Monday, October 31, 2005

The Long Journey

I've finally managed to copy the journal of our drive from Milan to London in the Fiat from my Greatest Cities blog to this more appropriate home. Visit the January archive and start from the bottom of the page to read about the entire journey.

I should note that following the drive from Milan the car continued to be my girlfriend's day car for a few months, taking her to work and back as well as going on a trip to Southwell. It was around then it took the first trip to Bob.

We had to do about five hundred pounds-worth of work at this point. Half of this went on cosmetics (such as an aluminium number plate lamp), various little bits to get it through the UK MOT and giving it a good service and oil change. The other half was to replace the timing chain (the engine sounded like a broken sewing machine) and the carburettor (which had a split base plate causing the tickover rate to suffer and petrol fumes to invade the car via the heating ducts, not to mention being the original carb it was very old and worn).

And that pretty much brings you up to the first post, Introductions, with the Fiat.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

In Mourning

I lost the roof rack. Some swine out bid me by 56 pence! I suppose it's fair enough really since I decided my maximum was £32 and he decided his maximum was higher and that is, after all, the way eBay works. But I'm still gutted and I'm still looking. So if anyone comes across a Fiat 500 roof rack for sale, drop me a line and you'll be on my Christmas card list forever. I will definitely be interested.

Roof rack aside, some good news. My girlfriend went out to wax the Fiat last Sunday, since it was a beautiful, sunny afternoon in Epping. About ten minutes later I heard the distinctive sound of the little Fiat engine, putt-putting away outside the front door. (She knew I'd recognise the engine sound straight away - nothing else sounds like a Fiat 500. She didn't even need to beep the horn.) I grabbed my coat, opened the door and there she was. "Hop in! Let's go for a spin!"

It transpired that unbeknownst to me, she had tried to push the car out of the garage to wax it in the sunshine. Light as it is, there is a slight incline and once you lose momentum it's game over. She gave up pushing with the car half way out of the garage and stubbornly refusing to shift any further. But before giving up completely and calling me she decided to try and start it. Remembering what happened the previous weekend, this time she didn't pump the accelerator as she turned the engine over. Bingo! It started, no problem. Suspicions confirmed. It was a simple case of flooding. Which is great news, because tow-starting the damned thing every weekend with the runabout was getting tedious, to say the least!

That's all for now, except to say many thanks to Chris and Victoria, who put up with my interuption of their beautifully prepared dinner to run to the Internet and place my final (and pointless) roof rack bid. I'm such a geek.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Roof Racks

Toy Fiat 500 complete with roof rack Approximately a year ago, on a typically stressful visit to Ikea ( in our Fiat 500, as it happened - we only wanted some bits and pieces), we noticed some of their in-store advertising featured a yellow 500 with a roof rack, presumably transporting newly purchased Ikea flat pack furniture and happy owners home from the bustling superstore.

"Perfect!" I cried. "That's just what we need." At that time our only car was the Fiat (or rather, our only car in London) so if we wanted to buy flat pack furniture for example, it was a case of either hire a car or book a taxi. Neither of which are, well, cheap frankly!

Ever since that fateful day I have scoured the planet for a Fiat 500 roof rack and discovered them to be the only commodity actually and genuinely rarer than hen's teeth. I've found luggage racks galour of the variety that clip on to the rear of the vehicle, but not a single ordinary fitted roof rack.

Luggage racks are fine for suitcases and the like, but as soon as you want to transport something a little larger, say a Christmas tree, or perhaps (heaven forbid) a flat packed wardrobe, they're no good whatsoever.

After a not small amount of searching, I had all but completely given up in my quest for a roof rack befitting of a Fiat 500. Given up that is ... until today. For today I noticed someone is selling one on eBay. Hurrah!

Of course, I don't technically need one any more, but who knows when I might, and who knows who might have the car in the future and need one? And so I am going to bid for it. I won't be linking to it, however, for two reasons:
  1. There's no sense in pointing the competition in the right direction
  2. eBay links die after a few months and I'll have to remove it

Knowing my luck however, the AdSense links for this page will probably fire up an eBay link to the only Fiat 500 roof rack for sale in the known universe and I will be lost in the flood of anxious owners, desperate to get their hands on its hallowed tubular steel. Grrrrr...

By the way, apologies for the photograph, but there are so few roof racked Fiat 500s about the only photographic example I could find was this toy. I promise, should I win the roof rack, I will post a photo of it, on my Fiat 500, in this blog so anyone scouring Google for a photo of a Fiat 500 with a roof rack in the future will at least find one suitable picture!

Photograph courtesy of Scale 18.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Interesting Aside

Since this is a slow news week as far as action from the weekend goes (my parents were over for the weekend, so travelling about in the Fiat was, well, inconvenient) I figured I'd document an interesting coincidence.

I wrote a post a little while ago called Temptation where I talk about wanting to get my hands on an original Series 1 Jaguar XJ6. The photograph I chose was an L registered dark red XJ saloon.

My father read my blog for the first time this weekend and commented that this particular photograph depicted the exact make and model of car I had my first ever journey in. Right down to the colour. The only difference is the photograph depicts an L registration which is one year newer than my first carriage, being a K registered vehicle.

How about that? When I was a baby my father owned a K registered dark red Jaguar XJ6 (with cream interior, so he tells me - I couldn't remember) in which I was brought home from hospital. In the words of the great Harry Hill: "What were the chances if that happening, eh?"

He still blames my appearance for having to sell it just a few months later. I think he's joking.

Two other noteworthy items:

1. The runabout got checked over while dad was at my disposal, and apart from needing four new tyres (which is ok, because I spotted that and negotiated a discount) it seems very sound.

2. Apparently my mechanic in Nottinghamshire, where the Lotus currently resides, is finally promising to fix the fuel leak this month. Hurrah!

Monday, October 10, 2005


Indicator and headlamp stalks for a Fiat 500 F or LYou learn new things all the time about old cars. No matter how long you've owned them for, there's nearly always some feature or quirk you never noticed before, awaiting discovery either by some freak of chance or perhaps by the intervention of someone more knowledgable than yourself. Here is one such example:

Take a look at the picture. It's the horn and indicator/headlamp stalks for a Fiat 500 F or L (I think they're interchangeable). Those stalks look and feel pretty rigid when they are attached to the car. They certainly don't look like they're supposed to flex in any direction, so attempting to persuade them to do so was very far from my mind. Until I read Mike England's post, here on the Fiat 500 boards.

It never occurred to me our little Fiat 500, whose interior shares so little in common with modern car interior layouts, would actually have a stalk you can flex forward (like any modern car) to flash the lights. But it does!

And so when the weather turned out to be fine this weekend (better than fine actually - it's unseasonably warm and sunny and has been for days) and we decided to play with the Fiat again this weekend, I couldn't wait to try the newly discovered headlamp flashing abilities. Sure enough, it works great! And a Fiat 500 flashing its little headlamps somehow looks, well, even cuter than ever.

I think I've also discovered the reason for the starting problems as well. We in the IT profession would call it "user error" (or "luser error" if the perpetrator of the crime is particularly irritating - not in this case, I hastily add).

My girlfriend, who tends to drive the Fiat as I prefer to be a passenger in this particular vehicle (the Lotus is "his" and the Fiat is "hers"), often goes first in attempting to start the car. It usually coughs a bit for the first couple of attempts then stops firing completely. When I have a go the starter turns the engine over but fails to create so much as a hint of a spark.

Well on Saturday I believe I discovered why. I looked on over my girlfriend's shoulder as she was starting the car from cold and she was pumping away on the gas while the starter motor was turning. A sure way to flood the engine if it doesn't fire quickly. On Sunday I told her not to pump, but to turn the starter over with a little gas and then only try and catch the engine with the throttle when it actually fires. And bingo, the Fiat started without any pushing or towing.

Hurrah! I'll re-test my theory next weekend, weather permitting.

Photograph courtesy of Ricambi-Automobilia.

Monday, October 03, 2005

A Good Run

Following the panic about garages, we decided it was high time the Fiat stretched its little legs. It hadn't been used for a couple of weeks and the weather was nice and dry on Sunday morning, so we figured we would take the car up to Sawbridgeworth Maltings and have a look at some antiques. (The Maltings host a handful of different antiques stores, so if you're that way inclined and in the Hertfordshire/ Essex/ Cambridgeshire area it's well worth a Sunday visit.)

We pushed it out of the garage in to the sunshine and eagerly set about firing the engine. Or at least that was the plan. The Fiat, however, had other ideas. Having been abandoned in a cold, damp garage for two weeks it seemed to be in what might be considered as the automotive equivalent of a sulk. Arms folded, bottom lip wobbling, looking the other way, refusing to respond to cohersion of any kind.

We knew it was only being beligerant though. We'd been here before. So out came the tow rope ... again. (Push starting a warm 500 is a doddle, but a stone cold one takes more persuasion!) I went to fetch the runabout, hooked it up to the Fiat and within one length of the garage forecourt it was running. And judging by the amount of time we had to keep the choke out for (about 5 minutes compared to the usual 30 seconds) it had gotten very, very cold. Perhaps further anti-garaging evidence? Who knows.

In the end all was well. We had a nice morning out, and after a good run up the road the little car started first time in Sawbridgeworth. It developed a funny rubber-squeaking sound from the back left wheel (as you sit in the car) which concerns me slightly, but I'll deal with that another time. The important thing is that we had fun, the car had a run and everyone's happy!