There’s a tendency to think of Fiat as a manufacturer of bread-and-butter vehicles in the family and commercial markets, but looking back over the years, it showed a sure touch in producing classic sports cars and coupes, in most cases derived from family saloons, but in every case rewarding owners with a very pleasurable driving experience. This month we review a short selection of Fiat’s classic coupes, ranging from the 1960s into the 1990s.
Fiat 850 Coupe or Sport Coupe
First up is the 850 coupe, based on the 850 saloon and introduced in March 1965. The body styling was done in house by Fiat, with the Boano father and son team the creative brains behind the design. It was a 2+2 coupe, and featured a tuned version of the 850 engine, giving around 35kW (47bhp), which was enough for lively performance as the car was light, and geared well to make the most of the power. The top speed was just short of 145kph (90mph), though the little engine was revving pretty fast at that speed, and the car handled well with eager turn-in and a slight tendency to oversteer. It sold like hot cakes, as indeed did its stablemate the Bertone-styled 850 Spider, which had a slightly more powerful engine. It was available in New Zealand from 1965 to 1968, imported in cbu form, and competitively priced at $2200 to 2700.
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A minimum weight limit is set to try to improve safety. It doesn’t work. Also includes racing at Brooklands, Shelsley Walsh hill climb and Le Mans in 1908-1914
A continuation of the 1906 French GP, and more historic racing from 1906 and 1907
Paris-Vienna 1902 – one of the first motor races. Also features Gordon Bennet Trophy in 1904 and the French Grand Prix of 1906
Fiat Abarth 1000TC replicas reflect the tastes of their owners, and at SpaItalia last year there were cars with 1300cc 128-based engines as well as 1050cc motors with 4-canal and stock heads.
Track footage of Fiat’s sport-tuned 500 Abarth
This month we’re focussing on ‘young people’ and their classics — and, first up, we’d like to ¨introduce 19-year-old polytechnic student, Scott Lowe, and his nicely fettled Fiat 124 coupe
Scott hails from Rotorua and is a good mate of Paul Lyons — you can check out Paul’s Ford Capri elsewhere in this issue.
When we caught up with both these lads in Rotorua it was clearly obvious that classic cars played a huge part in their lives and, as they’re students, it was also apparent they had both poured every cent they earned — plus every ounce of heart and soul — into creating their own very individual styles of car.
Scott is certainly no stranger to anything to do with classic cars, as his father, Mike Lowe, is definitely not unfamiliar to our readers as a regular Targa competitor in his Fiat Abarth — Mike’s Lamborghini Espada also appeared in last year’s NZCC yearbook.
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Abarth is at it again, securing whatever models it can from the growing Fiat network and making them extreme. The performance division was designated to handle Fiat’s rally activities, and took the IRC title in its formative year with the Punto Abarth S2000. Then they turned around and put their hot Punto on the road with the 155 horsepower Punto Abarth and 180 hp Punto Abarth EsseEsse.
More recently the scorpion badge has got its hands on the Fiat 500, and have churned out more performance variants than Porsche. The 500 Abarth debuted with 133 hp, then the 500 got an EsseEsse version of its own with 160hp. The track-bound 500 Abarth Assetto Corse followed with 200 horsepower, and at the recent Frankfurt show they unveiled the 695 Tributo Ferrari. More versions are predicted, and even more are apparently on the way — but not before the rally team has had a chance to debut the new Abarth 500 R3T.
Built to Group R3T specifications, a rally formula for turbocharged cars up to 1.6-litres in engine displacement, the rally-prepped 500 packs a 1.4-litre four cylinder engine with a Garret GT 1446 fixed-geometry turbocharger, good for 180 horsepower that’s channeled through a six-speed sequential transmission with twin-plate clutch and a locking differential. 17-inch OZ alloys are mounted to an adjustable suspension set-up and Brembo disc brakes are supplemented by a hydraulic handbrake. Inside, the 500 R3T has been fitted with a full roll cage and FIA-spec racing buckets with six-point harnesses, while dry weight comes in at just 1080kg (2380 lbs), the minimum for the category.
The vehicle was introduced last weekend at the San Remo rally, where Abarth has won two of the past three years running, and it will be used in special promotional events as part of the Assetto Corse program.