January 27, 2023


Still car-crazy after all these years

Public Nuisance Fiat at Detroit Dragway

If you are going to have a nuisance, it may as well be one like this wild looking Fiat.

Anyone remember the Public Nuisance Fiat Altered?

Public Nuisance Fiat at Detroit Dragway
If you are going to have a nuisance, it may as well be one like this wild looking Fiat.

When I saw the Public Nuisance Fiat, I had to snap a photo. It was Detroit Dragway, late 1960-something. I was there to see funny cars, but I have always had a soft spot for altereds, especially Fiat altereds. Looking at the picture now, it looks like a photo out of time.

A Fiat altered – straight out of the past

The little Fiat looks like it comes from another era. By 1968, cars like this were becoming quite rare. In fact, this car would look more appropriate to 1959, when Detroit Dragway first opened, then 1968, when I shot the photo. While I didn’t plan it that way, that multicolored ’56 Chevy in the staging lanes reinforces the idea that this photo was shot in an earlier time.

The first thing to grab my attention was the trailer — which looks more like a lawn and garden trailer than a race car hauler. The short wheelbase car barely fits, but the tow rig obviously got the car to the track in one piece, which is the only thing that matters.

According to the lettering on the side and back, the car apparently was owned (and presumably driven) by Don Patricks. Was Patricks a local? I only remember seeing the car one time, so perhaps the car towed in from some other place. On the other hand, the car might have been a regular at the track.

Of course there is always the chance that the Fiat is a time traveler from another era and I just happened to be there the night the it materialized for a couple of rounds of racing.

I can’t tell if it is a real steel body, or a fiberglas replica. The exterior looks like it could be steel, but the interior (visible near the roll cage) looks smooth enough to be ‘glass.

Steel body…or ‘glass?

I’ve alway had respect for rodders who build race cars from junk yard bodies, and this car looks the part, even if it turns out the body is fiberglass. Note the hood has been extended eight to ten inches above the engine. Room for a bigger engine or a longer wheelbase for stability?

Another interesting item, the car has B/A painted on the roof pillar. If you look closely, you will see the letter B has been crossed out and A has been written above in shoe polish. Did the car receive modifications that boosted it up a class? More cubic inches? Improved induction system? Or maybe something more than pump gas in the fuel tank? Then again, sanctioning bodies have been known to change classifications, so it is possible the car’s class changed without the owner doing anything.

It is difficult to tell for sure, but to my eye the small diameter headers appear to point straight down to the track, another design element that harkens from another era. By 1968, header were generally adapting a laid back or zoomie configuration.

Do you remember this Fiat Altered?

So what is the story of the Public Nuisance? Was Patricks from the Detroit area? Did he compete at Detroit Dragway often? Why did he move from B/A to A/A? And finally, what happened to the car and driver? Is Patricks still around? Is this car tucked away in a old barn somewhere? Let us know in the comments below!

Tom Bonner