Fiat 127 - all choked up about thumping roof

Patricia Abbott with her Fiat 127 hatchback – neither of them were very good in the morning. Picture: Patricia Abbott

Patricia Abbott with her Fiat 127 hatchback - neither of them were very good in the morning. Picture: Patricia Abbott

Patricia Abbott

Patricia Abbott explains why her Fiat 127 hatchback, a temperamental starter on cool mornings, had so many dents on the roof over the driver's door.

In 1987, at the ripe old age of 30, I had never owned a car.

That didn’t stop me applying for the job of promotions manager with Spedeworth International at Foxhall Stadium, near Ipswich, even though the advert said ‘must be car owner’.

Having got the job, I had to find a car in a hurry. My father owned a filling station and asked around for me. A few days later I was looking at a blue Fiat 127, a three-door hatchback – just the job. I think it cost about £600, maybe less.

My new job was mostly putting up posters but it we did attend trade stands at local shows. The car, though small, had an enormous capacity for posters, pamphlets, tables and all the paraphernalia needed to advertise small oval motor racing.

Apart from one small problem, it was the loveliest car anyone could possibly have the pleasure of driving.

Neither of us were very good in the morning. The Fiat had an automatic choke with a wicked sense of humour. It was not so much of a problem in the warm mornings of mid summer but, on cooler mornings, it would only start, and hopefully keep running, if I lifted the bonnet and put a spanner in the carburettor – ‘spannering’ as I called it. Having got the engine started I had to wait while it warmed up enough to keep going. If I tried to drive off too soon it would stop and could not be persuaded to start again for about 20 minutes. When that happened I would get out, thump the roof and shout ‘Oh b******s’. That’s how the car got its name. I tried to get it fixed but it started perfectly every time for everybody else.

Once the car was warmed up, and running properly, it was quite the little workhorse, travelling 100 to 150 miles a day, packed to the gunwales with posters and pots of paste.

Apart from punctures, I don’t remember it ever breaking down, not counting its morning shenanigans. The spare wheel was under the bonnet, which was handy as punctures were a regular occurrence. I soon learned to change a wheel very quickly.

There was never any question of taking passengers as the back seats were permanently folded down.

After three years its time had come. It was tired, the clutch started to slip and it started to use a bit more oil.

Spedeworth sourced a shiny sign-written Mazda for me to drive around in.

But my old Fiat didn’t go out in a blaze of glory on the racetrack or anything exciting like that. It still ran and had an MOT, so I sold it for a very small sum. The new owners never asked why there were so many dents on the roof over the driver’s door.

Tell people about your first set of wheels – email your memories with a picture to or post it to Andy Russell, Archant motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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