For some years I have quite regularly r9d in your excellent magazine both letters and aiticles in which the British Motor Industry and British cars are “knock.’. The opinions expressed may well be true and the only new British car I have ever owned (a 1978 MG-B Roadster) certainly had its problems and disappointed me. Foreign cars, however, also have their problems as is evidenced by my unhappy experiences with my Fiat X1/9 1500. The Fiat was purchased new by me in April 1979 partly on the basis of your full report on the
earlier 1300 model. After an MG Midget and then an MG-B the car was a delight. The design and the whole concept of the vehicle were unsurpassable but unfortunately the execution of these two factors leaves a lot to be desired. Upon collecting the car from my local Fiat agent in Newcastle-upon-Tyne it was immediately apparent that all was not well. In fact I returned the car the following morning and reported 22 defects including what turned out to be a broken syncrometh baulk ring on second gear rendering that gear unusable, an inoperative speedometer, chipped paintwork, an oil leak from the trans., several electrical defects etc. Over the rem few months these matters were slowly corrected and overall the car perfumed well until my first long trip which happened to be my honeymoon. Driving south on the Al the car showed signs of overheating by the time my wife and I reached Scotch Corner. I refilled the cooling system several times between there and Dover and had the car looked at by Fiat Garages in Peterborough and Canterbury. We had intended to drive to Paris but as both garages failed to remedy the overheating we decided not to hazard France and to turned back and took the can to Fiat headquarters at Brentford.
It seemed apparent to me that the cylinder-head gasket was blown but Fiat at Brentford assured me after having the car for two days that this was not the case.
On the way back north from London the car again overheated and ultimately Irvine Motors Limited of Newcastle removed the cylinder-head and discovered that the gasket was in fact blown.
With a new cylinder-head gasket the car performed satisfactorily for almost a year during which time it was driven to Yugoslavia and back at very high speeds and without any trouble. Eventually the car began to overheat again and after replacing the thermostats, the water pump and the radiator the Fiat representative ultimately authorised thr replacement of the cylinder-head. Again the car ran satisfactorily for a while but then again began to overheat. The replacement radiator fitted by Irvine Motors Limited was discovered to be defective and replaced. Now at long last the car seems to be behaving properly and I trust will continue to do so.
The repairs and replacements outlthed above have kept the car off the road for a total of nine weeks.
Potential purchasers of foreign cars should therefore be warned that foreign cars arc not necessarily more reliable than their British counterparts.
Incidentally my wife’s, £498.00 when new in 1972, Fiat 500L is probably the most reliable motor car I have ever encountered. It is, of course, air-cooled! South Shields P. ATKINSON