Category Archives: Fiat

It’s pronounced “Rruh-no”

You had me a Marchal rally lights

You had us at Marchal rally lights

A French strain of feral fever just struck close to home and, in the spirit of liberté, égalité and fraternité, we’re here to let you know that a 1968 Renault R10 has just joined the fleet.  It’s the damnedest thing when an off-the-wall purchase seems to make sense but that’s the basic story.

Moment of transition

Moment of transition

Air vs water

Air vs water

We had two rear engine cars in the paddock: a ’67 Fiat 500 (Cinquecento) Giardiniera baby station wagon and a ’70 Volkswagen Type III Fastback.  Both of these have air cooled motors stashed under trap doors in the back.   Both have trunks in the front and room for cargo above their respective motors.  The water-cooled Renault R10 is the last rear engine model that the #1 French builder exported to the US.  Their later offerings, the R5 (marketed as “Le Car”) and Kenosha, Wisconsin-built Renault Alliance didn’t really find a market here, especially in the face of the ’70s Japanese car invasion.  After Renault sold its controlling stake in American Motors to Chrysler, it was all over for the offerings of the Régie Nationale des Usines Renault as far as the North American market was concerned. Some Renaults, however,  were sold by Chrysler as the Eagle Medallion (in concept, a great car for Sammy Davis, Jr)  and Eagle Premier which sounds like the code name for a South American dictator. 

Respect pour les anciennes

Respect pour les anciennes

We’re now down to just the “new” Renault and the little Giardinera as the Volkswagen Fastback was quickly sold off to make room for the Gallic newcomer.  Maybe it was just too “normal” to make the final cut but it was the most powerful of the three pushers with a 1.6 liter motor developing a whopping 65 horsepower.  The Cinquecento is powered by a minuscule two cylinder motor displacing slightly less than half a liter, making freeway cruising mostly a theoretical endeavor.

Open skies all'italiana

Open skies all’italiana

The Renault R10 falls somewhere in the middle of these two with a 1.1 liter motor that produces 48 horsepower.  It’s vaguely competitive on the freeway — meaning it’s capable of 65 mph under ideal conditions.  The point of its acquisition was not performance but.. hmm.. what was the point?  Oh, yes, the point was that we hadn’t had a proper French car since dear mom’s 1968 Peugeot 404 and a recent visit this winter to the giant Rétromobile* vintage car expo in Paris fired up one’s inner Francophile feelings on a certain level.  There’s always a reason, isn’t there?

Giardinera = gardener, capice?

Giardinera = gardener, capisce?

At any rate, it’s fun to drive and gets more comments than the VW since it’s so unusual and, let’s face it, kinda cute.  So there you have it or, more appropriately, voici la voiture.  Fun to drive, fun to say:  we’ll call that a win/win.

Room for tous les copains

Room for “tous les copains”

Great speedometer font or greatest speedometer font

Great speedometer font or greatest speedometer font?

If you’re interested in acquiring your very own Renault, we wish you good luck.  There are very few for sale in this country, probably because they were thought to be disposable but we did find a doppelgänger — is it OK to use a German word in describing a French car? — in nearby Arudel, ME for just $8500.   Enjoy this commercial for the R10 from 1970 in which the car is favorably compared to a horse.

*Here’s our Rétromobile coverage for Automobile Magazine’s website.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:  info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

Automotive Eurotrash adds feral dash to the City of Light

We’re just back from a sojourn to Paris where Feral Cars participated in the 40th annual Rétromobile conclave.  Rétromobile is the vintage car event in Europe, if not the world, a  combination  trade show, exotic used car lot, movable museum, high stakes auction and grand bazaar of all manner of automobilia, auto-related emphemera but, mainly, cars.  Lots of car — over 500, mostly high end European makes spread out over two floors of exhibits.   It was, in a word, stupendous, thanks to cadres of professional installers, scenic designers and lighting experts doing their thing.  The result is that even the most pedestrian car takes on added aura with glamorous Rétromobile production values imparting that much more “car cred” to just about everything in the show.

La vie en noir

La vie en noir

While Rétromobile was stellar, our forays into the greater Paris metroplex juxtaposed us with quite a number of continental cruisers of a certain age.  Rétromobile may have brought some of these out of storage but it seemed that some were just les objets trouvés on a certain level.

The future departs

The future departs

We found a number of noteworthy German, Italian and French veterans that appeared to be in regular service and did our best to capture them for you. This being Paris, let’s start with two Citroëns that had us enthralled. That black sedan is a DS of later vintage (note the faired in headlight configuration).  Introduced in 1955, the DS with its air-oil suspension, revolutionary construction and aerodynamic design was truly the car of the future.  When it finally went out of production, nearly 20 years and 1.4 million examples later, the DS was still ahead of its time.

Promotion in motion

Promotion in motion

We’re glad to have seen some rolling examples, at least 40 years old, on the streets of Paris including a station wagon that was used to highlight events sponsored by Citroën Heritage, the forward looking brand’s backward looking promotion department.  We’ll forgive the fact that its rear bumper (le bouclier) was un peu cassee.

Le Truckster de la famille

Le Truckster de la famille

While adhering to a more traditional three box design than Citroën’s aerodynamically advanced line topper, BMW’s 5 series is the embodiment of German sports luxury.  This snow white example which we estimate to be an ’86 or ’87 is impressively pristine.

Beamer en blanc

Beamer en blanc

That sunshade in the back is a nice touch, n’est-ce pas?

White privilege

White privilege

Unlike the many of the Maseratis, Ferraris and Lamborghinis seen at Rétromobile, Italian cars parked on the nicely swept streets of Paris were of the decidedly non-exotic variety but still quite interesting. 

Micro muscle car

Micro muscle car

When was the last time you saw an Autobianchi parked at a curb?  The answer is “never,” of course, since this Fiat-derived compact never made it over here. We found two on the same street and both had parking tickets under the wipers so our assumption is they’re owned by the same obsessive person.   They’reAutobianchi 112s but the gray one is technically a Lancia A112 as Fiat slapped that badge on the car for sale outside of Italy.  We like the “70 HP” notice on the front hood as this is the hot Abarth factory tuner model.  We’re pegging this one and the less swanky (only 42 hp) white car to be from the early ’80s.

Abarth = performance

Abarth = performance

That'll rub right out

Think that’ll rub right out?

We noted a super clean dark green VW Golf Cabriolet, the choice of high school girls during the ’80s and ’90s, not far from those Italian anomalies. We’re guessing this is a ’90 or ’91 but it’s unimaginable that it’s parked outside on a regular basis.  This is one clean machine.

Cabrio for thee-o

Cabrio for thee-o

On the other end of the tidiness spectrum is this funky Renault Twingo, a car that could very well have been named after a candy bar.  The expressive headlights that are flat on the bottom make it seem like you’d be more prone to adopt than own it.  The design by Jean-Pierre Ploué debuted in 1993 and the intention was for the front end to resemble a smile. Seems like a tight-lipped one to us but we kind of get it.  We’re not sure what those three asymmetrically placed air intakes are supposed to conjure up. Maybe a set of face tattoos like gang members give themselves in prison?  Probably not.

Smile, darn you, smile!

Smile, darn you, smile!

This smiling, possibly smirking, Twingo seems to have suffered some abuse as indicated by:

  • A huge dent on the rear passenger side
  • The “Party Girl” sticker on the hatch
Party out of bounds

Party out of bounds?

We’ve got a bigger Renault to share but this one is most decidedly not cute.  It’s an early ’80s Renault 18i wagon that also wears a parking ticket under its wiper and, more importantly, more than a modicum of rust, especially under the lift gate.

Rusty wagon

Rusty wagon

These were actually sold in the US back when Renault controlled American Motors before selling it off to Chrysler. They could have called it Franco American Motors and offered promotional cans of spaghetti with the purchase of every car.  No, huh?

How do you say 'bondo' in French?

How do you say ‘bondo’ in French?

Lastly, we encountered a big Alfa Romeo sedan on that same street in the 15th arrondissement. Its official model designation is Alfa Romeo Alfa 6.  Seems as though the Department of Redundancy Department named the car which was Alfa’s top of the line sedan from 1979 – 1983.  Yes,  it’s a six cylinder car — and had a carburetor for each one of them — and was considered to be in the “executive class” just like that BMW 5 series up top.  Coming as it did when the price of gasoline was spiking, this Alfa found few buyers and was never officially imported into the US.

Big brown Alfa

Importata dall’Italia alla Francia

Booty

Smart/Smarter

Rétromobile attracts old car nuts from all over but locally based ones use the expo as an excuse to participate in ad hoc street rallies.  We had to rub our eyes to make sure we weren’t hallucinating when we shot this video of a mass of Fiat Cinquecentos, led by a an ultra-rare Ferves Ranger, one of only six hundred Cinquento-based mini SUVs like this ever made.  Only fifty survive and here’s one in spirited action.  No less an authority than Jalopnik named it “The Mostest Cutest Off-Roader Ever.”

And speaking of cute, you must click to see the introductory commercial back when Twingo was launched in 1993.

We found a breathtaking ’72 Citroën DS wagon for sale in nearby San Francisco, CA.  for a paltry $40,000 which is only around 35,000 so, dépêchez-vous and buy it maintainant!

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

 

 

Che bella macchina!

Multo sportivo

Molto sportivo

It’s just a matter of time before  Fiat is going to start selling a new sports car here and they’ll badge it 124 Spider.  Like the Fiat 500 before it, the 124 Spider takes its name from one of the big successes in Fiat history and its greatest, ahem, triumph in the U.S. market.  Fiat’s original 124 Spider was built from 1966 to – 1979 and essentially the same car was sold as 2000 Spider from 1979 to 1982.  Thereafter, through the 1985 model year it was re-branded Pininfarina Spider Azzura though it was Fiat in every other way.

Bosco means "woods" in Italian

Bosco means “woods” in Italian

The forthcoming 124 Spider will be the first car to be sold by Fiat in the U.S. since the marque’s relaunch through Chrysler that is not a “500.” The latter day expanded Cinquecento  line now includes the 500L, 500e, 500X, 500 Abarth, 500 Cabrio and and we’re not even going to reference that oh-so-tasteful Gucci edition.

Tom Traajera for Pininfarina

Tom Traarda for Pininfarina

The new 124 Spider will be built in Hiroshima by Mazda, not in Turin by Pininfarina as was the case earlier for its earlier namesake.  The fact is that the next generation Mazda MX5, which we’ll always going to call “Miata” no matter what they tell us, is a car that will share quite a bit with the new 124 Spider.  The Mazda alliance was initially going to yield a clone Miata to be sold as an Alfa Romeo but Fiat Chrysler has moved Alfa into a more rarefied segment so the new roadster becomes a Fiat and will, in truth use a Fiat motor, not a Mazda mill.

Who bit the canole?

Who bit the canole?

The original 124 Spider had Pininfarina’s haunchy, hiked-up-in-the-hind-quarters, look that was also an element of the earlier Alfa Romeo Giulietta  as well numerous Farina designs for Ferrari. Modern day examples are not all that difficult to find as there are numerous survivors in regular service around the country. “Fix it again Tony” jokes notwithstanding,  these were very popular over here:  of the 200,000 original Spiders produced over car’s production run 150,00 were sold in the U.S.  That was a big slice of the sports car market pizza for Fiat when MG, Triumph, Sunbeam and Datsun were all vying for some extra cheese with their respective offerings.

Big bumpered beauty

Big bumpered beauty

We especially like the wonderful yellow one that’s gone topless in Palm Springs.  It’s an early, pre-federal bumper mandate example that has a proper, almost British sports car like, wood veneer dash.

Venetian Spider

Venetian Spider

The black one with the gash in the trunk lid was spotted in Memphis by Feral Cars Field Scout Emma Less.  Even with the oversize bumpers, it has a certain rough appeal like Anthony Quinn in La Strada.

Nice rack!

Nice rack!

The beige one was parked on the mean streets of Venice.  No aftermarket flotation device was necessary as we’re talking about Venice, California not that other Venice that’s been trying to copy it since who knows when.  Farina’s badge reflects not only the firm’s design,  credited to Tom Traarda, the American who was also responsible for DeTomaso’s Pantera, but also that Pininfarina was the actual manufacturer, building Spiders on behalf of client Fiat and, later, on its own.

Farina is good for you

Farina is good for you — unless you’re gluten intolerant

"Solo benzina senza piombo"

“Solo benzina senza piombo”

In its time, Fiat’s 124 Spider was something of a value proposition.  You got a serious fun, high revving, twin cam-powered roadster from the land of exotic cars, designed and coach built by a revered carrozzeria, a five-speed transmission for a very competitive price. MSRP was under $4000 for the first seven years of the model run.  Fiat would do well to offer the new 124 Spider at a fair price to build the kind of momentum enjoyed by its earlier namesake which, need we remind, was actually built in Italy.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.06.45 PM

 

We found a very nice ’81 Spider with only 71,000 miles in nearby Sherwood, WI for under $9,000. The car’s equipped with a roll bar so you’ll be completely safe. What’sa matta you not buyin’ this?

We like this great 124 Spider commercial from the car’s inception that emphasizes such features as the horn and lighter.   Hey, no disrespect!

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

 

Full retail: Cinqucento in-store appearance

Our Giardiniera gets planted

Giardiniera gets planted

Our vehicular mascot 1967 Fiat 500K Giardiniera baby station wagon is now serving as the centerpiece at Alchemy Works.  It’s the hippest boutique in LA’s burgeoning Arts District and we’ve loaned them our little friend to serve as FeralCars.com’s goodwill ambassador. Our particular Italian ex-pat replaces a delightful ’66 Alfa Romeo Duetto whose owner reclaimed it after a lengthy stay.  Love, love, love those headlights bubbles!

Predecessor paisano

Predecessor paisano

The 6.6 mile drive to Alchemy Works (826 E. 3rd Street) was uneventful, if somewhat noisy.  We avoided the freeway in favor of surface streets in deference to the little car’s somewhat limited performance characteristics.  With only 17.5 horsepower on tap —  the motor, mounted on its side under the cargo bed is just two cylinders, 499.5 cc discplacment — this routing strategy seemed only prudent.

Neat installation

Neat installation

Just before we drove it up the sidewalk and into the store something seemed amiss.. the brakes had frozen or the rear axle decided to become uncooperative, it’s unclear what the hang up was but it didn’t seem entirely feasible to turn it around in the store under its own “power” to face incoming customers.  That’s when we recruited the crew of guys you see here to pick it up and turn it around. The car weighs just 1200 lbs so that works out to 240 pounds per man but you can halve that since they picked it up from one end and then the other.  The car will be in the store for the next month or two so please stop by and keep it company if you find yourself in the oh-so-groovy nabe.

Manly men acted in a manly manful manner

Manly men acted in a manly manful manner

One this is certain: When it’s time to come home, we’ll do the flatbed thing rather than compound whatever the heck the problem might be.  Hey, do us a favor and spare us the “Fix It Again Tony” jokes.  Our mechanic is named Joe.

Check out this promo film heralding the introduction of the original Fiat 500 back in 1957.  Che bella la piccola macchina!