A character in the old Popeye stories, Wimpy, would try to con others into buying his meal, saying “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”.
That was the promise of a little payment that would not be kept. However, a bigger promise that was kept involved a strange little Eastern Bloc car that went on sale in Australia in 1989, which was apparently supplied here as payment for services to the Polish government.
That car was the FSM Niki 650 – and I’ve now owned 3 of these Polish-built Fiat-licenced 1972-designed cars, known in Europe as the PolskiFiat 126p. They have a tiny 2-cylinder air-cooled engine in the back – an arrangement like the VW Bug.
I got to hear about the payment in cars when I went to a Niki graveyard in Brisbane to scavenge some parts from a group of Nikis before they’re scrapped in a few months.
They’re all owned by Fiat mechanic Angelo from APF Motors – he used to run the Autostrada dealership in Macgregor to sell them new.
He says the white one above was the car they used to get Australian Design Rules (ADR) approval in 1988. Angelo pointed out that it has slightly smaller side vents. The ADRs on the cars went OK, but required the plastic bumpers.
Angelo says Nikis were around $3,500 landed here – and sold for $7,990 as Australia’s lowest priced car. There were plenty of red and white ones imported, but only a handful of blue ones.
He says the importer, E. Kandt of Queensland, was a woman working for the Polish government here, and getting paid in cars!
Apparently she couldn’t call them Fiat in the Aussie motor marketplace due to legal issues (even though Fiat wasn’t selling here then), so went with the Polish manufacturer FSM and called the car after her nickname, “Niki”.
A “Niki” badge was among the items I picked up today at the wrecking yard. Australia was the only place in the world where you’d find this model name on sale. I also grabbed some Niki-branded headlight protectors.
I paid Angelo for the parts, and it’s not even Tuesday.