Motoring: My Worst Car/Eamonn Holmes'S Fiat 124

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The Independent Online
Every time I get into a car and sniff a pine tree-shaped air freshener it reminds me of my first and probably worst car. You see, I needed four of them to take away the terrible smell of damp that polluted my old Fiat 124.

There were two sorts of Fiat 124, a sporty coupe and a saloon. All I could afford was the saloon, which is now famous for being the same shape as a Lada.

Back in 1978 I paid about pounds 500 for this seven-year-old car, which was painted a sort of khaki beige, or, as the lid of the touch-up spray can called it, "Sahara". I bought a lot of those to cover up the spread of rust.

Inside, the trim was orange velour, which was very 1970s. This was Starsky and Hutch era and it was fashionable to add go-faster stripes - mine were black - and also to jack the rear end of your car upwards by raising the suspension. It looked very mean.

I also spent a fortune on a state of the art radio cassette which cost about pounds 100. It was a great car when I bought it in the spring, and it got even better during the summer, but then things started to turn sour, or rather, mouldy in the winter. As I remember it, 1978-9 was the Winter of Discontent and that was certainly my experience.

My Fiat had quarter lights which could be opened to allow fresh air in. Except that when shut, my door quarter lights let in gallons of rainwater, which filled up the footwells and soaked the carpet.

To counter this I undersealed the floor and then drilled holes to let the water out. The Fiat stayed damp and that's where the pine trees came in. I had them dotted all over the car front and rear to keep the smell at bay.

Suddenly the Fiat started to cost me a disproportionate amount of money as I had it resprayed and the boot filled up with jump leads and tow ropes. I also learnt a lot of new terms, like ball joints, back axle and tappets, as they required replacement. The only way I could get rid of it was to part exchange it for another Fiat. It was a green Strada, which I renamed the frog. The first thing I did was buy a pine tree air freshener.

Eamonn Holmes is a co-presenter on GMTV.

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