I thought you might want to hear a tender Christmas story.

I worked my way through college as a Volvo mechanic, 1969-71.During those years, the extremely dependable but dated Volvo 120series was being replaced by the extremely trendy but unreliable140 series.

Our shop foreman decided to buy a small Fiat, about 1500cc,saying that he could no longer trust the Volvo, and furthermore,he REALLY loved the TREMENDOUS gas mileage of the Fiat.The first week he had the Fiat, he did nothing but rave about thegas mileage, so we decided to help him. Every day we would add,at first a pint, then more and more gas to his tank when hewasn't looking. He went crazy.

Our skeptical-looking (we were all in on it) crewwould be regaled by his tales of getting, well, first it was 34,then 50, the 63 miles per gallon. He would snarl condescendinglyat our gas guzzling Volvos, then reflect on the brilliance ofItalian engineering. The Fiat dealership, of course, had severalexplanations. Tight engine. American gas. Driving habits.Then we gradually began to reduce the amount we added, until itwas zero, and then of course we siphoned increasing amounts fromthe Fiat's tank.

At first, the bragging slowed to a stop. He became surly. How wasthe Fiat? Wouldn't answer. Then of course he kept taking it backto the Fiat back dealership, which, of course, had severalexplanations. Tight engine. American gas. Driving habits.In the end, he found us out, and our schedules were screwed formonths. I worked 11 hours on Christmas Eve, 1970. That's theChristmas part.

Merry Christmas, guys, and a happy and talkative New Year.

Will Davis
Mill Valley, CA

[ As Read on Car Talk ]