My first car was a Fiat 500; my last car was a Fiat Seicento. In forty-three years of motoring this progression from one small Fiat to another seems a rather small development in the size and make of car! In fact it is the increase from five hundred to six hundred (which is what Seicento means in Italian).
I bought the Seicento new in 2004. It was the first new car I had ever owned; my wife had already bought a new VW Polo, and my sister Tiggie had always bought her cars from new since 1963. But I had always relied on hand-me-down motors, their having been bought new by Tiggie or my father. For several years I did not have a car at all, but relied on my wife’s Beetle and a moped to get me around.
The Seicento was very cheap for a new car. They were never expensive cars but this was particularly good value because it had just been discontinued in the UK, although they were still being made in Poland. I was very daring and up-to date in buying it; I had found it on the internet, and I tied up the deal on my mobile phone. I can even remember where I was on my post round when I agreed to buy it.
I had to go to Lincoln to collect my new car; so far in my life it is the only time I have ever been to Lincoln, although I have been to Lincolnshire often enough. I caught the train from Norwich, going via Ely. The train journey was an experience in itself. I caught the cross-country train to Liverpool as far as Peterborough. From there I had a short trip on the main East Coast line to the North as far as Grantham. This train was pretty full and held all sorts of people, including a man who had taken his shoes and socks off and busy inspecting his not very clean feet. From Grantham I caught dmu to Lincoln. It was misty when I arrived.
One of the first things I had to do once I had written a cheque to pay for the car was to get it filled up with petrol. When I stopped at the garage I realised that I didn’t know how to open the petrol cap! I forget now how I resolved this problem, but I soon learnt the workings of the car.
The trip back from Lincoln was the longest journey I did in the Seicento. I used it for pottering about in Norfolk, and mostly for the miles or two to work in the morning. Of course we made plenty of longer journeys including a couple to France, but these were made in my wife’s Polo. I had to do the driving in France, as my wife felt dubious about driving on the wrong side of the road. The Polo was not a large car by any means, but bigger than the Fiat Seicento. The Polo moreover had five doors, while the Seicento had only three.
It was quite an old-fashioned car in not having electrically operated widows; this seems quite adequate to me and at least the dog cannot open the windows if left alone in the car, as he does o our current Skoda (unless it is locked when he repeatedly sets off the alarm). It did have a radio. Unlike the more up-market versions of the Seicento it had no sunroof either, but the days when you can use one in the British climate are limited. The instruments were not electronic, but none the worse for that.
I sold the car in 2009 when I retired and following my stroke I gave up driving. The Seicento was my farewell to the world of motoring.