speeding traffic), apprehension (will I make it up the next mountain) and finally nervousness (will I be arrested at Customs for my herb plant) but that was all part of the fun and was outweighed by sights never seen before, laughs at/with the group, camaraderie, support and forever-lasting memories – a 2,135 miles well spent 😊

                                                                                                Felicity Greenfield

October 2018 Newsletter

The Fiat 500 Club UK magazine for October 2018 is now available to members.

Contents: ‘Stuck at the lights ‘  – Hungary Tour by Felicity Greenfield; Summer Events and Shows  –  photo display; Cheshire Car Shows report by Tony Pomelli; Technical article  –  How to set gear lever linkage.

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.

“Poppy returns home” Tour

Some of you may remember an article in the August 2015 magazine titled “Hungarian Adventure “.

In it Rod and I drove to Sopron in Hungary to buy a Steyr Puch 500 which our nephew had seen for sale on the internet. The car was in a pretty poor condition but we had driven over 1000 miles to see it and so we purchased it. The car had belonged to the Grandmother of Krisztina and Daniel who were selling it and although the car had always been in their life it had not been road worthy so they had never been in it, only their father and mother had used it when they were young. It had been in their garage for over 30 years not used.

During the time that we spent with the family we came to realise how much the car and its history meant to them and Rod promised that we would return one day to show them the car when he had restored it. We named the car Poppy because the old name of Sopron was on the documents, but spelt Popy with one p, and being red it seemed only natural to call the car Poppy. Sopron is a beautiful town full of history and ruins dating back to the Roman times but never in all my wildest dreams did I think we would return.

In September 2015 the car was shown at the Manchester Car Show in the same condition that we had brought it home in. It caused a lot of interest and Rod was even offered a considerable amount of money for it but he intended to keep his promise so would not sell it.

After the Manchester Car Show Rod started on the restoration stripping everything off it. Weenie Fiats did a magnificent job of straightening the body work; apparently, they discovered it had been in an accident where it had been rolled. They put new panels where required, which was nearly everywhere, and sprayed the car its original colour, coral red.

This year, three years later, with hours of work and planning from Paul Anderson the “Poppy Returns Home Tour” plan was ready to put into action. We contacted the family with whom we had kept in touch and were able to organise a reunion. We knew from the beginning that this was going to be an emotional tour and on the 14th of June five cars left the UK, destination Sopron Hungary. We were joined by our Dutch friends Tom and Lidwina in Holland and headed to Dusseldorf where we put the cars on a train and boarded it for the overnight journey to Innsbruck.

Arriving early morning we drove to Stadl-Paura mainly on the autobahn. The next day we drove to Wang to a Steyr Puch meeting which was arranged by the Austrian club. It was here that the rest of our party joined us.

The younger members had flown out as they were only able to tour with us for a week due to work commitments but wanted to be with us for Poppy’s reunion.

The Austrian club made us very welcome and had arranged a ride out with afternoon tea at a beautiful venue and on our return to Wang presented us all with certificates and trophies for making the journey from the UK. From here we drove to Vienna for an overnight stop and were able to do some sightseeing the next day.

On the 18th of June we drove to Sopron to meet up with Poppy’s original family and, as expected, it was a very emotional reunion. I’m sure they were delighted to see what had been done to Poppy and that she had been given a new lease of life but at the same time it was sad for them knowing how many years it had been in their family. Lots of photos were taken and they even recreated a photo they had with their father as a young boy sitting in the car. We had a lovely evening meal with them all and the Father got to ride in Poppy. I am sure it was a very emotional time for him but it was a real party atmosphere during the evening and was over all too soon. We said our goodbyes to the family but not to Krisztina and her husband, Barnabas who had arranged to spend a couple of days with us and take us to some beautiful parts of Hungary.

The next morning, we spent enjoying the old town of Sopron before driving to a vineyard at Kreinbacher. The vineyard had its own magnificent hotel which was to be our home for the next two nights. The food was superb and added to that was the wine tasting experience, so we all had a very merry and unforgettable evening, all arranged for us by Krisztina and Barnabas.

The next day they took us to an area around Lake Balaton, we had a walk around part of the lake it was beautiful and to finish off the day we had a meal up in the mountains overlooking the lake. Life doesn’t get any better than this. On our return to the vineyard that evening we had to say goodbye to Krisztina and Barnabas but not before they had a chance to drive Poppy around the car park, in fact we weren’t sure Krisztina was going to give her back, she seemed very at home in it. We were sad to say goodbye, it had been an emotional roller coaster ride but we were so glad we had achieved what Rod had set out to do three years ago.

The next few days took us to some amazing towns and cities. Graz where we visited the Steyr Puch Museum and had the next day sightseeing there before saying goodbye to our younger members who were flying home that evening.

The next day we drove through superb countryside to Salzburg, followed by Ingolstadt, Ludwigsburg, Rudesheim and then onto Venlo in Holland. I could write a page on each of these places but I fear you may have fallen asleep by now but take it from me every one of these is worth a visit.

Before I go one small incident (well not so small) befell Poppy before we got to Holland. Our Dutch friends happened to be following us on the busiest autobahn I think we have ever been on with huge lorries bearing down on us and overtaking us, and something no one wants to hear was a call on the walkie talkie asking Paul to “get off at the next possible exit as something is wrong with Poppy”. Thank goodness Lidwina knowing something about our cars realised she could see more of the engine below our car than previously. The Fiat fiddlers were soon on the case and it was established that one of the gear box rubber mountings had in fact sheared off and caused the engine to drop on one side. Many people stopped to see what had happened but mainly to take pictures of the cars. Two German men, one we now know as Josef, stopped to help, they themselves were in a classic Volvo car but by this time Paul and Rod were under the car, wheel off and dealing with it. With no luck from any local garages that Paul had rung and Rod realising he had brought the old gear box mounting with him they decided that they could do a road side repair.

Josef gave us his telephone number in case we needed any help and then left. It took us two hours to repair the car and just as they were finishing Josef and his wife Christel arrived with cakes, coffee and soft drinks for us all which were much appreciated. It just goes to show that in whatever country you are in, the classic car enthusiasts share a unique friendship.

After this we continued on our way home. We said goodbye to Tom and Lidwina in Holland and headed for the Ferry and then it was plain sailing, as they say, the rest of the way home. What a memorable tour it had been, we saw so many beautiful places, towns, cities, rivers, mountains but the one that I will mostly remember with affection is Sopron in Hungary where Poppy had come from.

A very big thank you to Paul and Christine, without them this tour wouldn’t have been possible:

To Krisztina and Barnabas, for organising our outings around Hungary and helping to plan the reunion with their family. To Robert, Matthias and Philip Prokschi for their help in supplying parts and entertaining the younger members when they arrived and organising our trip to Wang. To Michael Repka, his wife and father, for arranging a lovely meal in the wine region and leading us safely into Vienna in the dark. To Josef and Christel for being so kind to us in their country and last but not least to everyone that came on the tour with us and made it such a unique and memorable time. Thank you all.

                                                Sally Scanes