Tiny Fiat helps big BMW – and sprouts an unexpected new appendage
1993 FIAT PANDA 1100 SELECTA
You know things must be bad when an old Fiat is summoned to help out a BMW with electrical problems. It’s akin to asking Danny Dyer to do Hamlet at Stratford – and not the East London one, either. Nevertheless, such was the call I got from my friend Kingsley, whose 1990 BMW 735iL was having a battery tantrum. On most cars, this wouldn’t have been an issue, but the location of the E32 7-series’s battery is quite spectacularly stupid – it’s under the rear seat. Which, on models with power seats, has to be moved electrically before the dismantling process to get at it can even start. Can you see the flaw in this plan yet?
There are remote jump-start terminals under the Beemer’s bonnet, but Kingsley’s portable power pack had proved completely ineffectual. So he asked me to pop over with jump-leads and advised coming in something small, because his street is the sort of place where residents have wrestling contests every Saturday just to decide who can park there over the coming week. Anything bigger than the Panda just wouldn’t fit in the restricted road room available and might cause utter traffic chaos and gridlock throughout town. Thus, the mighty but stricken BMW found itself in the ignominious position of being assisted by a tiny Fiat with less than a third of its engine size and a quarter of its power. It looked genuinely embarrassed about the whole thing. Kingsley’s neighbours even stopped practising their grappling holds to come out and point and snigger as the scene unfolded.
Eventually, after a lot of revving from the petite Panda and further assistance from the long-suffering power pack, the big Beemer grumbled into life again. Kingsley then took it for a long drive, both to fully recharge the battery and dream up new and exciting ways to wreak vengeance on the German engineer responsible for sticking it in such a ridiculous spot in the first place.
Meanwhile, the Panda’s exhaust deterioration continues apace. It’s now taken to blowing out its internal cladding after long and enthusiastic drives. Thus it often arrives at detinations having sprouted a hairy tail en route and looking for all the world like an Italian Transformers version of My Little Pony.
Panda’s fluffy new tail. Richard supervises the jumpstarting operation by staring long and hard at things.