I remember the summer where my dad came home with the new family car, a red 1971 Fiat 500. Well, I am not sure whether it was actually red, but by the time we got it, it was red, from a combination of spray primer and rust. The little car didn’t run very well. Although the car didn’t cost very much money by some people’s standards, it cost my dad every cent he had saved.
I remember once, we went on a fishing trip. The entire family went, which then only consisted of myself, my brother, who was still an infant, and my parents. We still have family pictures of the weekend.
The road to the fishing spot was made when construction workers needed gravel from a nearby pit. One of the workers, my uncle, noticed the river from the gravel pit and told my dad about it. The road was very rough, and at the end of the road was a steep hill. The little Fiat 500 struggled to climb the hill. In fact, most of the day’s fishing trip was compromised of getting up the hill and to the fishing hole.
I remember the four of us sitting in the hot little car, without air conditioning or even windows that would properly roll down. The day was hot, and it was sickening in the car, but Dad didn’t give up. He made several attempts to climb the hill with us all in the car, me and mom pushing on the dash, as if that would help. On the final attempt, Dad asked that we get out of the car. He made one turn and attempted to back up the hill. This worked well, but after he had locked the parking brake and exited the car, we all watched as the little rust bucket took off on it’s own, as if possessed, and took for the bottom of the hill. Well it didn’t actually make it to the bottom of the hill, having steered itself into the cavernous ditch somewhere near the middle of the hill.
In a world without cell phones, we were stranded. Fishing was the last thing on my dad’s mind, and it didn’t help that at 8 years of age, all I could see was that I wasn’t going to be doing any fishing today. Our family car, bought with the last few dollars my family had in their savings account, lay at the bottom of a steep ditch. I would imagine that if I could find that gravel pit, the car would still be there in some form.
We were lucky that day (well as lucky as you can be after your only car ends up in a deep ditch), as once we managed to walk out of the road behind the gravel pit, our picnic basket in tow, a few Sunday drivers happened along and offered us a ride home.
This was my family’s first experience with ‘Foreign’ cars. I am happy to report that both myself and my dad now own Toyotas, and we do not have any of the same problems that my dad experienced with the Fiat 500. Thank Heavens for that.