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My 1972 Fiat 128 In Owens Valley in 1978

I have been copying off some of my own photos this year ran across photos of an old car of mine. A 1972 Fiat 128. A four-door, underpowered car that was good for only about 75,000 before it was time to get rid of it.

The Fiat 128 was both fun and a peace of junk.

In February of 1977, I was just 22 when I bought the Fiat for $1,100 from a private party in Visalia. It was a fun car and a piece of junk at the same time. (actually it was the basis for the ill-fated Yugo of the mid-80s) With only an 1100 CC engine, it was slow, especially going uphill, but it was fun to drive on the flats or downhill. It did have a lot of room inside due to the front engine design and decent handling. It had the distinction of being the first front-wheel-drive transverse-mounted engine to be sold in the United States.

Funny Fiat stories

A couple of funny stories about this car: after I had bought it and taken it home, I found out that I needed a written receipt from the previous owner to register without having to pay excessive taxes. When I called him to ask for it, the phone didn’t ring on his end but I heard someone on the phone. I said something and asked if it was the guy, “yes” he replied,” I asked for the paperwork I needed. “Forget it, you bought it, I’m done with it,” he said. I freaked out, “hay man,” I replied ” I just need a recept” Then I heard “Hay Roy, it’s Anthony” it was my college friend on the line, not the guy who I was calling. We had made one of those phone connections where I had picked up the phone and dialed, but Anthony had already connected without me knowing it. We laughed about that for a long time (and I still am to this day)

A rather simple cruise control

Basic was the word for the car’s “cruise control”. In those years, when auto safety was your mom’s arm coming across your chest when she stopped quickly, this car was basic. It had a knob on the console attached to a wire that ran into the engine and attached to the throttle linkage. When you were at the speed you wanted to go, you pulled the knob and turned it to lock it. That kepted you going at that speed. Of course, if you had to brake suddenly, the engine keeps revving, so you had to grab that knob and unlock it rather quickly.

The Interior of the Fiat with cross-country skis on the way to Grant Grove.

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