Why is there a car on a pole at Jim's Better Buys Used Cars?

An old Renault marks the Jim's Better Buy's lot on highway 99. MT File photo

The 1959 Fiat 500 mounted atop a column of old steel wheels at a Talent used car lot is an eye-catching icon that has become a local landmark.

Jim Walker placed the tiny Fiat atop a pole back in 1965 to attract attention to his fledgling car lot at 410 S. Pacific Highway.

And it worked. Even newcomers to the valley or folks just passing through can find the place with the car on the pole, he said. That makes his unique sign more than just a marker for Jim's Better Buys; it figures prominently in directions to many locations on the southern end of the little town Walker has called home since early childhood.

"Everybody uses it when they give directions now," he said of neighbors.

Walker, the son of a wrecking yard operator who opened his used car lot in June 1964, initially planned to install three identical Fiats on separate poles along his property.

Crews lifted the little car with a boom truck and mounted it on an axle spindle from a 1955 Buick Roadmaster. They put the bearings back in place, enabling the Fiat to turn in the wind, he said.

"After the first one, I got tired," Walker said with a chuckle, explaining why there aren't three cars marking his lot today.

Besides, the little cars with their two-cylinder, air-cooled engines and bodies designed for Italy's crowded streets were popular with Fiat aficionados. Walker sold the other two in his set and still fends off queries for the one perched overhead.

"People come in all the time and ask if they can buy it," he said.

He reaffirms that the car is not for sale and it's not going anywhere, much like Walker himself, who's lived in Talent since the age of four.

He graduated from Talent High School in 1956, back when Talent had its own high school. He and his wife, Diana, raised seven children in town. Walker served on the Talent Planning Commission, the City Council and did a stint as mayor in the mid-1980s.

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