I’m embarking on a five-day roadtrip to Nashville, Tennessee in a 2011 Fiat 500.

The reason I’m doing this is because Fiat reached out to me and asked if I’d like to give my impressions of this tiny car while I check out the Fiat owners’ community at the Fiat Freakout event. Why they chose me isn’t perfectly clear, but it might have something to do with my experience with Chevy earlier this year when I was chosen as part of the Chevy SXSW Road Trip Challenge. Maybe it has something to do with my work on Icrontic, and the story I wrote there about Mopar. Perhaps it was my involvement with Tweetea, where I met Chrysler’s social media guru Mike Driehorst.

The point of that “Feather-in-my-cap” stuff wasn’t to brag. It’s to show that social networking works. Fiat wants me to be in this car because I will be honest, genuine, and tell them my thoughts. Have blog, will travel. They get exposure out of it, I get a neat experience where I’ll probably make some new friends, and have some neat memories to put into my scrapbook. Plus, I’ll have the confidence of being able to say, “Hey, Fiat chose me to write about their cars.” That stuff snowballs and turns into more opportunity. If I can share that success with our social media clients here at Trademark, then all the better.

I went to pick up the Fiat in Auburn Hills, MI (which, coincidentally is the home of Chrysler Group, LLC.) The car I get to drive is a dark silver, sporty little thing, with black checker graphics and a snazzy leather interior.

It’s a 5-speed manual; here’s where I embarrassingly reveal that I haven’t driven a manual since 2001 or so, when I had a 1985 Jeep CJ-7 that was built like a tank. It was like shifting a cement truck. I think I actually grew toned biceps from driving that truck for a half a year. So here, I have to get into this little sports car and pretend like I can remember how to drive a stick.

I stalled immediately upon backing up, which was no big deal except for the two people that worked at the facility who were annoyed with me in the parking lot. No worries! I’ve got this! I restarted it and lurched forward to the security gate and nonchalantly pretended like everything was A-OK while the guard filled out paperwork to release the car to me. Yep, I got this.

I got out of the parking lot and down the road, but I stalled again at the first red light. Now, here’s where I remember to tell you that I had my 13- and 12-year old sons with me. They were terrified. “Dad…” my oldest said dubiously. “You… uh.. you sure you know how to drive this…?” He was not at all confident. My younger son was silent as a ghost in the back.

The car behind me was irked, but I got ol’ bessie going again and realized that the next step was I-75, a major freeway. Did I mention it was rush hour?

Well, I’ll spare the details except to say that by the time I got home (40 miles later), I re-mastered the manual transmission, became a hero to my sons (very important), and didn’t damage the car in any way. Success!

Now that I’ve found my legs again, I’m ready to get this baby on the open road. The Fiat is tiny, zippy, and a ton of fun to drive. It’s very strange to get used to the “borders” of the car, since they’re so close to you, but it doesn’t feel strange now that I’ve spent a couple of hours in it.

I’ll update the TM blog, make sure to take lots of pictures and video, and try my best to share this fun experience with everyone. Wish me luck!

Update: Here is the photostream from the trip:

5 responses to “Nashville bound in a Fiat 500

Posted by tyfras

Always been a fear, getting back into a manual trans (even though I have been looking at getting one in my next car). But hey, if you mastered it that quickly, you shed confidence for all of us.

Posted on July 20, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Posted by primesuspect

@tyfras Oh man, after one full day of driving it, I’m back in the saddle big time. I feel like a rally car driver in this thing! If there’s one thing I’ll take away from this experience, it’s that I want a manual for my next car.

Posted on July 20, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Posted by sethta

@primesuspect Both of my cars are manual and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Better gas mileage and much more fun. The only downside is bumper-to-bumper traffic, which is why I only live two miles away from work!

Posted on July 20, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Posted by seotips

I like a manual car but one with a bigger engine and more horsepower. Fiat wont cut it for me.

Posted on July 21, 2011 at 10:04 am

Posted by seotips

New video was posted on Brian’s trip : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDROgZQjiWA

Posted on July 21, 2011 at 10:25 am

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