You’ll have to forgive me for not updating PetrolBlog that often recently. Fact is, I’ve been spending rather a lot time of time across the Channel. All very nice, but it doesn’t mean PetrolBlog has been forgotten. Far from it in fact, as I have a list as long as a French stick containing future PetrolBlog waffle and bunk.
I’ll kick things off with a look at the alternative sights seen during the launch of the new Renault Cio last month. Even before we’d left the confines of Florence Airport, the sightseeing began. It’s like the airport is a resting place for old and obscure motors.
My eyes were first drawn to this Proton MPI. It’s becoming an increasingly rare sight on British roads, which given its impact in 1989 is a bit of a shame. It was never the most exciting of vehicles, but its combination of Mitsubishi running gear and affordability made it an attractive prospect for budget-conscious motorists. This British-registered (Somerset plates?) car had clearly been stood in the car park for many years. I dread to think what the parking fee will be.
Just around the corner from this Proton was this remarkably clean Citroën ZX. Judging by the Wilmoths sticker on the boot, this ZX was originally sold in East Sussex or Kent. The condition just shows what a good climate can do for your mid-‘90s French car. I think this one needs rescuing and taken back to Blighty.
Next up was this Ford Escort Ghia estate. Not exactly a desirable motor but its condition suggests that it fell victim of an accident on streets of Florence and was promptly left in the car park for eternity. Clearly nobody is missing it.
The final attraction was this sublime Renault 4. Even in this state of disrepair it was more attractive than 99% of the cars in the car park. I particularly like the fact that the onset of time has resulted in the Renault 4 being sat in its very own garden. Just needs a garden gnome, a water feature and Charlie Dimmock to complete the effect.
Eventually I tore myself away from the car park and ventured out on to the streets of Florence. To be honest, there was little to talk about until we reached the mountains of Tuscany. It’s beautiful in the extreme, but that’s nothing compared to the sheer number of Pandas you see in the hills. I was told that pandas were an endangered species. Well clearly these animal experts have never been to Tuscany. Without any exaggeration, in some villages nearly every car is a Fiat Panda, most often the original model. When it isn’t a Panda, it’s most probably a Suzuki Jimny/SJ.
I remember being blown away by the sheer number of original Twingos in Paris, but that’s nothing compared to the Fiat Panda in Tuscany – they are everywhere. Households with have two or three around the garden. They are left idle in the olive groves and vineyards that dominate the countryside. Pass through any village and there will be two or three parked by the road. It’s brilliant!
Sensibly, a large proportion of the Pandas are of the 4×4 variety. Italians know that the simple mechanicals and go anywhere character make it the perfect vehicle for harsh winter conditions. Having spoken to a couple of Italians since my visit I know that many of these Pandas were bought new and have been kept in the family ever since. We could learn a lot from the Italians in this country. Cars are too disposable these days.
The Italian’s long term attitude to car ownership is highlighted in perfect style by the sight of this third generation Ford Transit on the outskirts of Florence. When was the last time you saw one in active everyday service in the UK? A rare sight indeed.
Oh and one final thing. Although I promised never to feature a Lamborghini on PetrolBlog, I hope you’ll forgive this brief diversion in the form of a 990 F. An evocative distraction as it went about its business in the village of Chianti. Life doesn’t get more Italian than this.
That’s it for the brief tour of Tuscany. Stay tuned for a wander around Paris very soon.