Carl H 1979 Fiat Brava wagon

FIAT (got yer 'tention, huh?) in desert on a wing & a prayer

Travelling from SoCal to Las Vegas in the mid-80s with the wife and her father in our 1979 Fiat Brava station wagon. Loved that car, but then I've loved nearly all of my 54 former or current possessions. We were cruising through the barren nether regions of the desert between SoCal and Las Vegas. Suddenly, a loud 'ker-whop!'. ??? WTF ??? and the temperature gage starts climbing. Oh-oh, she's hot. Gotta stop. Get out, take a look. ??? Hmmm, the fan belt is just sitting there on the pump pulley. Fully intact and sitting there. ??? Try to get it back into place and onto the appropriate pulleys again... too tight, won't go on. Wrong time for me to have decided NOT to bring the tool box I ALWAYS bring with me. Not a tool on board. No. Wait. There's the OEM tire iron with its lug nut socket. Looks close to the size of the alternator locking nut (adjustment for the fan belt). Lessee... DAMN IF IT'S NOT CLOSE ENOUGH TO DO THE JOB!! Sort of, but it did the job, even if the nut's not really quite tight enough for my liking. Never-mind. Start her up, everything looks good, underway to get some cooling down done. And we're many miles from any services still. Down the road... KER-WHOP!! Belt's off again no doubt. Pull over, take a look... sure enough, still there, but off. Can't figure why it hasn't disappeared miles back on the road, but our good fortune, run it up back on to the pulley again. It was beginning to shred, but it went on. So, down the road again. A few more miles until... you guessed it... KER-WHOP! But it sounds different this time. And this time, it's off entirely, and shredded beyond any further use. Well, there's a sign indicating services available several miles down the road... and we're in kinda rolling hill country now, so... Start her up, into drive and away we go... temp's going up, into neutral and coast down the hill, cooling as we go. Back into gear to get up the next rise and, again, coast down the other side. A few more of these and we finally see the exit to 'Services'. Which turned out to be a truck stop. and I don't mean today's truck stop that caters to EVERYone. Big-ass islands and bays and it's obvious all they deal with is the big-rigs, aside from the occasional fuel-up for the light-traveler who didn't plan their gas stops too well. Power on and up the exit ramp, engine off and coast through the stop sign, across the overpass and down into the station. The upshot?? When I went into the service bay (and this place was a modern, and BIG, 'Trucker's haven) and explained my situation, they looked at me like I was some sort of alien asking for a diridium flux capacitor, and expressed sincere doubt they'd have anything that would work. Would you believe they pulled a belt out of inventory that was about twice as thick as the original, but about the same working diameter/length... AND IT WORKED!! We made it to our Vegas destination (a funeral, unfortunately), and back home again. And, that belt stayed on for many years more.

1 Reader Comment

  • 1
    tonyn counts portland, oregon June 28, 2014 at 22:59
    Mid 80's military assignment in the middle of White Sands testing grounds. Decided to drive the 40 miles to town in my buddy's Datsun 510 (with 400,000 miles on it). It dies...20 miles from any civilizatiion in tne middle of the desert. The well worn distributor had snapper the metal tip off the rotor. I found a discarded beer pull tab by the roadside, attached it to the rotor base with a rubber band and installed it. The car started!!! We eased up the speed...the car started missing at 29 mph. We made the 20 odd miles to town at 28 mph.

Join the Discussion