'This is your world, shape it or someone else will.' ~ Gary Lew
My first passion was driving... I could not wait to have my own car, not any car
but rather a vehicle that defined me. I believed that an automobile was an extension
of oneself, the key to being free, to exploring and discovering. The beginning of
any adventure was the moment you got behind the wheel and turned the key in the
ignition... and the machine came to life. As a preteen nothing compared to that
As was customary, within my circle of peers, at eighteen, a boy is driven to
a business associate of the father, who owns an automobile dealership and is
allowed to choose his first car. Being that we just stepped-off of the seventies,
muscle cars were still in vogue, most notably Pontiacs and Camaros, more specifically
Trans-Ams and Z/28s. Having just seen the movie 'American Gigolo' (1980), I wanted
a European ragtop, not some hunk of steel, so diametric to my dad's wishes; I put
the word out among auto enthusiasts.
Late one summer evening I receive a call from one such enthusiast, who had a
connection with the sole, at that time, auto dealer in Montreal who dealt in Italian
automobiles 'Luciani Motors'. That same night, after-hours, like some cloak and
dagger mission, we arrive at the showroom. Following introductions we are lead to
an underground storage facility. As I adjusted my focus, in the back of this large
backdrop of concrete and steel, I see the most beautiful, exotic jewel, a black
Fiat Spider with a tan interior and ragtop. The same color as Julian in 'American
FIAT (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili di Torino) was founded in Turin, Northern
Italy, in the year 1899, at the dawn of the Italian industrialization. Now the
FIAT group is a financial and industrial conglomerate that initially manufactured
In the year 1979, the FIAT 124 Spider came to be known as the Spyder 2000. The
1980 Spyder 2000 came equipped with a bigger and more powerful engine that provided
good acceleration. It had a wide rectangular mesh grille and a badge on the bonnet.
It was a classic, in the sense of Austin Healeys, TRs' and MGB Roadsters from
British Leyland of the late sixties. It had these incredible power bulges over
each wheel rim. The aerodynamic body of the vehicle was designed to minimize drag.
I was in Heaven, an instant bond between man and machine. I turned to Mr. Luciani
and said, "That's the one!"
My father was not a happy man and so he let it be known that it was my responsibility
financially, of course, I had to come up with the funds, but I didn't care, she was
"I like you Frank so I'll arrange for the car loan to be approved. Just don't let
me down, young man," said Mr. Luciani once he heard our exchange.
Imagine what that felt like to an eighteen year old? Like, in 1492 when Christopher
Columbus first saw land in the horizon. Two days go by and I get a call from Mr.
"Mr.Borsellino, Mr. Luciani wanted to let you know your car is ready."
I must have jumped 3 feet in the air, all the while trying to maintain civil dialogue
with the lady on the other end.
"Come in to sign some papers and you can drive her home," she concluded.
Suffice to say... that night I got no sleep and the following day at work I was useless.
Right from work, without even showering, got a ride to the dealer and skipped up those
stairs to the office, signed some documents and got my first set of keys.
To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "Freedom at last! Freedom at last! Thank God
Almighty, Freedom at last!"
You were now allowed to go anywhere, anytime and with anyone, day or night, regardless.
I don't think I had ever or since felt such an invigorating sensation down to the depths
of my being. 'The world was my oyster'.
I crossed the lot and I saw her, she had been washed and was a shiny black beacon amidst
a sea of colour. Luciani had many cars in that lot but only my little diamond shone as
black as Egypt's night. The smile on my face was so pronounced it was going to slice my
cheek - through and through. I stopped to take a breath and allow the moment to encapsulate
me fully. This kind of excitement may be only a handful of momentous life-altering milestones
in the life of any young man or woman... your first car. I couldn't believe this was my car.
Mr. Luciani says to me, "Adesso ragazzo, fai attenzione. Unlike a hardtop... if you rollover
in a convertible you can be crushed."
As he began to show me the temperature cage, the lever that opens the bonnet, the hidden
key slot for the trunk, etc. I interrupt him and say, "I don't care; I'll eventually read
the manual and figure those things out."
"I understand, son."
"All I want to know is how to put down the top?"
He went through the motions pointing to the lever to unhook the ragtop, while I'm settling
in comfortably. I turn the key ... and Freedom roared! The engine came to life and it was
like music to my ears. The purring sound of that little Italian 'macchina' was what the
hymning from Angels must sound like.
The first stop was one my oldest friends who lived across the river. Crossing that bridge,
with the wind in my hair, was intoxicating. Being on an open road was a profound freeing of
the spirit. Her dad is an avid car collector, mostly antiques though, but one look at that
little gem and he loved me for the following 25 years. Every time I went to pick her up,
he'd take it for a spin with his wife, like they were reliving their teenage years... while
my friend and I sat around the house waiting. Marie had the soul of an Italian, but was part
French-Canadian and so christened her 'Genevieve' and the name stuck for the next several years.
© Frank Borsellino™
© From Where I Sit™
February 5, 2017
* '1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider by Pininfarina