Monday, August 15, 2011

THE AUTOMATIC LANCIA

Our Lancia by PhylB
Our Lancia, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
We had to hire a car in Italy - Brita and Peter live in a mountain village that is too remote for public transport. Peter picked up half of us so we only needed a small five seater. We opted online for their bottom of the range Fiat Punto (or similar).
Avis in Arezzo don't seem to have a huge number of clients. We arrived to a man sitting on a deckchair on the main square. In front of him were two Lancias. The first was a Lancia Ypsilon, the second a Lancia Delta Sport. The Ypsilon was our Fiat Punto substitute. I could already imagine three weeks of Thomas driving Peter's Fiat Multipla while I listened to the four kids in my car ranting about leg and elbow room.
The nice Italian man asked if we wanted his Delta instead at no extra cost given the length of our hire period. I was about to jump at the chance when he mentioned it had the added advantage of being an automatic. I was struck instantly with a mix of fear and horror. Last time I drove an automatic, I was 17 years old and dad had allowed me to try his Ford Cortina automatic on the industrial estate in Thornliebank. It drove a bit like a souped-up dodgem car. It changed gear just before or after a human would but never at the right time. I couldn't imagine being stuck with one of these on a mountain pass for three weeks and was about to decline when Thomas showed up. He mentioned he'd never tried an automatic and begged me to reconsider. The Italian bloke thought I was insane too so I gave in, reluctantly.
After all, in 26 years automatics had bound to have improved, so I jumped in and started my drive out of Arezzo. It felt unsurprisingly like a bloody dodgem car, albeit a powerful, growly one. When I reached the mountain I started my ascent and noticed the Lancia, like the old Ford changed gears several seconds after I would have manually, jolting me forward or back in my seat. I was already beginning to loathe it with a passion. It grumped at me every time I tried to start it without my foot on the brake. And it didn't have a very obvious biting point which made three point turns on the mountain pass even more fun than usual!
As the three weeks went on, I noticed however that it was annoying me less and less and I even learned to appreciate being able to give the road my full attention in the hairpin bends on the single-track chunks as I didn't need to change gear.
Much to my disgust and outrage I actually began to like my automatic Delta Sport. I can only conclude from that that I am turning into a sad, lazy, old fogey :-(
I'm also wondering why Lancia pulled out of the UK - they make such pretty cars that would easily compete with Alfa Romeos or the likes that sell well here. Any ideas?

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