My own wheels

Forty years ago this week, I got my first car. At the time I was a trainee with Dresdner Bank in Germany, and in order to be able to commute between my home (or rather, my parents’ home) and the office I acquired a car. The car in question was the Fiat 500; the exact model and colour that I got can be seen here.

In many ways the 500 was just a biscuit tin on wheels. It had absolutely nothing that we would now regard as standard in a normal spec. It had no radio, back wiper, heated windows, head rests; it didn’t even have seat belts. Its non-synchromesh gearbox required the driver to conduct intricate exercises for every gear change (press clutch, disengage gear, let go clutch, press accelerator, press clutch, engage new gear, let go clutch – every time!). The only instrumentation told you the speed and the car’s mileage, there wasn’t even an indicator for fuel. The fuel tank itself was in the boot in the front (leaving very little room for any bags or the like), and the noisy, air-cooled engine was in the back. But it did have a fold-back sun roof, and a kind of cruise control (you could engage a lever which would hold the accelerator at its current location and you could remove your foot). And it was mustard yellow. And it was mine.

So here I am, 40 years on and with a new car on order. Inside it will feel more like my living room, as these days even basic cars have amazing sound and entertainment systems. It will have the ability, which I promise never to test, to drive at more than twice the speed of which my old Fiat was capable. But I don’t think I’ll ever love it as much as that first mustard yellow car.

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11 Comments on “My own wheels”

  1. Vince Says:

    On order ?. I thought one placed an order when you needed something with bow thrusters and perhaps ice breaking capacity. Is this new thing so rare that tailored won’t do and bespoke delicately inserted. Ah well, enough teasing.
    You have the best of driving with your new motor. Just as long as the thing starts and goes everything else is flannel.
    I will say though, given the colour of the tin can your follow bankers knew you weren’t long for that trade. Frankly I suspect some of them had an idea you were hurling for another team. Do Westmeath people understand that reference, do you have hurling ?.😀

  2. Al Says:

    Is it Phaeton time???

  3. Anna Notaro Says:

    I was looking at the picture of the Fiat 500 and could not help noting how the color of the car almost matches the color of the man’s shirt, that is intended to convey the idea of ownership of course, it’s *his* car, and that is his girl, the 500 has always been the car for young couples, often their ‘love nest’. The pic’s background, clearly mediterranean in outlook, reminds you that the car is Italian, the flowers on the bottom right of the pic are also yellow, the car is perfectly integrated in the natural landscape, part of it, everything is young and fresh, that was the reason for the success of the 500 model in the first place, it could speak to a whole generation, as any piece of great design from the ’60/’70s (I can think of the Vespa as another one http://tiny.cc/aq30iw), it perfectly encapsulated their aspirations and desires, owning such objects was like a rite of passage, entering adulthood, the long awaited opportunity to do all the things that adults do, to gain independence, nothing later on in life can match that feeling of course but the fact that one remembers it keeps it somewhat alive, forever.

  4. Wendymr Says:

    …even basic cars have amazing sound and entertainment systems…

    That may well be true, but I’d bet my Lexus Rx 330 that your new mode of transport does not remotely resemble a ‘basic car’!


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