Something I never thought I'd own - a Fiat.
Growing up in South Africa, the idea of owning a Fiat is one that often got shot down with "First In All Troubles". Outdated? Yes, but I have seen many an Uno on the side of the road broken down. So that's what I thought Fiat's were all about - troubles.
Fast forward a couple of years and here I am - a proud owner of a 2010 Fiat Panda MTA. How did I get here? I tested many a Fiat in my career as a motoring journalist, including this shape of Panda. Admittedly, it wasn't this engine or spec level. It was the Panda 100HP and it won me over with one revvy little engine – the 1.4-litre 16-valve unit has 74kW and 131Nm.
I remember it being incredibly zippy and, thanks to a tiny body and low weight, having a huge thrill factor. It was that little car that changed my mind about Fiats.
My particular Fiat was found on Facebook Marketplace, while then fiancé (now husband. Yes, I had to squeeze that in there) and I were looking for a small automatic that I could use for my commute to and from work. The 1.2 Fiat Panda MTA had a price tag that we couldn't ignore, plus relatively low mileage at 83 000kms.
I love the spec level - there's air-conditioning, electric windows at the front, cup holders, steering wheel mounted audio controls, power steering and more. We loved it from the second we saw it. Is it the best automatic box out there? No, I can't say that it is. But is it perfect for me? Definitely. And I'm not even worried about all the issues that older Fiats were renowned for. I have, on some level, wanted this shape Fiat Panda since I first drove the 100HP and now I own one.
I've said this in some way or another before: Sometimes the car you get isn't the popular choice, but it's a good one for you and that's all that matters at the end of the day.
The next step in any second-hand car ownership, after doing the paperwork, is making the car feel like it's yours. You know, it's been someone else's baby before and now you're desperate to make it feel like it’s more yours.
Here are some tips to get there.
1) Add a trinket that represents you and something you like. For me, it's a Harry Potter keyring. As a start it's a great way of making sure your key becomes recognisable to you and that it doesn't look or feel foreign anymore.
2) Make it smell different. I haven't gotten around to this one yet, but I really want to buy one of those cutesy air freshener mirror things for my car. It would be my way of making my car smell exactly how I want it to. I like keeping the smell the same so when the air freshener runs out, I'd buy the same one. That way, anyone else who gets into my car also associates that smell with my car.
3) Put some familiar things in your vehicle that you may need. I currently keep my power bank, charging cable and headphones in my car all the time. I would still like to add jumper cables in the boot, wet wipes and a toilet roll because you never know when you need these things.
4) Load up some of your favourite songs and use the first few journeys for some car karaoke. Whether you have a phone playlist to connect to the car, a USB stick with some of your jams or a CD filled with familiar songs (not all cars have USB and Bluetooth connectivity), make this one of the first things you do when you get your new car.
5) Tune all your favourite radio stations in order of preference. I've memorised most of Cape Town's top radio stations and I've programmed each one into the system in order of how I'd choose to channel hop between them all.
6) Name it. Some people don't name their vehicles, but I have found this to be a crucial step in deepening the connection between you and your new wheels. My Fiat Panda is called Rocket. After Rocket Racoon from Guardians of the Galaxy. They also called him a Trash Panda on at least one occasion, so there's that.
So, in conclusion, trust your gut on what car you want. And once you have it, go out of your way to make it all yours and feel like home (of sorts). Even better, go out and make some new memories in it.