Home » Cold Start: Foto It Again Tony?

Cold Start: Foto It Again Tony?

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Imagine waking up in the morning and realizing that you’re suddenly Jason Torchinsky. What will the day bring? Will you drive a pickup truck into a ditch? Do you need to fix a forty year old Yugoslavian car with a rock and hose clamps to get your kid to school since, as they might say in North Carolina, he ‘done got bus left’? The one thing that I KNOW for sure is that, as Jason, you need to make a Cold Start for this great website. What would you do? I’m about to find out. Today, in our continuing practice of Cold Start Guest Hosts, I’ve been given the task of finding an image to start the day that evokes Jasonian values and sensibilities. Boy, did I ever find one. In fact, I found four of them.

More and more car makers are ceasing to produce something that GenXer car fans like myself used to love to collect- printed car brochures. Sure, with specs of every vehicle available with just a touch of your phone there’s no need to collect glossy pamphlets with glamorous images of prosaic machines in them, but back in the day to scam one from a dealer was like getting the autograph of a favorite celebrity. I’ve chosen perfect examples- the covers of each of a series of brochures for models in FIAT’s awesome 1981 US lineup. This model range featured something for everyone as long as ‘everyone’ didn’t mind choosing between two ten-year-old sports cars, a boxy sedan, and a little hatchback with round door handles.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Let’s look at some more brochure images. The Spyder and X1/9 still looked good despite their advanced age at the time:

S L1600 (6)

S L1600 (2)

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sources: ebay and ebay

The Brava (131) sedan seemed normal enough, but FIAT couldn’t resist adding some weird shit like a glove box that opens by a sliding lid on top.

Screenshot (433)

source: ebay

The Brava/131 might look like a generic late seventies car, but the Abarth versions of these were fierce machines from a time when rally cars were rear wheel drive and seemed to never, ever travel in a straight line.

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Fiat 131 Goodwood

source: wikimedia/richard

The front wheel drive Strada was like a Golf/Rabbit with much more funkiness and style:

S L1600 (1)

The Strada featured what must be the coolest secondary switches ever installed in a car. They look like the heads of croquet mallets for gnomes:

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S L1600

sources: ebay

Let’s examine the covers of these musty-smelling paper mementos of now-rusted-away machines again:

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Note how the model nameplates on the photographed cars serve as the only identifier on the brochure covers. I also just noticed that the keyhole for the trunk on the Spyder is in the center of the last zero in ‘2000’.

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The agency that shot these obviously found a photographer that could do lens flare, as well as someone to put in the driver’s seat of each car playing with the gearshift, headlight switch, brake pedal, and hazard button to make these shots possible. As malaise-era Euro cars, I have to believe that many a fuse was blown in the creation of these photos.

Sadly, it seems like such landmark taillight photography didn’t do much for FIAT USA’s sales, since the following year was their last on American shores. If only people like Jason and myself hadn’t been preteens at the time without licenses and the available cash to purchase one of these fine machines.

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Justin Short
Justin Short
1 year ago

My first car was a 79 brava it was literally falling apart by 86. But thankfully I was young inexperienced and stupid, perfect trifeca! Blew the engine before I registered it 🙁
But boy was it fun while it lasted!

Edited because some emoticons still don’t work

Last edited 1 year ago by Justin Short
Mike Pressley
Mike Pressley
1 year ago

Had a neighbor back in the mid ‘90s who had an X1/9, an ‘80 model IIRC. He also was on his second wife and had 4 or 5 kids, so the Fiat was pretty low down on the budget. He’s outside working on it one day when I walk over to see what he’s got going on. The car’s running and I asked him what’s up. Bad fuel pump he says. How’s it running then? His response? I don’t know, maybe osmosis. I went back inside.

Iwannadrive637
Iwannadrive637
1 year ago

FIAT X1/9 is on that list of cars that I was better off not owning. I still love it but I’m not mechanically gifted.

Iwannadrive637
Iwannadrive637
1 year ago
Reply to  Iwannadrive637

Ha! FWIW, the new format kicked in while I was typing. Surprise!

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 year ago

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into Jason Torchinsky.

Really bugs me when that happens.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
1 year ago

I know someone who bought a Strada (Ritmo). It had already been decomposing on the assembly line.

Nigel Searles
Nigel Searles
1 year ago

I had a 1600TC (twincam) Ritmo with Abarth wheels, body kit and steering wheel as a young fella. It was a great car to drive. It slowly started rusting and I striped it back and painted it. It wasn’t long before the rust came back even worse. Broke my heart that car…

Nigel Searles
Nigel Searles
1 year ago
Reply to  Nigel Searles

Ah yeah, and the frost plugs rusted out soon after I got it, along with the coolant pipe between the cams.

Memphomike
Memphomike
1 year ago

That brochure for the X1/9 sucked me in. My first new car in 1981 after wrecking the Spitfire I drove out to LA. Owned it 3 years, replaced both master cylinders and the ignition switch (car started “blinking” randomly as the ignition turned off around corners), but loved every minute of the way that little wedge handled.

Otter
Otter
1 year ago

The first young woman to decide I would be a suitable sex partner drove a Spyder 2000. I was grateful, but I knew that she would be making a lot more bad decisions.

David Hudson
David Hudson
1 year ago

That would be quite a car. Power is the only problem. They don’t rust any more than any other malaise car. Reliability issues are solved by doing it yourself and paying attention. And braking and handling are stellar.

David Hudson
David Hudson
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hudson

I think this is a duplicate post.

Lokki
Lokki
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hudson

“They don’t rust any more than any other malaise car.”

Funny that wasn’t the opinion of the U.S. government

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/business/1980/01/05/us-charges-fiat-failed-to-comply-with-recall/12460886-f1aa-4445-876b-0a214ce2a17e/

John Patson
John Patson
1 year ago

I had a Strada once in the 1990s. Bought it for £500 with an MOT with the clear intention of not repairing it if things went wrong — think it was 10 years old and those funny switches were decidedly sticky as if the previous owner had let a sweet eating child loose on them…
We liked it, in spite of the sticky bits and the so-so performance, so when the fuel tank sprang a leak, (only Fiat could do that) I paid another £80 for a new tank.
It passed the MOT a month later, and then blew a gasket two weeks later….

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
1 year ago

I seriously forgot the Strada even existed because it has been that long since I’ve seen one. I would have to guess they have all turned into piles of ferrous oxide by now.

I still think the Spider is a seriously pretty car, and seeing one always brings back memories of a particular girl in college who drove one.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 year ago

Ever notice when you repeat a word over and over it loses its meaning? Let’s try it

Fiat. Fiat. Fiat. Fiat. Fiat. Fiat. FEE-ot. FEE-yacht. FEE-at. FI-et. FI-AT. See? Totally senseless.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 year ago
Reply to  The Bishop

OK, as long as you don’t make me write out what SAAB means.

David Hudson
David Hudson
1 year ago

YES! More Fiat X1/9 stuff!

I drove mine to work this morning after replacing rear tires, a ball joint and rebuilding the clutch master cylinder late this winter / early this spring.

I love that car. Best car I’ve ever had.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hudson

There is a Honda B18C-swapped one with euro bumperettes for sale at the smaller of two popular car auction sites right now… the want is strong.

David Hudson
David Hudson
1 year ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

That would be quite a car. Power is the only problem. They don’t rust any more than any other malaise car. Reliability issues are solved by doing it yourself and paying attention. And braking and handling are stellar.

Michael Sharp
Michael Sharp
1 year ago

Way back in the days of film cameras, a company named Spiratone sold special effects filters. The star filter was a popular one, and the effect worked well in the right situation. And how about that- someone still makes them! https://www.ebay.com/itm/203320255867

I took a used, low mileage Fiat X1/9 for a test drive once, it was the slowest car I’ve ever driven. “You can step on it” said the salesman. I said: “I am!” I passed on it.

RataTejas
RataTejas
1 year ago

Gerald Abrams lines up his camera, zooming in tight, and with a nuanced eye, captures the tail light in all it’s glory.

His son JJ, sits at his side, finding his inspiration…

Dennis Frederickson
Dennis Frederickson
1 year ago

‘The Great European Tradition’ is the ultimate oxymoron.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago

I think they were hoping prospective customers would see “European” and think “West German” or “Swedish”, and not notice that it was actually Italian

Dennis Frederickson
Dennis Frederickson
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

‘The Great Europeon’ would have been closer to truth in advertising.

10001010
10001010
1 year ago

I’ve told this story before on the “old site” but it’s worth repeating again.

In 1987 my mom was looking to trade in her Pontiac Phoenix and had her heart set on a Chrysler New Yorker. As an 11yo I was not really feeling the Chrysler New Yorker and tried to convince her to buy anything else I found on the lot. I guess one of those Chrysler dealerships was also selling Fiats because they had a couple of X1/9s and I’ve always been a sucker for a good wedge so I begged and pleaded for her to test drive them. I didn’t realize they were X1/9s though and kept calling them “Bertones” because that was the plaque on the side. My parents pointed out that they were 2 seaters and wouldn’t carry all 4 of us to which I quite logically suggested they buy both of them and Mom drive one while my Dad drove the other. Sadly they didn’t buy into my reasoning.

Later that night we were at another Chrysler dealership and I went roaming the lot again and found another wedge. It was white and had a burgundy velour interior and the seatbelts said “turbo turbo turbo” on them and the speedometer went to 150mph!!! I started begging and pleading again, and this time it worked! This wedge had 4 seats and hatch back and my sister and I agreed we would never complain about how small the back seat was and after a test drive mom was hooked. We drove home that night in a Chrysler Conquest TSi.

I some times feel remorse for that though and browse CL for a nice ’87 New Yorker to surprise my mom with so she can experience it. I’m sure she’d be thrilled with me dropping off a 36yo Chrysler shitbox in her driveway!

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 year ago
Reply to  10001010

“Remorse” ?!@?@#@$?
The 87 New Yorker was a K-car with leather seats and vinyl roof. You talked your parents into one of the best captive import cars of the 80’s! A Mitsubishi Starion Turbo!!! Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, to feel remorse about here.

10001010
10001010
1 year ago

@MaximillianMeen You’re right, I forgot to end that with /s.

I still love to imagine my mom trying to pretend she loves the late 80s Chrysler being dropped off in her driveway while I do my best to appear sincere and heartfelt.

10001010
10001010
1 year ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Sadly I never counted the TURBO logos, I guess because many were rolled up into the automatic seatbelt retention mechanisms.

Btw, for the record I am very pro-automatic seatbelt and don’t understand all the hate they get. This is probably because I grew up in a cars that had them though.

John Crouch
John Crouch
1 year ago

We owned that exact 131, color, interior everything. Great car to drive, never left us stranded. monopost steering wheel was very sweet. Also had an X1/9 again reliable but rusty.

Larry B
Larry B
1 year ago

When do I get to go to the Taillight Saloon?

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
1 year ago

I had a Fiat Spyder..my first convertible.
It was very nice.

Data
Data
1 year ago
Reply to  Lew Schiller

For some reason, I read this in Borat’s voice.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 year ago
Reply to  Lew Schiller

Nope, you had a “Spider”. There is no “y” in the Italian alphabet.

Jeremy
Jeremy
1 year ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Then explain the Lancia Ypsilon – Trick question, no-one can explain that car being produced by Lancia

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Lew Schiller

I just bought one

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 year ago

That keyhole in the badge is actually pretty cool! Good find!

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
1 year ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

It’s pretty cool verging on the subtly epic. Love it.

Harris K Telemacher
Harris K Telemacher
1 year ago

“I just paid $40 for this starburst filter for my camera, and by god, I’m going to get my money’s worth! Zebulon, get in the driver’s seat and hit ALL THE BUTTONS!”

Also, I’m imagining the photographer’s assistant is named Zebulon.

Christopher Pohle
Christopher Pohle
1 year ago

There’s a town in Georgia named Zebulon

PlatinumZJ
PlatinumZJ
1 year ago

One in North Carolina, too. It has a decent-sized school in town, so if a kid done gets bus left, he or she could theoretically walk or ride a bike.

PlatinumZJ
PlatinumZJ
1 year ago

One in North Carolina, too. There’s a school in the town limits, so if your kid done gets bus left, he or she could theoretically walk or ride a bike.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
1 year ago

The Strada features “typical Fiat engineering.” Well now, that could go any number of ways.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
1 year ago

I’m NOT making 80$ an hour waiting for my comments to be approved by the spam catcher. All I did was post an image link to illustrate a point 🙁

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
1 year ago

Too bad the Brava/Ritmo got that boring Pacer looking front end in the US. We had the original euro one at home when I got my driver’s licence. Very cool car and quite quick also (a lot of metal had probably rusted away, making it very light…)
https://gcp-la8-storage-cdn.lot-art.com/public/upl/57/Fiat-Ritmo-60-L-NO-RESERVE-1979_1590765259_5059.jpg

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
1 year ago
Reply to  The Bishop

I see the Ritmo as a very “geometric” car, with the circles, the straight lines and the angles. A bit like the Audi TT..

FuzzyPlushroom
FuzzyPlushroom
1 year ago

I always found the New Beetle (’98-05) to be unapologetically circular. In profile, it’s just one big half-circle with two smaller half-circles laid over it. Even the rectangular bits – marker lights, radio – have rounded ends. The 2006 facelift ruined a lot of the car’s charm for me.

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