The original plan had been to drive the Fulvia home, but time constraints and logistical hurdles made that untenable. As luck would have it, a large car-transportation company was located nearby, and we agreed a price to move the car to IJmuiden port near Amsterdam, where I would collect it in a few weeks. We left the Fulvia’s keys with the transporters, Gerry said his farewells then confidently strode off and got into the wrong car, and after a couple of sodden snaps with me next to the Lancia, Cesare gave it a final, loving tap and all was done.
After what felt like three weeks’ worth of Christmas Eves, the transporter driver called to say he’d be delivering the car the following day. Following a last-minute flight from Glasgow to Amsterdam (the novelty of booking a one-way ticket endures as one of the great joys of buying a used car), I found myself in the surprisingly plush Hotel Augusta in IJmuiden, yards from the DFDS ferry terminal for Newcastle. The transporter eventually arrived at 2am, and in the thick, dark haar, my little Fulvia was unloaded and parked up under the hotel’s glowing canopy. It was all very surreal – had Carlos the Jackal appeared from the shadows, he wouldn’t have seemed out of place.
The Newcastle ferry was fully booked for three days, but an early-morning call to DFDS blessedly turned up a last-minute cancellation on the 478-cabin Princess Seaways for that afternoon. I then spent a while with the hotel’s owners, who’d taken an interest in the Lancia and showed me their own eclectic collection of motors: a Nuova 500, Triumph TR4, Toyota FJ Cruiser, US-spec Volvo 244 GL saloon and an evocative, coachbuilt Beardmore taxi.
The Fulvia was running fine, but a temperamental lock left my passport stranded in the boot as columns of cars slid past onto the ferry. There’s a knack, of course, as I eventually discovered, but I’d have preferred that discovery to have been made more quickly and in less fraught circumstances.
The ferry was a revelation to me – a large, comfortable hotel in which you lay your head down in one country and wake up in another, and your car comes, too. Obvious, perhaps, but experiencing such as easy link between northern Britain and continental Europe has led to the plotting of future trips already.
The morning arrival in Newcastle brought sunshine and a chance, at last, to drive the Fulvia properly. First, to Tynemouth for breakfast by the sea, then inland, across the border at Carter Bar and a stop-off in my hometown of Hawick on the way to Edinburgh. It’s a great route in even the dreariest of cars, so I’d been looking forward to it.
The Fulvia behaved impeccably. I knew of the intense engineering in these cars and the mechanical quality that made them so expensive when new – the car duly delivered and I was hammering along the back roads in no time. The gearing is very short and you’re in fifth before you know it, but with 1298cc making just 90.7 metric horsepower at 6000rpm, I’ve no complaints about that. The 13deg V4 is loud and perhaps not running as sweetly as it should, but the timing and twin Solex carburettors will be seen to in due course. In the meantime, throttle response is still good and drivetrain vibration limited. The long-throw, dogleg gearbox is sweet and the all-round disc brakes almost shockingly effective for such an old car.