Especially for those events for which there is no pre-booking and no tickets are involved, then the weather plays a huge part in determining whether there will be a bumper attendance or just the committed faithful. That certainly applies to the evening gatherings at the iconic Ace Cafe, and over the past couple of years, it would seem that the second Thursday of the month has been one cursed more often than not by the Weather Gods, with a consequent rather limited number of cars being brought along to the venue. The summer months due usually see a better turnout than you get in the winter, for the obvious reason that there is daylight til well into the evening, so when it looked like the July 2019 event was going to be blessed with pleasant summer weather and sunny skies, I was thankful that my own diary was clear and had me in the vicinity to be able to pop along, hopeful for a bumper display of Italian machinery. And as the evening progressed, that is exactly what I got, with the forecourt in front of the building almost full, something which I have not seen here for quite a long time. From an evening where there was plenty of time to catch up with friends and fellow Abarth Owners old and new, here were the highlights of the cars to be enjoyed:
Although there was a nice variety of cars, with examples from most of the current Italian marques present, it was – as ever, it would seem – Abarth that dominated, with a big turn out of these characterful cars. Abarth Owners Club and the more local of the Regional Groups have made this something a regular haunt, and the fine evening was doubtless the encouragement for a few more than usual to come along, including a few who are not (yet) part of the Owners Club.
The most numerous model type was, unsurprisingly, the 500/595 with a large number of these, in both the closed and open-topped 595C guises present, and a wide variety of colours.
There was also a nice example of the 695 Rivale. This is the latest celebration of Fiat’s partnership with Riva, which has already seen a special Riva version of the 500,. Described as being “the most sophisticated Abarth ever”, it is available either as a hatch or a cabriolet, with both of them featuring a two-tone Riva Sera Blue and Shark Grey paintwork. The Rivale is adorned with an aquamarine double stripe, satin chrome finish on the door handles and satin chrome moulding on the tailgate, various aesthetic elements inspired by the Riva 56 Rivale yachts and ‘695 Rivale’ logos, joined by Brembo Brakes, Koni suspension, and 17-inch Supersport alloy wheels. Enhancing the nautical theme the new 695 Rivale features either a carbon fibre or mahogany dashboard, black mats with blue inserts, blue leather seats and door panels, carbon fibre kick plates, special steering wheel wrapped in blue and black leather and with a mahogany badge, blue leather instrument panel cover, and mahogany gear lever knob and kick plate. These are joined by the standard Uconnect infotainment with a 7-inch display, which is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and there is also a hand-written numbered plate that can be customised with the mane of the customer’s yacht on request. Powering the 695 Rivale is the same 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that makes 180PS (177hp) and 184lb/ft of torque, that features in the 595 Competizione, allowing it to go from rest to 100km/h (62mph) in 6.7 seconds and up to a top speed of 225km/h (140mph). This is a regular model in the range, but confusingly, there is also the Abarth 695 Rivale 175 Anniversary, created to celebrate 175 years of the Riva brand. Just 350 of these were produced, half of them the hatch and the other half cabriolets. These featured 17-inch alloy wheels with a special pattern, celebratory badge on the outside, hand-crafted details such as the two-tone colour – blue and black hand-stitched leather seats with a celebratory logo stitched onto the headrest, carbon dashboard silk screen printed with special logo, numbered plate. Standard Rivale cars arrived in the UK in April 2018, and quite a few have been sold. They always attract lots of interest when they do appear.
The Abarth Punto never sold in anything like the same quantities, with the ratio being about 1 of these cars to every 10 of the 500-based models. Combine that with the fact that the model was withdrawn from sale during 2014, with around 370 of each of the Grande Punto and later Punto Evo sold in the UK, and it is never going to be that numerous at any event, so perhaps it was no surprise that there were just two of the model here, both belonging to venue regulars Steve Miller and James King. Steve’s car is the older of the two and is a Punto Evo, whilst James has the later SuperSport, usually identified by the distinctive black bonnet, though this one does not feature it. Just 199 of the SuperSport versions were built, of which around 120 are registered on UK roads. These cars had many of the options from the Punto Evo included as standard. Power came from the the 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo engine, tuned to produce 178bhp and 199lb ft of torque, up from 165 of the standard Punto Evo, giving the SuperSport a 0-62 time of 7.5 seconds and a top speed of over 132mph. To help put the power down, the SuperSport was fitted with wider 18″ wheels and optional Koni FSD dampers. Standard equipment included the Blue&Me infotainment system with steering wheel controls, automatic climate control and a popular option was the ‘Abarth Corsa by Sabelt’ sports leather seats. The SuperSport was available in the same colours as the regular Punto Evo, which means white, grey, black and red.
We also amassed a few of the latest 124 Spider cars. Eagerly awaited, the 124 Spider went on sale in September 2016. A quick reminder as to what this car is: The Abarth 124 Spider was developed in parallel with the Fiat model. It does cost a lot more, and there are those who think you don’t get enough extra for your money, but those who have driven it will tell you otherwise. You certainly get more power. The 1.4 MultiAir turbo unit jumps up from 138bhp to 168bhp, while torque also increases by a modest 10Nm to 250Nm, which gives it a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds, which is half a second quicker than the 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5. The top speed is 143mph. It weighs just 1060kg meaning a power-to-weight ratio of 158bhp-per-tonne, and with the new Record Monza exhaust system it sounds great even at idle. The Abarth version gets a stiffer suspension setup than the regular Fiat 124 Spider, with Bilstein dampers and beefed-up anti-roll bars. Bigger Brembo brakes also feature, with aluminium calipers. It can be had with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with paddles, and the latter gets a Sport mode for quicker shifts. Many of the UK cars sport the ‘Heritage Look’ pack, which is a no-cost option. It brings a matt black bonnet and bootlid, plus red exterior trim detailing and has proved popular. The £29,565 starting price gets you standard equipment such as cruise control, climate control, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and satnav, plus Alcantara black and red (or pure black) seat trim. The automatic gearbox is a £2,035 extra, while an optional visibility pack brings LED DRLs, auto lights and wipers and rear parking sensors. Even a couple of years after the first cars reached the UK, this is a rare sighting, with only around 1500 of them on UK roads.
There was a nice variety of Alfa Romeo models here, though the marque was outnumbered by Abarth and Maserati. Oldest of these were a couple of the long-lived 105 Series Spider. This was the perfect evening for bringing a car like this, roof down, out for a nice trip in the late spring sunshine. Alfa replaced the Giulia-based Spider model with an all-new design which finally made its debut in 1966 together with the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce at an event organised in Gardone Riviera. With its boat tailed styling, it quickly found favour, even before taking a starring role in the film “The Graduate”. The original 1600cc engine was replaced by a more powerful 1750cc unit at the same time as the change was made to the rest of the range, and the car continued like this until 1970, when the first significant change to the exterior styling was introduced on the 1750 Spider Veloce, with the original’s distinctive elongated round tail changed to a more conventional cut-off tail, called the “Kamm tail”, as well as improving the luggage space. Numerous other small changes took place both inside and out, such as a slightly different grille, new doorhandles, a more raked windscreen, top-hinged pedals and improved interior trim. 1971 saw the Spider Veloce get a new, larger powerplant—a 1962 cc, 132 hp unit—and consequently the name was changed from 1750 Spider Veloce to 2000 Spider Veloce. The 1600 Spider restarted production a year later as the Spider 1600 Junior, and was visually identical to the 1300. 1974 saw the introduction of the rare, factory request, Spider-Targa. Based upon the Spider, it featured a Porsche style solid rear window and lift out roof panels, all made out of black GRP type material. Less than 2,000 models of such type were ever made and was the only part solid roof Spider until the introduction of the factory crafted hard top. The 1300 and 2000 cars were modified in 1974 and 1975 respectively to include two small seats behind the front seats, becoming a “two plus two” four seater. The 1300 model was discontinued in 1977. Also, between 1974 and 1976, the early-style stainless-steel bumpers were discontinued and replaced with black, rubber-clad units to meet increasingly stringent North American crash requirements. 4,557 examples of the 1300 Junior were made and 4,848 of the 1600 Junior as well as 16,320 2000 Spider Veloces and 22,059 of 2000 Spider Veloce US version. There were also 4,027 1750 Spider Veloce produced. The examples here were both Series 2 cars, the only version which was officially sold new in the UK.
Next up was an example of the 916 Series GTV, a car which whose values are now increasing, and which looks like it will achieve the full classic status that everyone thought it would even when the car was new. The 916 Series cars were conceived to replace two very different models in the Alfa range. First of these was the open topped 105 Series Spider which had been in production since 1966 and by the 1990s was long overdue a replacement. Alfa decided to combine a follow on to the Alfetta GTV, long out of production, with a new Spider model, and first work started in the late 1980s. The task was handed to Pininfarina, and Enrico Fumia’s initial renderings were produced in September 1987, with the first clay models to complete 1:1 scale model made in July 1988. Fumia produced something rather special. Clearly an Italian design, with the Alfa Romeo grille with dual round headlights, recalling the Audi-based Pininfarina Quartz, another design produced by Enrico Fumia back in 1981, the proposal was for a car that was low-slung, wedge-shaped with a low nose and high kicked up tail. The back of the car is “cut-off” with a “Kamm tail” giving improved aerodynamics. The Spider would share these traits with the GTV except that the rear is rounded, and would feature a folding soft-top with five hoop frame, which would completely disappear from sight under a flush fitting cover. An electric folding mechanism would be fitted as an option. Details included a one-piece rear lamp/foglamp/indicator strip across the rear of the body, the minor instruments in the centre console angled towards the driver. The exterior design was finished in July 1988. After Vittorio Ghidella, Fiat’s CEO, accepted the design, Alfa Romeo Centro Stile under Walter de Silva was made responsible for the completion of the detail work and also for the design of the interiors, as Pininfarina’s proposal was not accepted. The Spider and GTV were to be based on the then-current Fiat Group platform, called Tipo Due, in this case a heavily modified version with an all new multilink rear suspension. The front suspension and drivetrain was based on the 1992 Alfa Romeo 155 saloon. Chief engineer at that time was Bruno Cena. Drag coefficient was 0.33 for the GTV and 0.38 for the Spider. Production began in late 1993 with four cars, all 3.0 V6 Spiders, assembled at the Alfa Romeo Arese Plant in Milan. In early 1994 the first GTV was produced, with 2.0 Twin Spark engine. The first premiere was then held at the Paris Motor Show in 1994. The GTV and Spider were officially launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1995 and sales began the same year. The cars were well received. At launch, many journalists commented that Alfa had improved overall build quality considerably and that it came very close to equalling its German rivals. I can vouch for that, as I owned an early GTV for eighteen months, and it was a well built and reliable car. In 1997 a new engine, a 24-valve 3.0 litre V6, was available for the GTV along with bigger, 12.0 inch brakes and red four-pot calipers from Brembo. The console knobs were changed from round central to rectangle ones and to a three-spoke steering wheel. Some versions were upgraded with different front bumper mesh to bring the wind noise down to 74 dBA. In May 1998 the cars were revamped for the first time, creating the Phase 2 models. Most of the alterations were inside. The interior was changed with new centre console, painted letters on skirt seals, changed controls and switches arrangement and different instrument cluster. Outside, the main changes included chrome frame around the grille and colour-coded side skirts and bumpers. A new engine was introduced, the 142 bhp 1.8 Twin Spark, and others were changed: the 2.0 Twin Spark was updated with a modular intake manifold with different length intakes and a different plastic cover. Power output of the 2.0 TS was raised to 153 bhp. Engines changed engine management units and have a nomenclature of CF2. The dashboard was available in two new colours in addition to the standard black: Red Style and Blue Style, and with it new colour-coded upholstery and carpets. The 3.0 24V got a six-speed manual gearbox as standard and the 2.0 V6 TB engine was now also available for the Spider. August 2000 saw the revamp of engines to comply with new emission regulations, Euro3. The new engines were slightly detuned, and have a new identification code: CF3. 3.0 V6 12V was discontinued for the Spider and replaced with 24V Euro3 version from the GTV. 2.0 V6 Turbo and 1.8 T.Spark were discontinued as they did not comply with Euro3 emissions. By the 2001-2002 model year, only 2 engines were left, the 2.0 Twin.Spark and 3.0 V6 24V, until the Phase 3 engine range arrived. The Arese plant, where the cars had been built, was closing and, in October 2000, the production of GTV/Spider was transferred to Pininfarina Plant in San Giorgio Canavese in Turin. In 2003 there was another and final revamp, creating the Phase 3, also designed in Pininfarina but not by Enrico Fumia. The main changes were focused on the front with new 147-style grille and different front bumpers with offset numberplate holder. Change to the interior was minimal with different centre console and upholstery pattern and colours available. Instrument illumination colour was changed from green to red. Main specification change is an ASR traction control, not available for 2.0 TS Base model. New engines were introduced: 163 bhp 2.0 JTS with direct petrol injection and 237 hp 3.2 V6 24V allowing a 158 mph top speed. Production ceased in late 2004, though some cars were still available for purchase till 2006. A total of 80,747 cars were made, and sales of the GTV and Spider were roughly equal. More V6 engined GTVs than Spiders were made, but in 2.0 guise, it was the other way round with the open model proving marginally more popular.
Rather than replacing the 916 Series GTV with a single model, Alfa elected to produce two successors., The more commodious of the two, the GT, was the first to appear, making its debut in March 2003 at the Geneva Motor Show, finally going on sale in early 2004. The other 916 series replacement cars were the Brera and Spider models, and this is what was to be seen here. Visually similar to the 159 models at the front, the Brera and Spider boasted unique styling from the A pillars rearwards. They were offered with the same range of engines as the 159, and thanks to that strong, but rather heavy platform on which they were built, even the 3.2 litre V6 cars were more Grand Tourer than rapid sports car. Pininfarina was responsible for both models. The Brera was first to market, in 2005, with the Spider following in 2006. Production of both ceased in late 2010, by which time 12,488 units of the Spider and 21,786 units of the Brera had been built. It will be very surprising if these do not attain classic status, and the consequent rise in values, though that has not happened yet.
Sole Alfa saloon model here was the lovely 156, now becoming worryingly rare. When the 156 was launched in 1997, things looked very bright for Alfa. Striking good looks were matched by a driving experience that the press reckoned was better than any of its rivals. The car picked up the Car of the Year award at the end of the year. and when it went on sale in the UK in early 1998, waiting lists soon stretched out more than 12 months. Reflecting the way the market was going, Alfa put a diesel engine under the bonnet, launched a (not very good, it has to be admitted) automated transmission with the SeleSpeed, added a very pretty if not that commodious an estate model they called Sport Wagon and then added a top spec 3.2 litre GTA with its 250 bhp engine giving it a performance to outrun all its rivals. And yet, it did not take long before the press turned on the car, seduced by the latest 3 Series once more, citing build quality issues which were in fact far from universal. The 156 received a very minor facelift in 2002 and a more significant one in late 2003 with a new front end that was a clue to what would come with the car’s successor. Production ceased in 2005.
There were no fewer than three examples of the 4C Competizione here. First seen as a concept at the 2011 Geneva Show, the production model did not debut for a further 2 years. Production got underway later that year at the Maserati plant in Modena, and the first deliveries were late in 2013. Production was originally pegged at 1000 cars a year and a total of just 3500, which encouraged many speculators to put their name down in the hope of making a sizeable profit on selling their cars on. That plan backfired, and in the early months, there were lots of cars for sale for greater than list price. Press reaction to the car has been mixed, with everyone loving the looks, but most of them feeling that the driving experience is not as they would want. Owners generally disagree – as is so often the case! For sure, it has no radio, and no carpets and no luggage space to speak of, but you know that when you buy it. It won’t be the car everyone, but if you can live with these limitations, you are sure to enjoy it. Indeed, all owners I have ever spoke to do love their car. I know I would if I could find space (and funds!) for one in my garage!
Sole open-topped Ferrari of the evening was this rather splendid Mondial Convertible. Produced by Ferrari from 1980 through 1993, the Mondial replaced the 208/308 GT4. The “Mondial” name came from Ferrari’s history — the 500 Mondial race car of the early 1950s. Despite its predecessor being Bertone styled, the Mondial saw Ferrari return to Pininfarina for styling. Sold as a mid-sized coupe and, eventually a cabriolet, it was conceived as a ‘usable’ model, offering the practicality of four seats and the performance of a Ferrari. The car had a slightly higher roofline than its stablemates, with a single long door either side, offering easy access and good interior space, reasonable rear legroom while all-round visibility was excellent. The cabriolets also hold the distinction of being the only production automobile in history that has four seats, is rear mid-engined, and is a full convertible. The car body was not built as a monocoque in the same way as a conventional car. The steel outer body produced by the famous Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Scaglietti, in nearby Modena, was built over a lightweight steel box-section space frame. The engine cover and rear luggage compartment lids are in light alloy. The seats and interior were trimmed in Connolly hide, contrasting with the body colour. Most cars were painted rosso red, but some were black or silver, and a few were dark blue. The Mondial was the first Ferrari car where the entire engine/gearbox/rear suspension assembly is on a detachable steel subframe. This design made engine removal for a major rebuild or cylinder head removal much easier than it was on previous models. Unusually, the handbrake is situated between the driver’s seat and the inner sill. Once the handbrake is set it drops down so as, not to impede egress and ingress. Instead of the conventional “H” shift pattern, the gearbox has 1st gear situated in a “dog leg” to the left and back, behind reverse. This pattern, otherwise known as a “reverse h-gate”, allows quicker gear shifts between 2nd and 3rd gear, and also between 4th and 5th. The Mondial underwent many updates throughout production. There were four distinct iterations (8, QV, 3.2, and t), with the latter 3 having two variations each. (coupe and cabriolet). The first car was introduced as the Mondial 8 at the 1980 Geneva Auto Salon. It was the first Ferrari to depart from the company’s simple 3-digit naming scheme, and some reviews found it relatively mild, compared to other Ferraris, regarding performance, drawing criticism from some in the motoring press. It used a mid/rear-mounted Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection V8, shared with the 308 GTBi/GTSi, mounted transversely. The engine used in the 1973 Dino 308 GT4. The K-Jetronic system is mechanical, with a high-pressure pump which streams fuel continuously to the injectors; it does not have a computer, just a few relays to handle the cold start sequence etc. The chassis was also based on the 308 GT4, but with a 100mm (3.9 inch) longer wheelbase at 2,650 mm (104.3 in). The suspension was the classic layout of unequal-length double wishbones and Koni dampers all around. Today, the Mondial 8 is considered one of the marque’s most “practical” vehicles, due to its 214 hp, proven drivetrain, four seats, and relatively low cost of maintenance (major services can be performed without removing the entire engine/transmission subframe). 703 examples were made. The first Mondial engine, although a DOHC design, used just two valves per cylinder. The 1982 Quattrovalvole or QV introduced a new four-valve head; the combustion chamber design purportedly based on the early eighties Formula 1 engine. Again, the engine was shared with the contemporary 308 GTB/GTS QV, and produced a much more respectable 240 hp. Appearance was largely as per the Mondial 8, although with red engine heads and prominent “quattrovalvole” script at the rear. 1,145 coupés built between 1982 and 1985. A new Cabriolet body style added for 1983. Body styling remained the same as the coupé variant, with the roof maintaining the ‘buttress’ design of the roof, though the Cabriolet required the rear seats to be mounted closer together laterally. The introduction of the Cabriolet saw the popularity of the Mondial rise, particularly in the American market, where the convertible body style was highly desirable. The Cabriolet has the added distinction of being the only four-seat, mid-rear engine, convertible automobile ever manufactured in regular production. 629 units were produced between 1983 and 1985, making this the rarest version of the Mondial. Like the Ferrari 328, the Mondial’s engine grew in both bore and stroke to 3,185 cc in 1985. Output was now 270 PS. The Mondial 3.2 was first presented at the 1985 Frankfurt Auto Show in September that year. Available in both Coupé and Cabriolet forms, styling refreshed with restyled and body-coloured bumpers, similar to the 328 with more integrated indicators and driving lamps, and new alloy wheels with a more rounded face. The 3.2 also boasted a major interior update, with a more ergonomic layout and a more rounded instrument binnacle. Later cars, from 1987 onwards, also sported ABS brakes. Fuel injection remained the primarily mechanical Bosch K-Jetronic (CIS) with an O2 sensor in the exhaust providing feedback to a simple computer for mixture trimming via a pulse modulated frequency valve that regulated control fuel pressure. The ignition system was Marelli Microplex, with electronic advance control and one distributor per bank of the V8. The 1988 Mondial 3.2 would be the final model year that retained the relatively low maintenance costs of the 308/328 drivetrain, allowing major service items like timing belt and clutch replacement performed with the engine/transmission package still in the car. The final Mondial evolution was 1989’s Mondial t, which was a substantially changed model. It was visually different from preceding Mondial models, the most recognizable being the redesign of the air intakes to a smaller rectangular shape. Additionally, the door-handles were of a visually different design, as were the front and rear bumpers which became body coloured. New front and rear wings cover wider tracks and are re-profiled to a fuller shape compared to previous models, which feature a rolled lip. The ‘t’ called attention to the car’s new engine/transmission layout: the previously-transverse engine mounted longitudinally while the gearbox remained transverse, thus forming a ‘t’. By adopting this layout, a longer engine could be mounted lower in the chassis, improving handling dramatically. The ‘t’ configuration was used by Ferrari’s Formula One cars of the 1980s, and would be the standard for the marque’s future mid-engined V8 cars, beginning with the 348, introduced later in the year. The transverse manual gearbox fitted with a Limited Slip Differential with a twin-plate clutch design with bevel gears driving the wheels. Later in production, a Semi-automatic transmission termed “Valeo” was available as an option; while shifting was using a traditional gear lever, the clutch was actuated automatically without a clutch pedal. The engine was up to 3405 cc and 300 hp, controlled by Bosch Motronic DME 2.5 (later DME 2.7) electronic engine management that integrated EFI and ignition control into a single computer unit. Two of these used in the car: one for each bank of the engine. Engine lubrication upgraded to a dry-sump system. The Mondial’s chassis would underpin a new generation of 2-seat Ferraris, right up to the 360, but the 2+2 Mondial would end production just four and a half years later in 1993. However, the “t” layout of the engine and transaxle, adapted from Ferrari’s Formula One cars, continues to be used in mid-engined V8 model Ferraris to date, albeit with a more sophisticated chassis. The new layout saw the engine and transmission mounted on a removable subframe; the assembly removed from the underside of the vehicle for maintenance. This process is necessary for timing belt replacement, making this a costly procedure for the owner who does not have a lift. On the other hand, the clutch was now located at the very rear of the drive train. This arrangement makes clutch replacement and service a simple, inexpensive, and readily owner-doable proposition. The “t” was home to other Ferrari firsts: It used power assisted steering for the first time and had a 3-position electronically controlled suspension for a variable tradeoff between ride quality and road holding. It also had standard ABS. Total production of the t Coupe was 858 (45 Right Hand Drive), and the t Cabriolet of 1,017 (51 Right Hand Drive, meaning that around 6000 Mondial cars were produced over those 13 years, making it one of the most commercially significant Ferraris to date. The owner of this car said he has had it for around 15 years, during which time he has only covered 8000 miles, 3000 of which were when he drove it all the way down to Scilly. You could certainly imagine a long drive, roof down in this machine.
There was also an example of the F430 here, of course, as this car sold in what were large quantities, by Ferrari standards. Effectively a mid-life update to the 360 Modena, the F430 debuted at the 2004 Paris Motor Show. Designed by Pininfarina, under the guidance of Frank Stephenson, the body styling of the F430 was revised from the 360 Modena, to improve its aerodynamic efficiency. Although the drag coefficient remained the same, downforce was greatly enhanced. Despite sharing the same basic Alcoa Aluminium chassis, roof line, doors and glass, the car looked significantly different from the 360. A great deal of Ferrari heritage was included in the exterior design. At the rear, the Enzo’s tail lights and interior vents were added. The car’s name was etched into the Testarossa-styled driver’s side mirror. The large oval openings in the front bumper are reminiscent of Ferrari racing models from the 60s, specifically the 156 “sharknose” Formula One car and 250 TR61 Le Mans cars of Phil Hill. Designed with soft-top-convertible. The F430 featured a 4.3 litre V8 petrol engine of the “Ferrari-Maserati” F136 family. This new power plant was a significant departure for Ferrari, as all previous Ferrari V8’s were descendants of the Dino racing program of the 1950s. This fifty-year development cycle came to an end with the entirely new unit. The engine’s output was 490 hp at 8500 rpm and 343 lb/ft of torque at 5250 rpm, 80% of which was available below 3500rpm. Despite a 20% increase in displacement, engine weight grew by only 4 kg and engine dimensions were decreased, for easier packaging. The connecting rods, pistons and crankshaft were all entirely new, while the four-valve cylinder head, valves and intake trumpets were copied directly from Formula 1 engines, for ideal volumetric efficiency. The F430 has a top speed in excess of 196 mph and could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, 0.6 seconds quicker than the old model. The brakes on the F430 were designed in close cooperation with Brembo (who did the calipers and discs) and Bosch (who did the electronics package),resulting in a new cast-iron alloy for the discs. The new alloy includes molybdenum which has better heat dissipation performance. The F430 was also available with the optional Carbon fibre-reinforced Silicon Carbide (C/SiC) ceramic composite brake package. Ferrari claims the carbon ceramic brakes will not fade even after 300-360 laps at their test track. The F430 featured the E-Diff, a computer-controlled limited slip active differential which can vary the distribution of torque based on inputs such as steering angle and lateral acceleration. Other notable features include the first application of Ferrari’s manettino steering wheel-mounted control knob. Drivers can select from five different settings which modify the vehicle’s ESC system, “Skyhook” electronic suspension, transmission behaviour, throttle response, and E-Diff. The feature is similar to Land Rover’s “Terrain Response” system. The Ferrari F430 was also released with exclusive Goodyear Eagle F1 GSD3 EMT tyres, which have a V-shaped tread design, run-flat capability, and OneTRED technology. The F430 Spider, Ferrari’s 21st road going convertible, made its world premiere at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show. The car was designed by Pininfarina with aerodynamic simulation programs also used for Formula 1 cars. The roof panel automatically folds away inside a space above the engine bay. The conversion from a closed top to an open-air convertible is a two-stage folding-action. The interior of the Spider is identical to that of the coupé. Serving as the successor to the Challenge Stradale, the 430 Scuderia was unveiled by Michael Schumacher at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show. Aimed to compete with cars like the Porsche RS-models and the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera it was lighter by 100 kg/220 lb and more powerful (510 PS) than the standard F430. Increased power came from a revised intake, exhaust, and an ion-sensing knock-detection system that allows for a higher compression ratio. Thus the weight-to-power ratio was reduced from 2.96 kg/hp to 2.5 kg/hp. In addition to the weight saving measures, the Scuderia semi-automatic transmission gained improved “Superfast”, known as “Superfast2”, software for faster 60 millisecond shift-times. A new traction control system combined the F1-Trac traction and stability control with the E-Diff electronic differential. The Ferrari 430 Scuderia accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds, with a top speed of 202 miles per hour. Ferrari claimed that around their test track, Fiorano Circuit, it matched the Ferrari Enzo, and the Ferrari F430’s successor, the Ferrari 458. To commemorate Ferrari’s 16th victory in the Formula 1 Constructor’s World Championship in 2008, Ferrari unveiled the Scuderia Spider 16M at World Finals in Mugello. It is effectively a convertible version of the 430 Scuderia. The engine produces 510 PS at 8500 rpm. The car has a dry weight of 1,340 kg, making it 80 kg lighter than the F430 Spider, at a curb weight of 1,440 kg (3,175 lb). The chassis was stiffened to cope with the extra performance available and the car featured many carbon fibre parts as standard. Specially lightened front and rear bumpers (compared to the 430 Scuderia) were a further sign of the efforts Ferrari was putting into this convertible track car for the road. Unique 5-spoke forged wheels were produced for the 16M’s launch and helped to considerably reduce unsprung weight with larger front brakes and callipers added for extra stopping power (also featured on 430 Scuderia). It accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, with a top speed of 315 km/h (196 mph). 499 vehicles were released beginning early 2009 and all were pre-sold to select clients.
First Fiat model I spotted was this 500C. It was brought along by Carlo Cacciavello, who often brings along his unique and very distinctive black classic Abarth with the wide body and AlfaSud engine crammed in the back. But this time he had something rather more conventional. The fixed-profile convertible variant of the 500 debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2009 designated the 500C (C for Cabrio), historically recalling the fixed-profile convertible of the original 1957 Fiat 500 — as well as similar fixed-profile convertibles such as the Vespa 400 (1957), Citroën DS 3 (2013), Nissan Figaro (1991), Citroën 2CV (1948–1990) and the Nash Rambler Convertible “Landau” Coupe (1950). The 500C features fully stamped body-side panels retaining the hatchback 500’s profile (door frames, roof pillars and side windows) to increase structural rigidity, reduce scuttle shake, and retain side and curtain airbags — in trade for a less open experience than a fully pillarless convertible. Weighing 40 kg (88lbs) more than its hatchback counterpart, the 500C features a slightly longer windshield than the hatchback, with a concealed and reinforced upper structural cross-member; a stronger front cross-member behind the instrument panel; a rear strut on which the retracted roof folds; reinforced B-pillars; and the rear anti-roll bar setup from the Abarth version. The top itself is a dual-layer, three-position power-retractable cloth top with a glass rear window, electric defroster and an integrated colour-matched spoiler with a centre high-mounted stop lamp that remains visible with the top in any position. The top retracts in three stages: over the two front passengers, over all four passengers (to the rear spoiler) and fully retracted with its stack folded behind the rear head restraints just above the rear cargo opening. The top is controlled either via the key remote or by open/close buttons at the windshield header adjacent to the interior ceiling light and retracts to the first two stages at speeds up to 60 kph (37 mph), to its third stage at up to 50 mph — and is available in black, tan or red. With its 50/50 split-fold rear seats in their upright position, the 500C rear cargo capacity is reduced from 9 cubic feet to 5.4 feet compared to the hatchback — offering 23.4 cubic feet cargo volume with the 50/50 split-fold rear seats folded. At its rear trunk lid, the 500C features “parallelogram” liftgate hinges. When the rear cargo lid is opened while top is fully lowered, the top automatically closes partly — for greater cargo access. Because of limited rear visibility, 500C models are equipped with an ultrasonic rear park assist system to audibly indicate obstacles when backing. The 500C is offered with the same engines as the regular hatch model. It has proved a popular member of the range.
Oldest Fiat here was a very cute example of the Nuova 500, Dante Giacosa’s much loved tiny city car, present, and as always, there were lots of people declaring just how cute and appealing this tiny cars is. Known as project 110, the brief for the Nuova 500 was to create a micro-car that would not only carry on the tradition of the earlier Topolino, but which would also take sales away from the ever popular Lambretta and Vespa scooters of the day. It clearly needed to be smaller than the 600 which had been released with a conventional 4 cylinder engine. Not an easy task, but development started in 1953 and by August 1954, two designs were ready to be shown to Fiat management. They selected one, and serious development began. At first the car was referred to as the 400, as it was going to have a 400cc engine, but it was soon realised that this was just too small, so a larger 500cc air-cooled engine was developed. It was signed off in January 1956, with production starting in March 1957 in advance of a June launch. Fiat’s marketing department got busy, with hundreds of the new car taking to the streets of Turin, each with a pretty girl standing through the open sunroof that was a feature of all the early cars. The press loved it. 50 units were shipped to Britain, where the car made its debut at Brands Hatch, and again the reception was enthusiastic. But the orders just did not come in. Fiat went for a hasty rethink, relaunching the car at the Turin Show later that year. power was increased from 13 to 15 bhp, and the poverty spec was lessened a little, with headlight bezels, brightwork on the side and chrome hubcaps, a Nuova500 badge on the engine cover, winding side windows (the launch cars just had opening quarterlights) and the option of a heater fan. It was enough to get sales moving. The original car was still offered, at a lower price, called the Economy. In the first year of production, 28,452 Fiat 500s were made. Over the next 19 years, the car changed little in overall appearance, but there were a number of updates with more power and equipment added. A 500 Sport was launched in August 1958, with a more powerful version of the 499cc engine. It lost the soft top, having a ridged steel roof, to increase strength of the body. It was only available in grey with a red side flash. The first major changes came in 1960 with the 500D. This looks very similar to the Nuova, but with two key differences. One is the engine size: the D features an uprated 499 cc engine producing 17 bhp as standard, an engine which would be used right through until the end of the L in 1973; and the other is the roof: the standard D roof does not fold back as far as the roof on the Nuova, though it was also available as the “Transformable” with the same roof as the Nuova. The D still featured “suicide doors”. There were larger rear light clusters, more space in the front boot thanks to a redesign of the fuel tank and new indicators under the headlights. A year later, Fiat added a light on the rear-view mirrors and a windscreen washer, but the car still lacked a fuel gauge. Sales increased from 20,900 in 1960 to 87.000 in 1961, 132,000 in 1962 and by 1964, the last year of production, they hit 194,000 units. The D was replaced in 1965 by the 500F, which finally moved the door hinges from back to the front, owing to changes in Italian safety laws. There was a deeper windscreen and thinner door pillars, which increased the height of the car by 10mm, improving visibility for the driver. The 500F ran through to 1975, from 1968 alongside the more luxurious 500L which was added to the range in 1968. The L is easy to tell apart, with its bumper overriders. The final updates created the 500R, which incorporated many changes from the 126 under the skin of the classic shape, and in this form production continued alongside the newer 126 until 1976.
Among my favourite cars of all time are the Fiat Dino Coupe and Spider and I was pleased to see an example of the Coupe here. They came about because of Enzo Ferrari’s need to homologate a V6 engine for Formula 2 racing cars. In 1965 the Commission Sportive Internationale de la FIA had drawn up new rules, to be enacted for the 1967 season. F2 engines were required to have no more than six cylinders, and to be derived from a production engine, from a road car homologated in the GT class and produced in at least 500 examples within 12 months. Since a small manufacturer like Ferrari did not possess the production capacity to reach such quotas, an agreement was signed with Fiat and made public on 1 March 1965: Fiat would produce the 500 engines needed for the homologation, to be installed in a yet unspecified GT car. The Fiat Dino was introduced as a 2-seater Spider at the Turin Motor Show in October 1966; a 2+2 Coupé version, built on a 270 mm (10.6 in) longer wheelbase, bowed a few months later at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1967. The two bodies showed very different lines, as they had been designed and were manufactured for Fiat by two different coachbuilders: the Spider by Pininfarina, and the Coupé by Bertone—where it had been sketched out by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Curiously the Spider type approval identified it as a 2+1 seater. The Spider had poorer interior trim than the Coupé, below par for its class: the dashboard was covered in vinyl, the metal-spoke steering wheel had a plastic rim, and the interior switchgear was derived from cheaper Fiat models. After a few months this issue was addressed, and Spiders produced after February 1967 had a wood-rimmed steering wheel as well as a wood trim on the dashboard like the sister Coupé car had since the beginning. Option lists for both models were limited to radio, metallic paint, leather upholstery, and for the Spider a vinyl-covered hardtop with roll-bar style stainless steel trim. The car was offered with an all-aluminium DOHC 2.0 litre V6, coupled to a 5-speed manual transmission. The same 2.0-litre engine was used in mid-engined, Ferrari-built Dino 206 GT, which was introduced in pre-production form at the 1967 Turin Motor Show and went on sale in 1968. Fiat quoted 160 PS (158 hp) for the Fiat Dino, while in 1967 Ferrari—presenting the first prototype of the Dino 206 GT—claimed 180 hp despite both engines were made by Fiat workers in Turin on the same production line, without any discrimination as to their destination. Jean-Pierre Gabriel in “Les Ferraris de Turin” notes that, “La declaration de Ferrari ne reposait sur aucun fondament technique”—Ferrari’s statement had no technical basis. The real reason for this difference was a mistake in between quotes made in SAE and BHP power output. In 1969, both Ferrari and Fiat introduced new 2.4-litre Dino models. The Fiat Dino 2400 premiered in October 1969 at the Turin Motor show; besides the larger engine, another notable improvements was independent rear suspension. The V6 now put out 180 PS, and used a cast iron instead of the previous light alloy engine block; the same engine was installed on the Dino 246 GT, Ferrari’s evolution of the 206. Whereas the original Dino was equipped with a rigid axle suspended by leaf springs and 4 shock absorbers, 2.4-litre cars used a coil-sprung independent rear suspension with 2 shock absorbers derived from the Fiat 130. Rather than engine power and absolute speed, the most important consequence of the larger displacement was a marked increase in torque, available at lower engine speeds; the Dino 2400 had much better pickup, and it was found more usable, even in city traffic. Other modifications went on to improve the car’s drivability and safety: larger diameter clutch, new dogleg ZF gearbox with revised gear ratios, wider section 205/70VR -14 tyres, and up-sized brake discs and callipers. Cosmetic changes were comparatively minor. Both models were now badged “Dino 2400”. On the coupé the previous silver honeycomb grille with the round Fiat logo on its centre had been replaced by a new black grille and a bonnet badge. A host of details were changed from chrome to matte black, namely part of the wheels, the vents on the front wings and the cabin ventilation outlets—the latter moved from next the side windows to the rear window. At the rear there were different tail lights. The spider also sported a new grille with two horizontal chrome bars, 5-bolts instead of knock-off wheels, as well as a new bumpers with rubber strips. Inside only the coupé received an entirely redesigned dashboard and new cloth seats, with optional leather seat upholstery; front seat headrests were standard on the coupé and optional on the spider. Spider and coupé bodies were produced respectively by Pininfarina and Bertone. 2.0-litre and early 2.4-litre cars were assembled by Fiat in Rivalta di Torino. Starting from December 1969 the Fiat Dino was assembled in Maranello on Ferrari’s production line, alongside the 246 GT. Between 1966 and 1969 there were 3,670 2.0-litre coupés and 1,163 2.0-litre spiders made; with only 420 built, the 2400 Spider is the rarest of the Fiat’s Dinos. Of the total 7,803 Fiat Dino produced, 74% were the popular coupés and only 26% were spiders. Spiders are worth big money now – good ones are over £100k – which means that the car is way beyond my means, but every time I see one, I go weak at the knees. To my eyes, it is one of the best looking cars ever made.
This is a rather nice example of the Uno Turbo ie. A rival to the Peugeot 205 GTi and Renault R5 GT Turbo, they are far rarer than either, with only a handful left in the UK, which is a shame, as they were a nice car, even if they never quite found the same level of appeal as the French duo did when new. The Uno had been launched in January 1983, as a long awaited successor to the popular 127, and despite fierce competition from the Peugeot 205, revealed one day later, it was accoladed as Car of the Year. Sales took off. This was the era when manufacturers were slapping a Turbo on just anything and everything, so it was no surprise that a few months after the launch of the Peugeot 205 GTi (which eschewed the Turbo in favour of a larger capacity engine), in April 1985, Fiat presented their challenger in the hot hatch market, the Uno Turbo ie, offering it solely with the three door body. Despite marketing claims that it was fitted with an engine “specifically developed for turbocharging” the Turbo i.e. model actually used a Ritmo/Strada-derived 1.3 128-series engine with Bosch multi-point fuel injection, Magneti Marelli electronic ignition and a water-cooled IHI turbocharger with an intercooler to reduce intake air temperatures. The resultant power plant was highly regarded and considered as more technologically advanced than many of its contemporaries. Engine capacity was initially stated as 1299 cc but this was revised early on in production to 1301 cc. In both forms the engine offered 106 PS (105 bhp) but owners report that the 1301 cc version was notably more responsive and had greater torque than the earlier 1299 cc unit. Cars built from 1985 to late 1987 were fitted with a Ritmo/Strada-derived 5-speed gearbox. This was then replaced by a newly developed ‘C510’ 5-speed gearbox, often referred to by owners as the ‘Tipo style’ gearbox, featuring a more durable differential and improved gearchange linkage. Ratios were unchanged between the two units. The Turbo i.e. offered significant performance improvement over standard Uno models and was capable of reaching 200 km/h (124 mph), thanks in part to the car’s low 845 kg (1,863 lb) weight. Reliability was improved due to the reduction in maximum turbo boost pressure for mass-production from 1.0 to 0.6 bar conversely, it allowed tuners to modify the engine relatively easily to run 1.0 bar boost pressure for even greater performance without significantly compromising reliability. Externally, the Turbo i.e. model sported black plastic sill trims and arch extensions (similar to that of the 70SX model), plus a revised front bumper with foglamps and inlets/scoops to direct air to the oil cooler and intercooler. Decals were added along the side of the car, initially as “T U R B O” in large outline letters but then later in stripe form with “Turbo i.e.” cut into the rear-quarter section and complementary stripes across the tailgate. This also deviated from the pressed steel tailgate fitted on non-turbo models as it was manufactured from fibreglass and incorporated a high-level spoiler to improve looks and aerodynamic performance. All body glass benefitted from a very light green tint. Suspension was lowered and uprated, 13″ alloy wheels with Pirelli P6 tyres were fitted and the brakes upgraded to vented discs on the front and solid discs on the rear to replace the drum units of the non-turbo models. Interior equipment was upgraded in the Turbo i.e. model with ‘sports’ seats, plush red carpet and an extended centre-console. Later models had red seatbelts in place of earlier black versions. Options on the Turbo i.e. model included polished Cromodora wheels, electric windows, manual sunroof and a ‘digital’ instrument panel, which used bar-graphs in place of dial gauges for fuel level, coolant temperature, boost pressure, etc., and a numerical display of speed that, in the UK market, could be switched between mph and kph at the press of a button. Such units were rare. An option on later first series Turbo i.e. models was called ‘Anti-Skid’ – a simple form of ABS that only operated on the front wheels and only once per ignition cycle meaning that if it was triggered during a journey it would not do so a second time until the ignition had been turned off and on again. Whilst it was an admirable attempt on Fiat’s part at improving driver safety and reducing accidents, the ‘Anti-Skid’ system was largely regarded as ineffective and unreliable. Although Fiat built over 8.8 million Uno models, few have survived,
The only other Fiat present was the Coupe. Developed as the Tipo 175, the Coupe was introduced at the Brussels Motor Show in 1993. It is perhaps best remembered for its distinctive, angular design, with unique scalloped side panels. The body was designed by Chris Bangle from Centro Stile Fiat, while the interior was designed by Pininfarina, and the car media headlines in auto magazines during 1992 after several spy shots were taken revealing the car on test. On its launch in 1993, the Coupé was available with a four-cylinder, 2.0 litre 16V engine, in both turbo (190 PS) and normally aspirated (139 PS) versions. Both engines were later versions of Fiat’s twin-cam design and inherited from the Lancia Delta Integrale. 1996 brought in a 1.8 litre 131 PS 16V engine (not available in the UK), along with a 2.0-litre 5-cylinder 20V (147 PS), and a 5-cylinder 2.0-litre 20V turbo (220 PS). The turbocharged 16 and 20 valve versions were equipped with a very efficient Viscodrive limited-slip differential to counter the understeer that plagues most powerful front wheel drive cars. Additionally, the coupe featured independent suspension all round: at the front MacPherson struts and lower wishbones anchored to an auxiliary crossbeam, offset coil springs and anti-roll bar; at the rear, trailing arms mounted on an auxiliary subframe, coil springs and an anti-roll bar. The car was well received at launch, and the 5 cylinder engines just made it even better, with sales increasing slightly for a couple of years, but then they started to drop off, as Coupe models in general fell from favour. 1998 saw the release of the Limited Edition which featured red Brembo brake calipers at the front and standard red calipers at the back, a body kit, push-button start, six-speed gearbox, strut brace to make the chassis more rigid and Recaro seats with red leather inserts which offered better support than the standard 20VT seats. The LE was produced in Black, Red, Vinci Grey (metallic), Crono Grey and Steel Grey (metallic). The bodywork of the LE also benefited from titanium coloured insert around the light bezels and the wing mirrors. Each Limited Edition (‘LE’) Coupé was manufactured with a badge located by the rear-view mirror which contained that car’s unique number (it is rumoured that Michael Schumacher was the original owner of LE No. 0001, however when the question was raised to him personally he confirmed he had owned one, but a red one, while LE No. 0001 is a Crono Grey one). Originally a spokesman from Fiat stated only approximately 300 Limited Editions would be built. The final number was much higher, perhaps as many as 1400. This angered many of the owners of the original 300 cars and almost certainly impacted residual values. The original number however was quoted by a Fiat UK spokesman, so probably that number only applied to the UK market. The numbered plaque on every Coupe features enough space for 4 numbers. In 1998 the 2.0-litre 5-cylinder 20V got a Variable Inlet System which brought the power to 154 PS. The 2.0-litre 5-cylinder 20V Turbo received a 6-speed gearbox and a large, satin gloss push starter button. In addition, the sills of the Turbo version were colour matched with the body paintwork. Fiat also released the 2.0 litre 5 cylinder Turbo ‘Plus’. This model came with an option kit that made it virtually identical to the LE, except for minor interior design changes and without the unique identification badge of the LE. In 2000 Fiat released another special version of the Fiat Coupé. Featuring the 1.8-litre engine, it was only available throughout mainland Europe and marketed as an elegant and affordable edition. Fiat also made changes throughout the rest of the range: new seats, side skirts and wheels for the 2.0-litre 20V model, ‘Plus’ edition wheels on turbo models and Fiat manufactured seats on the ‘Plus’ that were virtually identical to the original Plus Recaro seats with the addition of extra airbags. The 2.0-litre 20V Turbo model is capable of accelerating from 0–100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) in 6.5 seconds and 6.3 seconds for the 20v Turbo Plus, with a top speed of 240 km/h (149 mph) or 250 km/h (155 mph) with later 6-speed gearbox. When production finally stopped in September 2000, a total number of 72,762 units had been produced. There are still well over 1000 units in the UK, so this is a Fiat which has proved durable as well as good to drive, and to look at.
A car which appears quite regularly at this event is this Beta Spyder. Lancia’s mid-range car of the 1970s started out in 1972 with the Beta Berlina, but it was not long before they filled out their range, first with a Coupe, in 1974 then a three door model called HPE in 1975 and finally an open topped model, the Spyder. Launched in 1976, the open-topped version of the Coupe was designed by Pininfarina but actually built by Zagato, which is why it was known as the Zagato in America. The Spyder used the Coupé’s shorter wheelbase and featured a targa top roof panel, a roll-over bar and folding rear roof.. Early models did not have a cross-member supporting the roof between the tops of the A to B pillars. Later models had fixed cross-members. It was initially powered by either the 1600 or 1800 twin-cam engine, later being replaced by the new 1.6 and 2.0. It never received the IE or VX engines. There were fuel injected engines for the US market. Lancia spelt the name with a “y” rather than an “i” possibly to differentiate the car from the Alfa Romeo Spider, though most people tend to use the “Spider” spelling these days. 9390 examples were built.
Lancia launched the Delta in 1979, as what we would now think of as a “premium hatch”. Offered in 1300 and 1500cc engines, this car, which collected the prestigious “Car of the year” award a few months later, brought Italian style and an expensive feeling interior to a new and lower price point in the market than Lancia had occupied since the early days of the Fulvia some 15 years earlier. The range grew first when a model was offered using the 4 speed AP automatic transmission and then in late 1982, more powerful models started to appear, with first a 1600cc engine, and then one with fuel injection, before the introduction of the HF Turbo. All these cars kept the same appearance and were quite hard to tell apart. These were the volume models of the range, but now they are very definitely the rare ones, as it is the performance versions which have survived and are now much loved classics, even though relatively were sold when they were new, thanks to a combination of the fact that they were quite costly and that they only ever came with left hand drive. The Integrale evolved over several years, starting off as the HF Turbo 4WD that was launched in April 1986, to homologate a new rally car for Lancia who needed something to fill the void left by the cancellation of Group B from the end of 1986. The Delta HF 4X4 had a four-wheel drive system with an in-built torque-splitting action. Three differentials were used. Drive to the front wheels was linked through a free-floating differential; drive to the rear wheels was transmitted via a 56/44 front/rear torque-splitting Ferguson viscous-coupling-controlled epicyclic central differential. At the rear wheels was a Torsen (torque sensing) rear differential. It divided the torque between the wheels according to the available grip, with a maximum lockup of 70%. The basic suspension layout of the Delta 4WD remained the same as in the rest of the two-wheel drive Delta range: MacPherson strut–type independent suspension with dual-rate dampers and helicoidal springs, with the struts and springs set slightly off-centre. The suspension mounting provided more isolation by incorporating flexible rubber links. Progressive rebound bumpers were adopted, while the damper rates, front and rear toe-in and the relative angle between springs and dampers were all altered. The steering was power-assisted rack and pinion. The car looked little different from the front wheel drive models. In September 1987, Lancia showed a more sophisticated version of the car, the Lancia Delta HF Integrale 8V. This version incorporated some of the features of the Delta HF 4WD into a road car. The engine was an 8-valve 2 litre fuel injected 4-cylinder, with balancing shafts. The HF version featured new valves, valve seats and water pump, larger water and oil radiators, more powerful cooling fan and bigger air cleaner. A larger capacity Garrett T3 turbocharger with improved air flow and bigger inter-cooler, revised settings for the electronic injection/ignition control unit and a knock sensor, boosting power output to 185 bhp at 5300 rpm and maximum torque of 224 lb/ft at 3500 rpm. The HF Integrale had permanent 4-wheel drive, a front transversely mounted engine and five-speed gearbox. An epicyclic centre differential normally split the torque 56 per cent to the front axle, 44 per cent to the rear. A Ferguson viscous coupling balanced the torque split between front and rear axles depending on road conditions and tyre grip. The Torsen rear differential further divided the torque delivered to each rear wheel according to grip available. A shorter final drive ratio (3.111 instead of 2.944 on the HF 4WD) matched the larger 6.5×15 wheels to give 24 mph/1000 rpm in fifth gear. Braking and suspension were uprated to 284 mm ventilated front discs, a larger brake master cylinder and servo, as well as revised front springs, dampers, and front struts. Next update was to change the engine from 8 valves to 16. The 16v Integrale was introduced at the 1989 Geneva Motorshow, and made a winning debut on the 1989 San Remo Rally. It featured a raised centre of the bonnet to accommodate the new 16 valve engine, as well as wider wheels and tyres and new identity badges front and rear. The torque split was changed to 47% front and 53% rear. The turbocharged 2-litre Lancia 16v engine now produced 200 bhp at 5500 rpm, for a maximum speed of 137 mph and 0–100 km/h in 5.5 seconds. Changes included larger injectors, a more responsive Garrett T3 turbocharger, a more efficient intercooler, and the ability to run on unleaded fuel without modification. The first Evoluzione cars were built at the end of 1991 and through 1992. These were to be the final homologation cars for the Lancia Rally Team; the Catalytic Evoluzione II was never rallied by the factory. The Evoluzione I had a wider track front and rear than earlier Deltas. The bodyside arches were extended and became more rounded. The wings were now made in a single pressing. The front strut top mounts were also raised, which necessitated a front strut brace. The new Integrale retained the four wheel drive layout. The engine was modified to produce 210 bhp at 5750 rpm. External changes included: new grilles in the front bumper to improve the air intake for engine compartment cooling; a redesigned bonnet with new lateral air slats to further assist underbonnet ventilation; an adjustable roof spoiler above the tailgate; new five-bolt wheels with the same design of the rally cars; and a new single exhaust pipe. Interior trim was now grey Alcantara on the Recaro seats, as fitted to the earlier 16V cars; leather and air conditioning were offered as options, as well as a leather-covered Momo steering wheel. Presented in June 1993, the second Evolution version of the Delta HF Integrale featured an updated version of the 2-litre 16-valve turbo engine to produce more power, as well as a three-way catalyst and Lambda probe. A Marelli integrated engine control system with an 8 MHz clock frequency which incorporates: timed sequential multipoint injection; self-adapting injection times; automatic idling control; engine protection strategies depending on the temperature of intaken air; Mapped ignition with two double outlet coils; Three-way catalyst and pre-catalyst with lambda probe (oxygen sensor) on the turbine outlet link; anti-evaporation system with air line for canister flushing optimised for the turbo engine; new Garrett turbocharger: water-cooled with boost-drive management i.e. boost controlled by feedback from the central control unit on the basis of revs/throttle angle; Knock control by engine block sensor and new signal handling software for spark park advance, fuel quantity injected, and turbocharging. The engine now developed 215 PS as against 210 PS on the earlier uncatalysed version and marginally more torque. The 1993 Integrale received a cosmetic and functional facelift that included. new 16″ light alloy rims with 205/45 ZR 16 tyres; body colour roof moulding to underline the connection between the roof and the Solar control windows; aluminium fuel cap and air-intake grilles on the front mudguards; red-painted cylinder head; new leather-covered three-spoke MOMO steering wheel; standard Recaro seats upholstered in beige Alcantara with diagonal stitching. In its latter years the Delta HF gave birth to a number of limited and numbered editions, differing mainly in colour, trim and equipment; some were put on general sale, while others were reserved to specific markets, clubs or selected customers. There was a lovely example of the Integrale here.
Just as Abarth Owners often come in quantity to this event, so do Maserati owners, so it I’ve found in the past that you either get one or two examples of the marque or in excess of twenty, with the brand being the best represented of all Italian cars on some occasions. That was not the case this time, and for a while it looked as if my Ghibli would be the only example of the marque here.
It was not the only Maserati saloon during the evening, though, as some time after I arrived, a fifth generation Quattroporte pulled in. Around 25,000 of these cars were made between 2004 and 2012, making it the second best selling Maserati of all time, beaten only by the cheaper BiTurbo of the 1980s. The Tipo M139 was unveiled to the world at the Frankfurt Motor Show on 9 September 2003, with production starting in 2004. Exterior and interior design was done by Pininfarina, and the result was widely acclaimed to be one of the best looking saloons not just of its time, but ever, an opinion many would not disagree with even now. Built on an entirely new platform, it was 50 cm (19.7 in) longer than its predecessor and sat on a 40 cm (15.7 in) longer wheelbase. The same architecture would later underpin the GranTurismo and GranCabrio coupés and convertibles. Initially it was powered by an evolution of the naturally aspirated dry sump 4.2-litre V8 engine, mounted on the Maserati Coupé, with an improved output of 400 PS . Due to its greater weight compared to the Coupé and Spyder, the 0-62 mph (0–100 km/h) time for the Quattroporte was 5.2 seconds and the top speed 171 mph (275 km/h). Initially offered in only one configuration, equipped with the DuoSelect transmission, the gearbox was the weak point of the car, receiving most of the criticism from the press reviews. Maserati increased the range at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show, with the launch of the Executive GT and Sport GT trim levels. The Executive GT came equipped with a wood-rimmed steering wheel, an alcantara suede interior roof lining, ventilated, adaptive, massaging rear seats, rear air conditioning controls, veneered retractable rear tables, and curtain shades on the rear windows. The exterior was distinguished by 19 inch eight-spoke ball-polished wheels and chrome mesh front and side grilles. The Quattroporte Sport GT variant offered several performance upgrades: faster shifting transmission and firmer Skyhook suspensions thanks to new software calibrations, seven-spoke 20 inch wheels with low-profile tyres, cross-drilled brake rotors and braided brake lines. Model-specific exterior trim included dark mesh front and side grilles and red accents to the Trident badges, as on vintage racing Maseratis. Inside there were aluminium pedals, a sport steering wheel and carbon fibre in place of the standard wood inserts. A new automatic transmission was presented at the 2007 Detroit Motor Show, marketed as the Maserati Quattroporte Automatica. As all three trim levels were offered in both DuoSelect and Automatica versions, the lineup grew to six models. The Quattroporte Sport GT S was introduced at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show. Taking further the Sport GT’s focus on handling, this version employed Bilstein single-rate dampers in place of the Skyhook adaptive system. Other changes from the Sport GT comprised a lowered ride height and 10 mm wider 295/30 rear tyres, front Brembo iron/aluminium dual-cast brake rotors and red-painted six piston callipers. The cabin was upholstered in mixed alcantara and leather, with carbon fibre accents; outside the door handles were painted in body colour, while the exterior trim, the 20 inch wheels and the exhaust pipes were finished in a “dark chrome” shade. After Images of a facelifted Quattroporte appeared on the Internet in January 2008; the car made its official début at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show. Overseen by Pininfarina, the facelift brought redesigned bumpers, side sills and side mirrors, a convex front grille with vertical bars instead of horizontal, new headlights and tail lights with directional bi-xenon main beams and LED turn signals. Inside there was a new navigation and entertainment system. All Quattroporte models now used the ZF automatic transmission, the DuoSelect being discontinued. The 4.2-litre Quattroporte now came equipped with single-rate damping comfort-tuned suspension and 18 inch wheels. Debuting alongside it was the Quattroporte S, powered by a wet-sump 4.7-litre V8, the same engine of the Maserati GranTurismo S, with a maximum power of 430 PS (424 hp) and maximum torque of 490 N·m (361 lb/ft). In conjunction with the engine, the braking system was upgraded to cross-drilled discs on both axles and dual-cast 360 mm rotors with six piston callipers at the front. Skyhook active damping suspension and 19 inch V-spoke wheels were standard. Trim differences from the 4.2-litre cars were limited to a chrome instead of titanium-coloured front grille. The Quattroporte Sport GT S was premièred at the North American International Auto Show in January 2009. Its 4.7-litre V8 produced 440 PS (434 hp), ten more than the Quattroporte S, thanks to revised intake and to a sport exhaust system with electronically actuated bypass valves. Other mechanical changes were to the suspensions, where as on the first Sport GT S single-rate dampers took place of the Skyhook system, ride height was further lowered and stiffer springs were adopted. The exterior was distinguished by a specific front grille with convex vertical bars, black headlight bezels, red accents to the Trident badges, the absence of chrome window trim, body colour door handles and black double oval exhaust pipes instead of the four round ones found on other Quattroporte models. Inside veneers were replaced by “Titan Tex” composite material and the cabin was upholstered in mixed Alcantara and leather. This means that there are quite a number of different versions among the 25,256 units produced, with the early DuoSelect cars being the most numerous.
There was also a GranTurismo here. This is the long-running and still very agreeable looking sports car in the range. It has been produced since 2007 and has undergone only detailed changes in all that time. Sales have diminished to a handful now, but it still has massive appeal, as this example reminded us all.
No doubt, this was the best Italian Cars night at Ace Cafe for some time. The weather really does help. And whilst there was nothing particularly rare in attendance, there were lots of nice cars, with plenty of variety and a good number of friends to catch up with both over a burger and outside on the forecourt. Here’s hoping for a repeat in August.