Crazy bike-engined Fiat Bambina ratter

Hogan Jeffs's insane backyard-built Fiat Bambina ratter blows minds at Muscle Car Madness

Photographers: Nathan Jacobs

ONE of the wildest cars getting around at New Zealand’s Muscle Car Madness show this year was Hogan Jeffs’s wild Fiat Bambina. With bodywork from hell, a chopped roof, suicide doors and a fully exposed motorbike engine inside the cabin, this home-built Bambina is utter madness and the ultimate low-cost show cruiser.

Fiat Bambino Ratter 1 NwThis thing looks mental, what is it?

It’s a Fiat Bambina 500, I have no idea what year it is but I guess it must be pretty old! It has the factory suicide doors, which I believe means it’s a Model D, and those are pretty rare. It hasn’t got much of the factory stuff left in it though; it’s a bit of a mess but it’s been getting heaps of love from everyone here at Muscle Car Madness!

Fiat Bambino Ratter 9 NwHow did you find the car?

I came by it when I moved into my house; the old owner didn’t want to take the car with him, so I gave him $100 for it. Everything on it was seized and no part was untouched by rust. I had originally intended to turn it into a couch, but as Muscle Car Madness got closer I decided to make it a cruising car for the event. There was no real plan to the build, I just wanted to make it driveable without spending much money – the car only owes me about $600 all up! Everything evolved as free or cheap parts turned up. The front seats are an old copper hot water cylinder that I got for nothing, as I’m a plumber, and I made the big gearstick out of some old steel. It runs 14×10-inch wheels on the rear that came from a scrap bin. Behind the seat are some old house speakers that are connected to an amp under the bonnet and to an iPod. It was perfect, because it has no windows so it’s as loud on the inside as it is outside! I also ended up doing a three-inch roof chop – so I could get rid of a stupid-looking grille under the rear window – which turned out pretty cool with the suicide doors.

Fiat Bambino Ratter 11 NwAnd I presume the Fiat engine was junk?

Yeah, I threw that away and put together a 250cc V-twin Honda motor, which makes about the same power as the standard car and runs via a chain to a straight axle. The fuel tank on the roof isn’t just there for looks, it works as the actual tank, because bikes are gravity feed. I did most of the work myself, but I had an engineer mate do the axles and hubs so that I didn’t break anything. At the front these Fiats have a transverse leaf spring, which we modified so that I can give it as much camber as I want. A lot of people were betting on whether it would snap, but it’s all fine!

Fiat Bambino Ratter 3 NwWhat’s next for the Fiat?

Well I’ve owned it for around five months, but the whole build only started about three weeks out from Muscle Car Madness, so it’s really only just been finished! We had heaps of fun in it at the show though and now I’m not sure what will happen to it. But I do have a small supercharger sitting in the garage, which I could be tempted into sticking on the Fiat.