Chalk it up to the power of the press.
Two months ago, I mentioned that I was looking for a Ferrari GTC/4. In response to that, SCMer Howard Jacobs, of suburban Cleveland, wrote us advising that rather than a C/4, we should consider a 456 GTA, similar to the one he used as a daily driver. ("You Write," March 2004, page 14.)
A few days later, as part of a continued e-mail exchange, he dropped this fatally baited hook into my inbox: "An 'orphan' I currently have is a 1960 Fiat 2100, a large (for Fiat) six-seater Berlina, with a straight-six-cylinder engine. Even my friend Ray Boniface, Sr., from whom you bought your Lancia Flaminia Zagato some time ago, didn't know what it was when he first saw it. I'm looking for a good home for it, but until I find someone willing to adopt it, I'll just have to take care of it."
Orphan? Unknown? Straight-six? Like a hound-dog with its nose to the ground, we followed the spoor of the Italian prey.
"Howard, stupidly, I am interested in the Fiat 2100. More details, please."
SETTING THE HOOK
Sensing that he had snared a live one, he responded immediately.
"I purchased the car about three years ago from my Italian mechanic, who was retiring and closing his shop. The odo reads about 75,000 miles. He had owned the car for around 10 years, and I had noticed it every time I took my GTV-6 Maratona in for service (a 1984 with 12,000 miles, that I sold last year to make way for the 456). He also gave me (free) a Bianchina, a Fiat 500 and a Fiat 1100, which I gave to a good friend of mine who is a Fiat fan.
"Although I didn't want, nor need another car-not that that's ever been an issue-I took the 2100 in to save it for someone who would appreciate it. (I already had 11 cars, much to my wife's displeasure. As I mentioned in my original letter to you, among my other cars are the 456, a 550 Maranello, a 993 Porsche Cab, a 993 Twin Turbo, a 1972 Impala 402 convertible and a Cayenne Turbo.) The car ran fine when I got it, but the brakes were dismal, so I had White Post Restorations redo the entire brake system, including master and slave cylinders, drums, etc.
"I also had the plugs, plug wires, distributor cap, rotor, etc., replaced and the engine tuned up. Items such as the thermostat, radiator hoses, idler arm in the steering, etc. were replaced as necessary. The cross-ply tires have lots of tread, but are obviously hard with age.
"The car is in decent driving condition, pretty much original, and can be driven and enjoyed as is. As far as I know, everything works, including the 'tube' AM radio. There is a four-speed column shift, which is remarkably easy to shift, as is the clutch. I taught my older son to drive a stick with this car about three years ago.
"The paint is worn, but serviceable, with only one very small area of rust and Bondo just behind the top of one of the headlights. There is also some surface rust on the chrome, from sitting so long. I have not found any other corrosion.
"After a recent clutch master/slave rebuild, when I drove the car back to my warehouse where I store it, about 25 miles, everything worked and I cruised comfortably on the freeway at 55-60 mph. I could have driven much faster, but the wheels need balancing.
"I have $2,500 in the car, which is what I would like to sell it for. White Post alone charged around $1,500. I would bet that this Fiat 2100 would garner more attention at any car show than any GTC/4 or 308."
Sparing you the gory details, suffice it to say that a few days and $2,000 later (never let it be said that we're not shrewd, hard-nosed negotiators), the car was ours. We paid another $400 to have new radial tires and tubes installed and balanced.
Jacobs graciously threw in another $500 worth of mechanical work, having his mechanic check and change all the fluids.
WE BUY, YOU DRIVE
Cleveland is, according to Rand McNally, exactly 2,459 miles from Portland. We could have the Fiat trucked to us, but somehow, that seems like cheating.
Here's what we've come up with: Our managing editor, Jeff Sabatini, in a momentary lapse of sanity, has agreed to drive the car from Cleveland to Chicago.
We need your assistance to get it the rest of the way to Portland-assuming of course, that we even manage to get it to Chicago. We're looking for individuals crazy enough to drive the car, in stages, across the country.
We have no time frame in mind, but as a rule of thumb we would like each leg of the trip to bring the car a little further west, but if you have a compelling reason to take the car east first (or south, north, whatever) we're open to your story.
As no car magazine road trip is complete without graphics, we'd also like to know if any SCM'ers would be interested in creating a visual package we could slap on the car for the trip.
To sign up for SCM's "America By Fiat" road trip, please contact Jeff directly, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be ready to pop open a bottle of Asti Spumanti when you pull into the driveway of the SCM world headquarters.
In the meantime, Cindy's blue 308 is being shipped by Intercity from its Miami home to Portland, and I'm still pawing through the cars I've been offered. They include nine C/4s, two 365 GT 2+2s, three 400s, a 250 GTE, three E-type coupes, two Maserati 3500 GTs and a purple Pinzgauer 410 named Barney.
With a Ferrari and Fiat already on the way, I'm beginning to think that rather than another Italian, an E-type Jaguar coupe might be a nice addition to the mix. Horses and cats all in the same barn, so to speak. As always, I'm open to your suggestions, at email@example.com.