Monday, June 20, 2011

Fiat Fever hits the Townships

By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
This lovely Fiat 500 Abarth edition graces our favorite Italian grocery and deli in Knowlton. It is a 1957 vintage and I remember them fondly  from my youth in Austria. Actually, most of our first cars were Fiat 500s or Fiat 600s ,because used ones in the 60's could be had for the price of a good bicycle. My fondest memory of this little car "that could" is, when, in August 1964, an Italian family crashed one into the back of my dad's Peugeot 404 in Malcesine on Lake Garda in Italy. Out came one dad, one wife, one grandmother and four bambini. The mama of the family grinned broadly and explained "nemo morto" (nobody died) and exchanched cards of the Assecurationi Generaly, the Italian car insurance system with my dumbfounded dad, whereafter they asked us to push the damaged 500 into a field and bummed a ride into the next town.
Fast forward to the here and now and my friend Roger Gervais, a Sutton entrepeneur, just got his brand new reincarnation of this iconic vehicle and it is even cuter than the original and when I went to photograph it in Sutton, next to one of his stores, I had a hard time to get a clear shot of the car because so many people crowded around it.

 The car is an absolute joy to drive and of course it has all the modern amenities such as airbags, superb anti locking brakes, a fuel efficient front wheel drive system, the best dashboard I have seen since I raced in LeMans and the cutest interieur. Roger's car has the folding convertible top which adds the extra pizazz to the little cutie. Performance? "It will easily cruise at 140km/h without straining itself, told me one happy owner. Of course the original engines that had produced between 14 and 21 horsepower are long gone and the new models, depending in the engine options selected have up to 100bhp on tap.

With Fiat now taking controlling interest in the Chrysler corporation, they have made available an incredibly cool car for the North American market and one that has been strategically priced well below some of the other reincarnations such as the Mini and the Beetle. But Fiat has done one better than VW and BMW because they truly followed iconic styling cues which will make this car an instant classic. And I cannot afford one.....Bummer!

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