Me And My Car: Old Italian flame

Mrs Jessica Tan loves all things Italian, from food and furniture to handbags and cars.

The 70-year-old runs her own business importing architectural hardware such as door handles and locks, predominantly from Italian manufacturers. It was her Italian business associates – she has become friends with many of them over the past 40 years – who sparked her love for Italian goods.

“They introduced me to delicious Italian food and wine. They drive beautiful Italian cars and their homes are decorated with impeccably-crafted Italian furniture,” she says.

Not surprisingly, her cars have almost always been Alfa Romeos and Fiats since she bought her first set of wheels – a Fiat 128 – four decades ago.

She has owned 14 Alfa Romeos over the years, including three Alfasuds, two Alfettas and a Spider. For Fiat, she has also owned the 125 Special and 131 Racing. Her last Alfa was the flagship 166, which she was hoping to replace with the 169, but it never made it to production.

After that, some time around 2000, she switched to German cars (Mercedes-Benz and BMW). “But I never quite took to them the same way I did with the Italian models,” she recalls.

Then, in 2014, she stopped driving because of her deteriorating eyesight from cataract.

“It was also partly because I was semi-retired by then, so I no longer had to go to the office or attend meetings daily,” she says. “If I had to go somewhere, I hitched a ride from my husband or children, or just take public transport.”

Mrs Tan and her 70-year-old husband, an architect, have two grown-up daughters, and a nine-year-old granddaughter.

It was not until she happened to chance upon a rare 2012 Fiat 500c by Gucci Edition – advertised for sale on motoring portal sgCarMart in February this year – that she decided to get back into the driver’s seat.

And since she had her cataract procedure done last year, her vision was back to normal. She paid $36,000 for the 1.4-litre 100bhp car which had clocked only 37,000km.

What’s in the boot?

• A thermal bag

• A pair of shoes

• An umbrella

The limited-edition Fiat was launched in 2011 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy and Gucci’s 90th anniversary.

Mrs Tan loves the Gucci green and red stripes across its powerretractable soft-top roof, and on its seat belts. Gucci insignias – such as the interlocking “GG” logo on the hubcaps and Guccissima print on the leather seats – make the car feel like “a giant Gucci trolley bag”, she says.

“The car reminds me of the first Gucci handbag my husband gave me 40 years ago, which I still treasure very much,” she says. “It brings back fond memories and a sense of nostalgia.”

Going behind the wheel again was not at all difficult, she says. The car has an automatic transmission, is compact and has good visibility – making it easy to manoeuvre and park.

Mrs Tan drives it two or three times a week, clocking 125 to 150km. She says driving it sometimes reminds her of Monza in northern Italy, where one of her associate-turned-friends lives.

“Whenever I visit, she would drive me around in her classic Fiat Cinquecento,” she says.

She plans to renew the car’s certificate of entitlement when it is due in 2022.

“I think it is a collector’s car worth keeping,” she says. “Maybe my granddaughter can drive it next time.”

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