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Posted on: April 16, 2014 at 10:39 AM
Categorized in: Jones Garage

FIAT - Fix It Again Tony!

They may not always run, but those Italians know how to build cool cars.

At Jones Garage I believe that a car finds me versus the other way around. I grew up in a small Midwestern town, and as a young man I had only seen a couple of foreign sports cars – an old Austin Healey 3000 and a Sunbeam Tiger, I think. The cars to own in my small town were the Goats, the big MOPAR beasts, the Camaro SS and the legendary BOSS 302 (which I wrote about back in August).

My opinion of Italian cars was especially poor, based mainly on the often repeated statement of FIAT standing for Fix It Again Tony! However, when I started my first real job at a bank in Indianapolis, a coworker had the most beautiful car I had ever seen – a bright red Alfa Romeo Spider. So exotic. So cool. I loved that car.

Several years ago while driving along the remote Fish Hatchery Road in Lakeland, I spotted a red 1985 Alfa Romeo Spider sitting in a side yard with a For Sale sign. I stopped, gave it the once-over, and was pleased to see that even though it had some paint issues and someone had lifted it an inch and put boy racer wheels on it, it had low miles, was rust free and had a decent interior.

I called the number. The owner was out of town and said he would call me when he returned. He never called, and I forgot about the car until a year later when I saw it sitting forlorn at a Buy Here Pay Here lot. I was surprised to see what my wife calls the “redhead” in such a sad situation. I stopped and learned that the owner had passed and the widow had consigned the car.

Well, obviously the redhead was calling out to me to be rescued. I asked the proprietor if I could start and drive the car. The battery was dead, the gas was bad and the key was broken, but we still managed to get it just barely running. I cut a deal for $1,600 and picked up my very understanding wife to follow me home, just in case it died on the way.

I really appreciated how understanding and patient my wife was when I asked her to hold the mirror while I cut off the bolt holding the old ignition switch with an angle grinder. She just said firmly, “Don’t cut me!” I went on to have the paint touched up, a new gas tank and pump installed, all of the rubber lines replaced, etc. Plus, I got rid of the boy racer look by installing a set of original Spider wheels, which are patterned after the Ferrari Daytona wheel.

I don’t drive the redhead often, but it is a beautiful car to look at, sounds great and is much peppier than you’d expect from a 2-liter engine. They may not always run, but those Italians know how to build cool cars. Arrivederci!

Jones Garage is a monthly column by Kevin Jones, President of MIDFLORIDA and certified car guy, to talk about his cars and automobilia and the cars of MIDFLORIDA’s members.

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