RUN BY Martin Buckley
OWNED SINCE April 2009
PREVIOUS REPORT March 2018
Given its left-handidness and the fact that it is now reasonably dependable (I took it on a photoshoot in Swansea with no problems in March), I decided that the Fiat 130 Coupé was the natural candidate for a forthcoming trip to the Le Mans Classic, organised by my friend John Holland. With all fluids checked, the appropriate wind in the #Michelin-XWX
tyres and the air horns mended by mechanic Gus Meyer (using an Edelweiss compressor, not Marelli, strangely), we set off three-up with wife Mia in the rear – which was no hardship because there are big armchairs and loads of legroom – and my pal Merrill as a 6ft 5in front-seat passenger. It was the longest trip I had tackled in the car, certainly since the gearbox conversion was done.
In convoy with our host John in a borrowed Datsun Fairlady, we drove from my shed on a perfect Thursday evening. Chaperoned by Leslie and Chris Marsden in a modern, we had a cracking back-roads trip to Southampton in the twilight, skirting Salisbury Plain.
The Fiat is now a nicely high-geared car for long trips and I was happy enough that its various drive train wobbles had been suppressed to a point where they would no longer drive me daft. In fact, with the wheels balanced the car is extremely smooth at speed and very competent on narrower, twistier roads, taking a wide variety of surfaces and cambers in its stride. Certainly it rolls a lot and feels under-damped at the back, but I can’t decide if this is age/wear or just what a Fiat 130 feels like.
Our subsequent adventures are worthy of a column (see Backfire) so I will say no more, other than that the Fiat only disgraced itself by somehow deciding it didn’t want to put its engine fan on in the roasting heat. That was fine on the move, but not so good when we were lining up to get off the ferry.
We made it without further incident to our lodgings at St Pierre De Lorouer and, as luck would have it, there was an Englishman called Simon living a mile up the road with a garden full of old Jaguars who was more than happy to rig up a remote switch for the fan. The heat also caused a couple of bits of trim on the seats to come adrift.
I don’t really want to think about the fuel consumption, although in view of the fact that we were rarely overtaken on the péage on the way back, it wasn’t unreasonable.
I ran around in the Fiat for a week or so, and then put it away for a month with every intention of sorting the fan switch and flushing the radiator, which was full of dark-brown coolant. I didn’t get a chance to do either before a trip to London for the Concours of Elegance, but I managed to get into the middle of Twickenham before I shattered the suave GT Man illusion by having to jump out of the car in a traffic jam and flick the switch.
I heard what sounded like the limited-slip diff growling when making tight turns in a multi-storey car park, then became more alarmed by a grumble when braking. I decided that it needed front pads and ordered them on eBay, but when Gus investigated upon my return home the pads all round had plenty of meat on them – and the diff is only slightly low on oil – so that one is still a mystery.
I’ve yet to give the Fiat another try because it is still up on axle stands in the shed, after I got all enthusiastic and started wire-brushing the rusty suspension bits and painting the inner wheelarches with Waxoyl stone-chip.
The Fiat’s electrics are still a bit eccentric. Somehow I get hazard lights when indicating left or right if I have the headlights on, and the drivers-side window switch works the wrong way round.
I sometimes feel as if I’m running hard to stand still with this car. But I can’t give up now: with its engine nicely detailed, wiring tidied and the majority of the electrical gremlins resolved, I think I am in danger of having a truly sorted Fiat 130. Having gone through a dozen of them over the past 25 years it’s about time, really.
1 Gus Meyer
2 Jeremy Nash
3 John Holland
4 Sarah at Le Chaton Rouge: www.lechatonrouge.com
The Fiat certainly looked the part on its trip to the Le Mans Classic. Wire-brushing the arches is making a mess. Pads are fine, so grumble is still a mystery.