fiat 500

Streets of Rome

Join me on a visit to Rome to see what cars we might find parked along the kerb!

The Fiat 500 is made for cities like Rome. You see them everywhere. Not only the new model, but also a few of the old – the so called «Nuova 500» – which appeared in 1957 and replaced the popular «Mouse». I wish I could say that the fleet of old 500s are in decent condition, but most of them show signs of a hard life in Rome’s heavy traffic and reckless parking.

While there are plenty of old 500s built in Torino between 1957-1975, it is not so easy to find any of the Polish-built successors like the Fiat 126 and the horribly styled Cinquecento. All new Fiat 500s sold today, are built in Poland, too. Will it stay on the road as long as their Italian ancestor, the Nuova 500? – Or will it fade out, break down, rust up and be forgotten like the other Polish-built cars? I think not. I think for a model to be successful, it needs most of all to have a good design. So has the «Nuova 500», – and the latest 500.

fiat-500-5Compared with the Nuova 500, our time’s Fiat 500 looks like large car. Not to mention the Countryman in the background. This Nuova 500 is produced after 1972.

fiat-500-4The old 500 can be parked nosed in, or backed in, like here. A beautiful 500 from around 1970.

fiat-500-1The majority of old 500s are in this condition. bad repairs with plastic padding and plenty of dents and scratches.

fiat-500-2One can clearly see that the bumpers of modern cars’ aren’t compatible with the early 500’s bumper.

renault-4-1A Frenchman in Rome. I like the old number plates. Very decorative.

fiat-1100-camionioA postwar Fiat 1100 Camioncino, about 1950, which has received a full restoration with extra chrome. Today, it rests in a commercial district with flowers on the bed for decoration purposes.

italian-wedding-1I walked past this beautiful Bentley rigged for wedding. The Bentley was beautiful, – but I think the bride was even more beautiful 😉

italian-mini-1An original Mini on the street is not a common sight. This is a Mark III from about 1970 in its original condition, probably manufactured in Italy.

italian-mini-2Notice the conventional instrument panel. I don’t think the Italian built Minis shared the centered instrument panel from the British manufacturer.

ferrari-1I believe this Ferrari was supposed to be part of some commercial presentation. I’m not sure I would have chosen the same blue color on “my” Ferrari.

ferrari-2Wonderful interior.

ferrari-3Also this black Ferrari with Swiss number plates was supposed to be used in the same presentation.

italian-job-1An italian job made in Modena.

scooters-1In Rome everybody ride scooters.

fiat-500-3A red Fiat 500 decorates the street.

fiat-500-6Arrivederci Roma!

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So You Want to Buy a Mini Car?

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I promise, you will be pleasantly surprised how much space there is in a mini car. An overall length of 3.5 meters (140 inches) is not very impressive, but you will find all the modern safety equipment such as ABS, ESP and airbags exactly where they should be. And you get a brand new car for the price of a 3 year old Golf! The smallest cars on the market offer a number of obvious advantages, such as: – low price – low depreciation, – low fuel consumption – low maintenance costs – easy to park. Downtown, you can park along the curb on spaces too small for other cars – it does not fill up your garage – it is easy to drive – and convenient. Nevertheless, there are some critical limitations related to small cars that you should consider before you decide on a car in this segment.

Cabin Space
Cabin space is the most-prominent point for most buyers in this class. Do you need to bring a lot of luggage, like a full size travel bag, or a baby stroller? Then you will have to keep one of the rear seats folded down, converting the cabin into no more than a 3-seater, – no matter whether the car is a 4-seater or a 5-seater. In real life, a mini cannot carry more than 3 persons on a week-end trip.

Weight
Four adults weight a 300-350 kg (650-750 lbs) in total. In a mini this is close to the car’s maximum load capacity. Besides affecting the drivability, a fully loaded vehicle may cause excessive wear on the suspension and chassis parts. If you plan to use a mini car regularly with, say, 4 adults on board, you may run into some high maintenance costs.

Wheelbase and Track Width
These are factors that affect the car’s steadiness on the road. Image yourself a winding road full of bumps and potholes, – perhaps a lot of wind gusts as well. Driving on such conditions expose the vehicle to forces that affect its ability to maintain a steady course through the curves. A car which is running on a long wheelbase and a wide track width, is more capable to absorb these forces than a small car. What matters here, is not the outside dimensions of the car, but the dimensions underneath. For a mini, you really would want a car that is as large as possible underneath. That means the four wheels should be located as far apart as possible.

Engine Size and Extra Options
Do not pay too much attention to the number of horsepower, as it is “Horsepower per Ton” that really counts. Cars in this segment work well with small engines, because of their light weight. Remember that one of the best reasons for buying a mini car is the low price. If you choose a bigger engine and tick off a long list of “nice-to-have” extra options, you might just as well by a car in the Polo-Fiesta segment.

Safety
Obviously, size matters when it comes to safety. Larger vehicles are superior to smaller vehicles because of their weight and extra inches of steel. But there are more factors than weight and inches of steel that affect a car’s safety. New cars have far more built-in safety than just a few years ago. According to results from The European NCAP, small cars can be as safe as larger cars – as long as they hit stationary objects …

Respect in traffic
Based on everyday observations, some motorists seem to act more aggressively and less respectfully to small cars. If you drive a mini car, you may find them tailgating you without keeping a safe distance. They never give way for smaller cars, even when they are obliged to yield. They will always try to get in first before traffic lights – and so on. A typical aggressor is a male (40-60) driving a 5-10 years old Mondeo-sized family car.

Interior
The first sign of solid interior is the steering wheel. Does it give you a good grip? Does it feel chunky? How about the handles and controls on the dash? There are no reasons to create puny and cheap interior just because the car is small! The backrests of small cars are often made thin to give a few extra inches to rear seat passengers. However, you should feel that the backrests are stable and rigid.

Recommended Options and Accessories
It is important to ensure that all safety accessories are included. That include ABS, ESP (anti-skid), at least 6 air bags and Isofix mountings for child seats. Some of the cheapest models do not have all necessary safety equipment as standard. They are most likely to be found in the list of extra accessories. This is a trick to keep the price low. Don’t be fooled.

One of the reasons for buying a mini car, is its low price. In order to keep the price low, you should not be too generous about choosing accessories. The equipment you must have in a mini car, is a split foldable rear seat. Due to the limited storage capacity, you may have to fold down the rear seat more often than in a bigger car. If the rear seat is not split, your mini turns into a 2-seater every time you need to carry some luggage.

A Smart Tip
When you take the car for a test drive, make sure to park next to a well-known car model, such as the Volkswagen Golf. Step out of the car and compare “your” car with the well-known car model. Then you can a realistic look of its size. It is easy to be fooled when the cars are lined up at the dealer.

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