My ownership of this 1965 Fiat 2300 Familiare, or station wagon, came about because of the first classic car I bought, at the age of 21.
It, too, was a Fiat 2300, a saloon, and I still own it some 30 years later.
I bought it largely because I was a bit of an anorak when it came to cars, and yet I had never seen or even heard of a Fiat 2300 before.
Around 100 of them were sold new in New Zealand, mostly saloons.
Rare or unusual cars, as it turned out, appeal to me.
Around five years later, in the mid-1990s, I happened to spot this station wagon being driven on the Wellington motorway.
Only two are known to survive in New Zealand, so what are the chances that I would see one of them?
I asked my passenger to record the numberplate, and through that I tracked down the owner and expressed an interest in buying the car.
It was the same age as my saloon, and I liked the idea of having a matching pair.
About a year later, the owner offered to sell it to me.
What made the car extra special was that he’d owned it from new, meaning this example has now had just two owners in its 55 years, and in all that time it has been based in the Wellington area.
In addition to rarity, it seems I am also attracted to one-owner cars: about a decade later I bought a 1989 X1/9 from the original lady owner.
It wouldn’t be my last such purchase and, as before, I still have the car. Like my 2300s, I don’t ever intend to sell it.
The Familiare was a well-maintained original car that had performed family duties for its first owner for many years.
Aside from a repaint, it had been converted to run on LPG during the early 1980s when the New Zealand government encouraged the use of alternative fuels.
I removed the LPG conversion because it reduced the car’s performance compared with petrol – I would switch over to pump fuel as a kind of turbo boost when I wanted to overtake!
The installation also prevented the whole boot from being used to carry large loads with the rear seats folded, which rendered the idea of a wagon largely pointless.
With several other cars in my fleet, the wagon hasn’t endured extensive use and has been laid up twice for a couple of years at a time, due to mechanical issues that weren’t a priority to resolve.
The Familiare returned to the road most recently in 2019, following a year-long mechanical and underbody restoration that included an engine and gearbox overhaul, new suspension and braking systems, reconditioned steering and almost everything else in between.
It involved scouring the world for as many new parts as possible, such as bushes and seals, and I took the opportunity to fit a spare electric overdrive unit, which, although an option, was not originally fitted to this car.
The upgrade was well worth it: the Fiat’s high-speed cruising is much-improved, and I find the column-mounted lever operates much like the paddles on my Maserati Quattroporte V.
Several years ago I embarked on a professional restoration of my 2300 saloon.
That project is still ongoing, so for the time being the station wagon is the only 2300 I have that’s ready to drive.
I’ve been a member of the local Fiat Owners’ Club – one of two active Fiat/Lancia clubs in New Zealand – for nearly three decades, from shortly after buying my first 2300.
I thought it made sense to join to get technical advice on my model, but because six-cylinder Fiats are rare, it turns out that my cars are the only examples known to the club.
I’ve served twice on the committee at different times, and a couple of years ago I stepped up to become club president.
The X1/9 was my regular ‘club’ car, but now that the 2300 wagon is back in rude health I make sure I take it along to classic car shows, where inevitably its point of difference is its rarity – precisely what attracted me to the model all those years ago.
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- Owned by Mark Stockdale
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