Monday, November 21, 2005


Yesterday we braved the cold and the salt and headed up to Saffron Walden for the day, towards the north of our county. (A lovely town it is too. We went on a Sunday and nothing was open, but we will go back another weekend for a Saturday and actually see the place properly.)

It's always a bit of a toss up between leaving the car in the garage to get stale and damp, or braving the elements and running it out for a while, even if the conditions aren't the best they could be. This was one of those occasions. The sun was shining, the ground was dry(ish) and the car could do with a run, so out it came.

(An amusing aside: one nice chap, in his mid '50s I'd say, barely escaped with his life after an off the cuff comment about the car on the Saffron Walden high street. My girlfriend is, well, "protective" of the Fiat. Fortunately she didn't hear him say to me "oh, we used to have one of those - an original of course - many years ago!" I waited until we were far enough out of town to render turning back to find him a task not worth undertaking, before telling her of the conversation. At this point she started spitting something about ignorant Englanders, our car coming from Italy thus being ten times more original than any Fiat 500 sold in Britain, 1971 it was made, &c. Next time I have a conversation like this, I won't mention it.)

Anyway, all in all it was an enjoyable afternoon, but I'm less than comfortable with the fact the car is now sitting back in the garage with a light spraying of salt water under the sills, in the wheel arches and worked in to just about every other nook and cranny salt water can get at.

I was told by one of the mechanics at Paul Matty Sportscars, from where I purchased the Lotus, the best tactic for a classic car to be used all winter is putting it on a ramp somewhere and giving the entire underside a fine spraying with duck oil. I'm not sure how effective this is, but he swore by it, and in my experience these fellows do tend to know what they're talking about. This may well be an option.

I shall ring some local classic car specialists and see if they've heard of the practice. What a shame our rather handy next door neighbour, a lovely man by the name of Roger who services a very wealthy man's 14-car Porsche fleet for a living, has moved on. He would be able to tell me. I'll have to pop in to "The Welly" in Epping and see if he's about ...

Finally, confession time. I still haven't done the forms. But I must must MUST do them very soon. Unfortunately this sort of paperwork is always bottom of the list of priorities. A bit like cleaning the oven, but worse. I know it's worse, because we actually cleaned the oven in preference to facing the DVLA forms this weekend!

Monday, November 07, 2005


Very sadly, the time has come for the Fiat to lose its Milanese license plates. Unfortunately the common market does not extend to automobiles and our little car must receive some British plates if it intends to stay here in the United Kingdom and remain legal. Up until this point, because my girlfriend is still legally a Milanese resident, the car has qualified as a "temporary export" but this grace period with the government will soon expire and we must either return the vehicle to Italy or bring it in to line with British regulation.

At least we can prove its age so it will qualify for the old black and white plates (which always look nicer) - it should be either an old J or a K registration, depending on which side of the 1st August 1971 it was "born". I'm not sure off the top of my head.

The sad thing about this is it will lose its Italian plates completely, which are originals and in the old format (with the MI denoting Milan) and even if re-registered in Italy at a later date it will be issued with a new style plate, which will be just wrong. So far as I'm aware, the Italian system doesn't work like ours (ie: you don't get a plate for the year of your car - you simply get the next plate on the list). It's a real shame, but the law is the law and we have to do it.

So this evening will involve sitting down with half a dozen forms and a black biro, signing the Fiat's plates away.