Lancia don’t live here any more…
I stood in the north west corner of Palexpo’s Hall 5 which has been the traditional home of Lancia for many years, and my fears were confirmed. Turin’s second most successful carmaker had left the building – hold on, wasn’t that Alvis? Did I walk through the empty house, tears in my eyes? Not really.
In Lancia’s place was a rather jolly Abarth garage, with three 124 Spiders and a 695 Biposto. Everything’s a stage set, a subterfuge, even the Japanese-built cars, but I was willing to suspend disbelief, and enjoy the show. After all, most of Abarth’s work was modifying other makers’ cars, this time it’s at two degrees of separation.
I could have enjoyed building that stand and decorating the cars. The rally livery sets them off nicely. There’s mild disappointment that these four tailpipes connect to nothing more exciting than a 1.4 MultiAir with 12 bhp more than the Fiat version of the Spider. 170bhp is pretty good from the most highly-developed iteration of the 31 year old, one-litre FIRE engine. Carlo Abarth would have been impressed, as that was very much his sort of thing, but he’d also have tried even harder.
4 thoughts on “Geneva Bites -The Abarth Garage”
First, I’m really enjoying the feedback from the show, Robertas, excellent coverage and insight. Second, I agree about both Lancia and Abarth. On the latter, I feel very old reading about the 31 year-old FIRE unit, as I recall so vividly the introductions to this then exciting Fully Integrated Robotized Engine. I had not realised that this was still the basis of the current Multi-air engines. I too would have expected a further tune for Abarth over and above 170BHP, an output which has been around for a few years now across the FCA range. Surely the whole brand hangs off “race-inspired-tuning” and this engine is not authentic to that? So, one hopes that FCA allows Abarth to go beyond paint jobs and styling tricks to engineer some bespoke engine specifications. That said, the aging boy-racer in me thinks that the Abarth 124 Spider looks meaner and more appealing than the lame and awkward Fiat version, so I’ll allow myself to live in hope.
I agree with Robertas’s implication that there is something a bit curmudgeonly about complaining about the Abarth stand, yet the entire thing reminds me slightly of those fairground roundabout cars from my childhood that looked like real Austins, but weren’t.
Can I draw parallels? As a mediocre cook, could I open a restaurant and buy in all the cooked food from the takeaway round the corner and expect to be taken seriously because I put it on my plates. As a mediocre writer, could I republish someone’s successful novel under my name and expect to be taken seriously because I gave it a snappy new cover.
I suppose the best way of looking at it is that just as Abarth were tweakers of Fiats, so Fiat are now tweakers of Mazdas. So, in fact, Fiat themselves are the new Abarth.
I am feeling surprisingly little about the 124, either in Fiat or Abarth trim. I don’t think it helps that, to my eyes at least, it looks like a modernised MX5 mark 2 design rejected by Mazda.
I like the look of the Abarth 124 but Mazda have done such a good job with the latest MX5 that you could happily drive around in a Soul Red one and feel like you’d bought an Italian roadster without needing to visit an FCA shop for a 124.