What is the sound of one piston slapping?
What is the sound of one piston slapping?

Consider this an introduction from me I guess!

A bit of backstory: I’m a 28 year old Bachelor of Education graduate who is still living at home and looking for a full-time job somewhere (I don’t want to risk a lease on an apartment as subbing is a somewhat random job - you never know for sure you’ll get income on any given day!). I never seem to have any luck because I either don’t hear back from the jobs I apply for, or (in two cases) I luck out into being one of the potential final candidates only to be blocked out by stupid bureaucratics or not being selected due to “lack of experience.” It’s very hard to get experience if you can’t get hired somewhere to gain said experience!

I’m trained for Junior High and High School, and I substitute teach fairly regularly, but, although I can do it, it doesn’t feel “right” to me. I’ve got a Bachelor of Arts with an Advanced Major in History and, coupling that with my love of cars, a full-time job at an automotive museum would be a dream job for me...I even have 5 years of prior museum experience that definitively cemented museum work as a job I thoroughly enjoy. Unfortunately, I live in middle-of-nowhere Nova Scotia, Canada where there are no Automotive museums at all, so I send off resume after resume to various jobs here and across the country, keeping a close eye out on the bigger auto museum websites in Canada in case any positions open up...I keep crossing my fingers and also any other crossable body part...

To that end...what keeps me going is great communities like you folks and the hope and dream of one day having my own “project / weekend / fun” car to tinker with and cruise around in during the summer and on weekends. I currently own a 2009 Hyundai Accent hatchback - the definition of an “econobox”, but my little base-model Accent hatchback with 5-spd, no power ANYTHING, no ABS and no Cruise Control has been a faithful companion carrying me to all my part-time jobs and sad-ending job interviews. It may be an econobox, but it’s a reliable, surprisingly fun econobox, all things considered :). Now, being a quirky car guy, my tastes are somewhat....eclectic. Don’t get me wrong, I love all cars, and I love supercars and muscle cars and J-tin and Euro rides and anything else as much as the next Jalop, but I’ve always had a thing for small, “honest”, simple cars. Your garages may have Miatas (always the answer, right?), BMWs, Skylines, Hellcats, Mercs, Golf Rs/Golf GTIs and every other type of Jalop ride, but I confess to falling for machines with...ahem...little less performance and street cred, or creature comforts that, in some cases, many of you would ask “WHY WOULD YOU EVER BUY THAT!?!?” For example, I would gladly own a Trabant. Yes, THAT Trabbant. Why? They’re unique. A 2-cyl, air-cooled, 2-stroke car from a country that no longer exists is a complete antithesis to any modern ride and would offer a unique experience. It’s also about what they historically represent. East German citizens were forced to lead terrible lives on the other side of the Iron Curtain, and the Trabants, Wartburgs and few others were all they had (albeit forced on them by the government, yes), but they were still their only method of 4-wheeled transportation. Driving a Trabant on the road, especially in a country were they are almost completely unknown would be a great opportunity to teach people about the car, but also about the history it was entangled in - a “living” monument to the Cold War. A Trabbie would also be simple to work on and they are quite rugged with their weird Duraplast bodies and mechanicals that can be fixed with a rubber band and a bent nail (and remember, they were being fixed back in the day with Communist-”quality” rubber bands and bent nails, and yet kept on going! :P) All of the above being said, the Trabant, although high on my list, isn’t my first preference.

THAT honor would go to the classic FIAT 500. I’m a big FIAT fan....have been for years (laugh all you want, I’ve heard the “Fix It Again Tony” joke 90 Zillion times by now! :P). Would love to own a new 500 Sport, but can’t afford one now. The classic 500 was at the top of my “project / weekend / fun” car short list for a long time, and it is still up there, but it has recently been surpassed on my personal list by a less popular alternative that doesn’t get near as much attention or credit...the FIAT 126. It has had help rising there from the kind and helpful Polish 126 forums I’ve joined (like Rezerwa 126p, and also from users here on Oppo/Jalopnik like Borsuq (thanks mate!) The 126 is like the 500’s nerdy brother. Where the 500 was stylish, chique and popular, the 126 was the quiet, hard-working sibling with acne that most people ignored. There were two main 126 models, the Italian-built and Polish-built air-cooled 126s and the Polish-built 126 BIS with a water-cooled engine. The BIS is much rarer, and also much more prone to problems, so I want one of the air-cooled cars. The 126 is chunkier than the 500, so it has never been acclaimed for its looks. However, its looks were a product of the decade it was created in (the ‘70s) and I think it’s lines are handsome in their own way (the interesting indented lines down the side on earlier ST and FL models, for example) and the styling was certainly of-the-time. It’s a slightly larger car than the 500, but that means it has more space and therefore, more practicality as a usable classic. Other than the later classic FIAT 500R with a 600cc engine, the 126 also had a larger engine/more hp than the most 500s did, sharing the 500R’s 600cc engine and later gaining a 650cc unit with a MIND-BOGGLING 24hp and 32 ft-lbs of torque (I know, it’s hard to wrap your head around such astonishingly large numbers...cars with power figures like this are clearly just overly excessive! ;)) One of the big kickers for me, though is that it is based on the 500’s underpinnings, so, crucially, the experience would be similar. Air-cooled, rear-engined inline 2-cyl...manual choke, etc...another fun antithesis to modern cars (although the 126 does have a synchronized transmission, where the 500 never did [except the 500R], so that would make it much easier to daily-drive). By owning one, I like the idea of “giving a chance” to a little car that a lot of people have glossed over in lieu of other classics. Price is a big factor too. Whereas a decent classic 500 start near $7k CDN and can go as high $20k CDN, if not slightly more in some cases - a Polish-built 126p in pretty decent shape could be bought and shipped over here to Nova Scotia for $3k or even less! Research tells me that replacement parts are easily available and extremely cheap, even with shipping, and a lot of 500 parts suppliers that already exist in North America could be used as well as many parts are shared between the two cars, and many people upgrade their classic 500s with 126 engines for the extra hp/torque anyway!. We can make fun of the ...craftsmanship...of an Italian-designed car being built in Poland, but the fact that many are still on the road in Poland is a testament to the fact they are fairly rugged (well, if undercoated and rust-checked regularly at any rate! :P). I also love their simplicity because I aim to cut my gearhead teeth on doing mechanical work by trying to work on it on my own once I get one!

So...we’re all car people here. We all have our reasons and choices for our chosen rides and I’ve given you some of mine. For now, I’ll keep trying to find a job and a proper start to life on my own in my own place, and the thought of having that little Inline-2 thrumming along behind me as I putter down the road in a light blue FIAT 126 will continue to help keep me going...

Illustration for article titled Confessions of a quirky car nut...

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to posting more and commenting more in the future!

Share This Story

Get our newsletter