Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: 1964 Autobianchi Bianchina – A (Literary) Bridge Too Far

shot and posted by J.C.

I need to explain why I selected this car from the Cohort as well as the title. I started listening to Walter Mosley’s latest book, “Every Man A King”, and after an hour so, I stopped. It just wasn’t working for me, for a number of reasons, which is odd, as I loved all of his Easy Rawlins books. This one has a new protagonist, Jo King Oliver, a Black private detective, set in today’s New York City.

And what does Mosley have King drive? An Autobianchi Bianchina. It’s a Fiat 500 with a cute convertible or coupe body, and with 15, 17.5 or 21 hp, depending on the version. Yes cute, and yes, Mosley has demonstarted his knowledge of cars, but come on; driving a Bianchina in New York City, as his daily driver? Today? That’s just a bridge too far for me.

Here’s the coupe. Strictly speaking, there was also a sedan and wagon, but I doubt that’s what was on Mosley’s mind.

It wasn’t just the Bianchina either; pretty much all the characters and elements of the book weren’t working for me. Oh, and Jo’s brother drives a 1950s Willys Jeep; again, as his daily driver. The problem is that it feels like Mosley, who is a great story teller, is trying too hard to impress us too hard with his superior intelligence, to the point it gets in the way. Stephanie loved it, and thinks I’m being way to objective or whatever. It’s true that I generally prefer non-fiction, and when it’s technically fiction, the kind that’s based heavily on actual lived experience, like all the Jack Kerouac books I’ve just finished reading.

Speaking of Kerouac, one of the last of his books I listened to (when I’m driving back and forth to Port Orford) was Big Sur; the events in it take place in 1955. Kerouac goes to stay at Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin in Big Sur, to dry out, among other things. And what do Ferlinghetti, Neal Cassidy, and another couple all drive when they come out to visit him? All of them have Willys station wagons; which apparently was the cool car to to have in the Bay Area at the time. All had their rear seats out, and a mattress or such back there, where passengers sat informally. These weren’t 4WD versions, most likely, but they suited the beat lifestyle, on a number of levels.

Given the huge cultural impact these beat pioneers had on American (and global) culture, it’s not be a bridge too far to suggest that among other things, they helped usher in the whole SUV fad.