Friday, June 20, 2014

1980 Fiat Brava: The Tony that never needed fixing up

After I graduated college I moved out to San Jose California, leaving Logan Utah and Utah State University, that I still find completely strange to say I am proud of, as Alma maters go. As an Alma mater, Utah State University rolls of the tongue innocently enough, but is quite hard to swallow, given the non-name and no-cache that Utah State University carries professionally.

San Jose wasn't all that great at the time either, but it was starting to go by another name that would soon be infamous. Silicon Valley. To this day I tell people I mistakenly thought I was coming out to Silicone Valley, but few buy that anymore. Everyone knows that Silicone Valley is in LA.

But I landed in San Jose in mid-1984, and within 3 days found a job as a Semiconductor Wafer Fab Supervisor. To this day, I really have no idea what that means (I thought fab was shot for fabulous), or what we were making, but it was some sort of shiny round rainbow mirrored glass like disks the size of your hand, that apparently were chopped up into small tiny squares that do something to virtually every device or phone or computer or thing that needs a chip in order to breathe life.

But it sure paid well. As soon as I could afford one, I went to buy a car. In those days the strip to buy a used car was at the tail end of El Camino or the tailer end of Stevens Creek Boulevard, you know, when it becomes West San Carlos, which is not a boulevard in the traditional manicured green garden in the median, boulevard. More like 3 lanes on either side, separated by the yellow dashed turn lane.

So I started looking. within a few minutes out in front was what looked great to me. The 1989 Fiat Brava. Throwing all caution and all the better advice that had always accompanied buying a Fiat in the USA, present time excluded, to the wind, I went into the trailer/sales office and asked how much. $3400 later, out I drove with what I now recall fondly as one of the most fun cars I have ever owned.
It started right up purred like a 6 cylinder, and shifted with a nice solid rubber knuckled 5 speed, that moved as one whenever you gunned the always on the prowl engine.

I wasn't completely deaf to the howls of derisive laughter I was about to endure when I told my friends what I had just bought, so after about a week, I looked up a Fiat repair shop in the Yellow Pages. Not the online Yellow Pages, and not after doing a Google search for "Yellow Pages", but an honest to god, 4 inch thick printed book dangling from the short desk of the nearest "Payphone". Which is what we used to use as a mobile device. Until Miami Vice showed us that along with drug dealers, everyone could own a portable phone if they were willing to plunk down $3,000 and were willing to carry the small briefcase that contained the battery along with the clip for the handset everywhere you go.

Original Fiat Brava ad
I took the Brava in and Tony (no seriously, his name was Tony!) did a head to toe full inspection, which means he opened up the hood and looked up and down a bit grunted a couple of times as he reached back with one hand holding up the hood, to pull on some hoses and assorted cables. Then dropped the hood with a finger, and said, "Nope, you're good."

Later I found out that this model had an unbreakable teflon timing belt, that was so reliable, it not only never broke, but never needed to be adjusted either.

Best car I ever owned. I sold it 3 years later to buy my first Saab 900 Turbo.

But that is another Drive Story...

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