This Fiat 128 turned heads once—now it’s sunk in a ditch

abandoned old car side-view

Each time I find an abandoned car, I wonder what the original owner would think if he or she saw it decaying in a forest or upside down in a ditch. I’m willing to bet the cost of four new Pirelli tires the person who drove this Fiat 128 home from the dealership would get an ulcer after reading this story.

While the red stripes are racy, this isn’t a Rally model or a limited-edition variant. It’s a simple, humble 128 sedan purchased by someone with a taste for aftermarket accessories. The original owner was a motorist with a family and its gear to haul, who didn’t want to settle for something more bland like a Renault 14 and who couldn’t afford a new Alfa Romeo Alfetta. The earlier Giulia was a common sight in used car lots during the 1970s, but this buyer wasn’t the gambling kind. Wise decision, I say.

The 128 struck a middle ground between practicality and Italian flair. White is this example’s original color, and it must have been quite a looker with its red accents and its tan cloth interior. It was the kind of car that stood out in the school pick-up line, and turned heads in the grocery store parking lot. Then, at one point in its life, it wandered into a forest, got lost, and never found the way out. That’s what the folks who dumped it there want you to believe, at least. Odds are this 128 is still declared stolen in 2019.

Up until a few years ago, it guarded the south entrance to a sizeable and reasonably well-hidden graveyard of stolen cars. Most were at least partially stripped, none were identifiable via registration documents or numbers, and all had seemingly been there since the 1980s. Several Renault 4s, a couple of 5s, a squashed 8, a 17 hanging from a cliff, and a Volkswagen Squareback haunted the dense woods outside of Aix-en-Provence, a city in southern France. Parts were strewn about, too, including miscellaneous bits and pieces from a Citroën CX. The hideout was perfect: It was close to the main road, but it was tightly nestled between the area’s jagged hills so even hikers wouldn’t find the cars. 

abandoned old car interior seat
inside abandoned buried old car
abandoned buried old car front three-quarter
Ronan Glon

Local officials knew they were there, and they finally began the process of extracting them in 2017. The folks in charge of the clean-up operation left the Squareback behind because it’s too tightly wedged between a couple of oak trees, and the 128 is so well hidden that they completely missed it. It’s at the bottom of what you’d either call a really big ditch or a fun-sized canyon with a small stream flowing through it, which is a bad place to be for an Italian car made during an era when rust-proofing was a ballpark suggestion at best. It’s hard to see in the winter, and it’s fully camouflaged the rest of the year.

There are no license plates on it, and the registration stickers are far downstream with the rest of the windshield, so it’s impossible to tell precisely when it was first registered, or when it was last on the road. But, while its front end is badly dented, I know it’s a third-series model made after 1976 because there are no holes in the front fenders for the turn signals; they were bumped-mounted on later cars. Almost everything mechanical is missing including the entire drivetrain and the suspension. Most of the interior is gone, too, but none of the body panels were taken.

It’s an unfortunate end for a car whose original owner probably still has fond memories of it. There’s someone out there who has heard the story and seen the photos of grandpa’s stolen Fiat (“the one with the red stripes”) a thousand times without realizing it’s languishing a few miles away.