What an ordeal this has been. As always, I am looking around to buy another classic car, another hooptie, or another lump of iron. This time I may have outdone myself.
Recently, I purchased a 1972 FIAT 500 F that was recently imported from Sicily. I found the car online, and thought the price was excellent, so I made the call. The car was 75 miles from home, in the possession of a very nice Italian man named John. John was a former racecar driver, with a collection of over 40 vehicles, ranging from Ferrari to Maserati, to Alfa Romeo to about 10 FIAT’s in all colors and sizes. Not knowing a thing about the cars, and as excited as a school kid, I chose the first car I came across. It was an orange 500 with black interior.
John made the offer to trailer the car back for me, but I decided to drive it home, not knowing that a Sicilian squirrel had been using the intake as storage for acorns for the past few years. Needless to say, the trip was a short one. Several months later, and with a mechanic bill that was physically painful to pay, the car is finally in tiptop shape. Ready to drive. The Massachusetts Registry had other ideas. Since the importer of the vehicle never titled the car, I would have to ask him (the seller) to title it, and then transfer the title in my name. It was a bridge too far for me, and a process that would have taken months. Instead, with some quick thinking, I was able to have the car registered by the importer in New Hampshire, and the use a bill of sale to title in MA. This took three days, and finally I was on the road.
The FIAT is unlike any other car I have ever driven. First, to say the car is small is an understatement. Fitting two people in the car at the same time qualifies as sex. The car is so small that one of the two people in the car my shift his/her shoulders, since the car is not wide enough for two. The car is noisy. Once it gets warmed up, the choke can be pushed in and it becomes quieter, but it is still loud overall. Driving is a little like driving something that was built by schoolchildren, in a shed, with no tools. It shakes, it seems to bend and flex, the doors and windows vibrate, of course the roof is fabric and the tiny 12 inch tires seem like they will roll off the rims. With 13 horses, the joke is there are so few that I have named them all…until you find out that one actual horse equals 13 horsepower…so my horse is named buttercup.
The car is miniscule, and everywhere you go people start to laugh and make comments. But the car is just a blast to drive. Being so small, every single lane road is like a racetrack, since there is enough room in the 8’ wide lane to hit apexes and the like. 20mph seems like 200, and winding through the gears is just a blast. Despite all its faults, the car is amazing. It makes me laugh and has me thinking up places to go every day. Would I recommend it? Not in a million years, and I am sure I already regret owning it, but I love every minute of that regret.
Below is an updated gallery showing the car as it is today (Sept 2021). These photos show just how perfect my little Palmina is.
Article by Chris Raymond
Photos by Chris Raymond