The Little Car that Lived
The original Fiat 500 is the perfect example of a car that has long tugged on our heartstrings. Much like the Mini it’s responsible for making millions of people fall in love with it for reasons way beyond its practical and mechanical qualities.
With its pocket sized frame, gentle features and cheerful round headlights even the most stubborn anti-enthusiast would surely smile upon seeing one. Especially on the modern roads where it sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. Or rather, doesn’t stick out at all!
The Fiat 500 packed so much character into so little space that for many owners it was for all intents and purposes an extension of their family.
That’s exactly what ‘Murph’ is to its owner. We spent a wonderfully cold day in the Scottish Highlands with Peter and his 1969 Fiat 500 affectionately named Murph. It’s not exactly the car you’d imagine to see scaling mountains and battling against snow storms in the middle of a Scottish winter but Peter and Murph are more than use to it.
As a professional photographer Peter spends a lot of his time travelling around the breathtaking countryside in Scotland. His transport of choice is the immaculately restored Fiat which until ten years ago was a rotting wreck that had long been forgotten about.
Discovered in a barn that was in an equal state of disrepair, the small 500 had suffered some sort of engine failure in the 70s and that’s where it sadly remained. After years of careful and loving restoration Murph was reborn and has now covered more miles in its old age than it did in its first few years of use.
Why are we compelled to take these rusted wrecks and restore them? The reality of the situation is largely non recyclable scrap. Broken pieces, degrading materials and a whole bunch of headaches. Yet as car enthusiasts we find ourselves oddly attached to these relics with an overwhelming urge to “get them back on the road”. We’ve all stumbled across an old classic hidden at the back of a garage, or decaying away in some bushes and thought “I could do something about that. I could restore it!”.
I often spot something on the back of a recovery truck that has obviously been found in a barn somewhere and convince myself it’s off to the breakers yard… but I could save it. I should follow that lorry and tell them I’ll have it! Not that I ever have done that. My patience, persistence and perseverance is not quite as great as Peter’s.
It’s almost as if the car has a character, soul and purpose. The machine possess something that is worth saving and reviving.
We love our cars, we name our cars and we save our cars. Even the ugliest and most unreliable examples are often anthropomorphised and cherished.
For so many people a car is just an appliance that is used to get from here to there. But there are those of us who occasionally take a special car into our hearts and just refuse to let them go.
Is that the mark of a true petrolhead? Or an early sign of madness?
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