Roughly 36 years ago, 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.
I was reminded of this glorious car, which I loved more than any car I have ever owned since, when I saw one of the new Fiat 500s last week. Fiat has not done an at all bad job in recreating the styling and ‘feel’ of the original car, and I’ll bet its fuel consumption is good.
Maybe we all need to get off our fixation with large cars, SUVs and other big beasts of the road, and rediscover the sheer fun of driving small cars with plenty of style, like the Mini and the Fiat 500.