“Ciao, tutti:” This ’77 Fiat spreads the four-wheeled love among Canada’s cycling community
Rolling to a stop in a back alley, the old-timer at the wheel of the dusty blue Ford F-150 tips his cowboy hat, points to the little red car, and flashes a thumbs up.
“Everybody gets it,” says owner and avid cyclist Kelly Servinski. “I’ve got compliments from rednecks, metal heads, everyone. They may not be into me wearing spandex, but they’re into the Fiat.”
The car in question is a 1977 Fiat 500 wagon, one of Italy’s cheerful little cinquecento people’s cars. Restored by The Guild Of Automotive Restorers in Ontario, it’s not the kind of thing you expect to find in Clinton, a small town in British Columbia’s ranch land. It’s certainly not the sort of vehicle you’d expect to see on the lonely gravel roads that snake through the area.
Tutti, as she’s known, is a working classic. The Fiat isn’t simply the mascot for the Tutti Gravel Inn, a small hotel and tour company offering cycling expeditions around the area; she’s a full-time employee. When the bike tours embark on their hundred-mile events, Tutti follows along, her willing little two-cylinder engine puttering away like a stovetop espresso maker on the boil.
“With gravel, it’s just like things are coming full circle,” Servinski says, “People didn’t always race bikes on paved roads. I used to be more into whatever the latest technology is for bikes—I love carbon-fiber, lightweight parts—but this just feels right.”
Servinski and his wife Erin Yeo started their business, Tutti Gravel Inn, as an Airbnb and coffee company, with Tutti at the center of it all. COVID-19 has obviously presented some difficulties but, with a calendar comprised largely of outdoor events, the business seems to be weathering the storm. Servinski talks excitedly to fellow cyclists about the gorgeous gravel switchbacks up in the canyons and has even built a wood-fired pizza oven in the shed next to the little Fiat’s parking spot.
Technically, the 500 is a Giardiniera, the longest-running Fiat 500 variant. Later models, such as Tutti, were built by Autobianchi as a subsidiary of Fiat towards the end of the 1960–77 production run. This particular Giardiniera features a massive roof opening, storage for bike parts, and a custom rack built in Squamish, B.C. and bolted onto its top. Its 500-cc engine sits flat under the rear floor, putting out just 13 hp.
The 500 may be small, but it certainly wasn’t cheap. Servinski tells me the fully restored car cleaned out most of his savings.
“But I drive it almost every day,” he says, “I like the simplicity, the spirit of it.”
Servinski admits that he’s no car guy, but he is a gearhead of a different sort, a longtime cyclist who took up riding as physiotherapy after breaking his femur in a motocross accident as a kid. He grew up riding between towns in Saskatchewan’s prairies. Later, his passion grew as he watched professional cycling races and participated in the occasional competition.
His love of the history comes from Italy, where he competed in L’Eroica, a vintage bike race with events that demand up to fifteen-hour days. Many of the stages are gravel, some of the riders are fueled on wine and prosciutto, and several of morning stages are lit by candlelight. Servinski placed first on the long route several years ago and was awarded with a local steak so large it took him forty-five minutes to eat it.
This event—and the general Italian zest for life—helped to bring the Fiat into the fold. The name and the lettering on the car’s sides represent a spirit of inclusion. “Ciao, tutti,” says Servinski, translating, “Hello to everyone!”
The fall riding season is just ahead, though there will be fewer group events around the province this year. Make the trek out to Clinton, however, and you’ll see small packs of riders dotting the wilderness, a friendly red Fiat following faithfully behind them, brightening the day of everyone it putters past.