The Bedfordshire Italian Car Day was one of the first events created and managed by the ebullient Ciro Ciampi, proprietor of the Sharnbrook Hotel and massive car enthusiast, first being held in 2007, and having been repeated annually ever since. Since those early days Ciro has broadened his range of events and brought many of them together under the Petrolheadonism brand. As their popularity has increased and the numbers of people who attend them has gone up, Ciro has had to find alternative locations for many of his events, but this one remains at the Sharnbrook Hotel, where there is ample space to accommodate a large number of Italian cars on site. Every year, the place would be packed out, and then, of course, Covid struck. That meant that in 2020 it was necessary to reschedule from the traditional July date to one a few weeks later, but, much to Ciro’s credit, the event did still go ahead, albeit on a reduced scale, as was required by regulations in force at the time. We all hoped that there would be a return to normality by 2021. As we no know, that has not quite proved to be the case, even though by the time of this event, in early July, the last of the lockdown restrictions had been lifted. The events season was thrown into something close to disarray, with far more clashes than is usual, which may explain why although the number of cars registered for the 2021 event was up on 2020, it was way down on previous years. The rather unseasonal weather probably did not help and the forecast for the day of this event suggested rain for most of the day – which thankfully did not materialise until early afternoon. Although this is an awkward location to access from home, I was determined to attend and devised a plan which saw me booking a stay the night before the event (which afforded the chance to watch the England 2020 game from the comfort of the hotel), so I was on site and in situ early on the morning of the event. Gradually cars started to arrive, and so here in this report is what came along.
Not surprisingly, there was a strong showing of Abarth cars here, with more of this marque than everything else put together, once again. The vast majority of cars here were the 500-based models which have been on sale now since the end of 2008, following a launch at the Paris Show that year. Since that time there have been a number of detailed changes to the standard cars and a lot of limited editions. Those who really know the marque can spot most of them, but some are so subtle that unless there is a badge you can see, you will not ne quite sure which version you are looking at. It used to be relatively easy, when the model was first launched, as there was only one version as shipped ex works called the 500. It had a 135 bhp 1.4 litre turbo-charged engine coupled to a five speed manual gearbox, with 16″ alloys as standard, and the option of 17″ wheels, and a colour palette comprising of two whites (BossaNova White, the standard colour, or the pearlescent Funk White), Red (Pasadoble), Pale Grey (Campovolo) or Black. If you wanted more power – 160 bhp – then you could order an Esseesse kit, which came in a large wooden crate, containing new wheels, springs, an ECU upgrade, the Monza exhaust system and badging. It was dealer fitted and could be applied at any time within the first 12 months or 10,000 miles from registration. Needless to say, it proved popular. As were many of the optional extras, with stickers for the sides, a large scorpion for the bonnet and even a chequered pattern for the roof among the personalisation options offered. There was one example of an early model here.
Whilst a sliding glass sunroof (Skydome in Fiat/Abarth parlance) was an option from inception, fans of open air motoring had to wait until Geneva 2010 for the launch of the 500C models. For the first few months these cars only came with the robotised manual gearbox, which limited the appeal in the eyes of some, but they also introduced us to the “bi-colore”, a series of two tone cars, with upper and lower halves of the body painted in different colours. It took us a while to get used to this, as no other production road cars had been painted like this for some time, but now this is seen as yet another of those marque defining attributes, and (perhaps with the exception of the rarely seen Rally Beige and Officina Red combination that would come for 2014) in the eyes of many this distinctive look enhances the appeal of the cars still further.
During the life of the 500-based model there have been an almost bewildering array of limited edition cars, not all of which have been sold in the UK. One of the most special is the 695 Edizione Maserati of Sam Cottenden, a car which has been off the road for many months awaiting a turbo actuator part, which had finally arrived a few weeks ago, so she can bring her much loved car to the 2021 event season. It was at the 2012 Geneva Show when Abarth first showed the 695C Edizione Maserati, a limited production version of the Abarth 500C convertible with the 1.4 Turbo T-Jet 16v engine rated at 180 hp, a 5-speed electrically operated manual Abarth Competizione gearbox with steering wheel controls, Maserati “Neptune” 17″ alloy wheels with performance tyres, Brembo 305 mm brake discs with fixed four-piston caliper and special shock absorbers, Record Modena variable back-pressure “dual mode” exhaust, Pontevecchio Bordeaux body colour, Xenon headlights with dipped and driving light functions, sand beige Poltrona Frau leather seats with containment strips featuring single-layer padding and the pista grey contrasting electro-welding, black leather steering wheel, aluminium pedal unit and sill plate, carbon fibre kick plate, boosted hi-fi audio system. Production was limited to 499 units, and around 20 of them came to the UK, all in the Pontevecchio Bordeaux colour. The grey cars were offered for sale in Asia, but such is the way with these things that several of these have subsequently been brought into the UK.
What is known as the Series 4 version of the familiar 595 reached the markets in the middle of 2016. After rumours had circulated all winter following the launch of the facelifted Fiat 500 last year, Abarth finally unveiled the Series 4 at the end of May 2016. Initially, we were told that the cars would not be available in the UK until September, but that came forward somewhat, with dealers all receiving demo cars in June, and the first customers taking delivery in July. Three regular production versions of both the closed car and the open-topped C were initially available, all badged 595, and called Custom, Turismo and Competizione, as before, though numerous limited edition models have since appeared and in most case disappeared. The most significant changes with the Series 4 are visual, with a couple of new colours, including the much asked for Modena Yellow and a different red, called Abarth Red, which replaces both the non-metallic Officina and – slightly surprisingly – the tri-coat pearlescent Cordolo Red. as well as styling changes front and rear. The jury is still out on these, with many, me included, remaining to be convinced. At the front, the new air intake does apparently allow around 15 – 20 % more air in and out, which will be welcome, as these cars do generate quite a lot of heat under the bonnet. Competizione models for the UK retain the old style headlights, as they have Xenon lights as standard, whereas the Custom and Turismo cars have reshaped units. At the back, there are new light clusters and a new rear bumper and diffuser. Inside, the most notable change is the replacement of the Blue & Me system with a more modern uConnect Audio set up, which brings a new colour screen to the dash. Mechanically, there is an additional 5 bhp on the Custom (now 145) and Turismo (now 165 bhp) and the option of a Limited Slip Diff for the Competizione, which is likely to prove a popular option. Details of the interior trim have changed, with a filled-in glovebox like the US market cars have always had, and electric windows switches that are like the US ones, as well as a part Alcantara trim to the steering wheel in Competizione cars. These cars have now been on offer for three years and with Abarth sales on the rise, it was no surprise that they were particularly well represented here.
Many Abarth owners spend a lot of time and money on modifiying their cars. Some focus on looks, whilst others are interested in what they can do mechanically to add more power, or other mechanical modifications. There were a number of duly modified cars here, all of which attract lots of attention from everyone present. Whilst some of the changes are not entirely to my taste (I can be something of a purist at times!, there can be no doubting the care and attention (and in many cases money) that has gone into their creation).
More recently, Abarth have produced the 695 Rivale, a 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.
Most recent addition to the range is the 695 Anniversario which was launched at the brand’s 70th anniversary celebrations in Milan in October 2019, and deliveries of which started around the turn of the year. The Anniversario is in a choice of 5 colours: White, Black, Podium Blue, Grey and 1958 Green, and there were examples of some but not all of these here, including a couple of cars in the 1958 Green which was selected to evoke memories of the 1958 record-breaking 500, though I can advise that the two shades of green are quite different, the older car being much lighter. Online verdicts of the new car at launch were not entirely positive, with many challenging the appearance, others the spec and yet more the price (£29,995 in the UK), but in the metal, it looks far better than those first web pictures portrayed, and there is no doubt that the 1949 buyers of the car are getting something quite distinctive, with the Campovolo Grey accents around the wheelarches and lower body skirts. What they aren’t getting is more than 180 bhp, as it would seem that to get Euro 6d compliance from the T-Jet engine, 180 bhp is the limit. But the Abarth 695 70° Anniversario does have an ace up its sleeve. Look at the back and you’ll notice a rather large roof-mounted spoiler serving as the special edition’s party piece. Manually adjustable in literally a dozen of positions, the spoiler was developed in the wind tunnel to achieve maximum aero efficiency regardless of speed. Its inclination varies from 0 to 60 degrees and helps increase aerodynamic load by 42 kilograms when the car is travelling at speeds of 124 mph (200 km/h) provided the spoiler is at its maximum inclination. Abarth has done the maths and it claims the new aero component will reduce steering corrections by as much as 40% based on the testing they’ve done at FCA’s wind tunnel in the Orbassano municipality located southwest of Turin. Power is provided by the familiar 1.4-litre turbocharged engine with 180 hp and 250 Nm (184 lb-ft) of torque, good enough for a sprint from 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 6.7 seconds before topping out at 140 mph (225 km/h) if the spoiler is in the 0° position. Those 17-inch SuperSport wheels are paired to a Brembo braking system with four-piston aluminium calipers finished in red, hugging the 305-mm front and 240-mm rear self-ventilated discs. Rounding off the changes on the outside is the newly developed Record Monza exhaust with active valve for a better soundtrack. Abarth also spruced up the cabin a bit where the body-hugging seats are exclusive to this special edition, just like the individually numbered plaque reminding you this isn’t an ordinary 695. Onboard tech includes support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB digital radio and a navigation system for that seven-inch touchscreen display. Additional standard equipment includes automatic climate control, daytime running lights, LED fog lights, unique mats, and the Abarth telemetry system if you plan on taking the hot hatch to the track.
There were enough Punto models here to create a long line of them. Sadly there were none of the original Abarth Grande Punto cars and indeed these are seen less and less often at events now, as even the youngest of them has had its tenth birthday. The Punto Evo was launched at the 2010 Geneva Show, with the cars reaching UK buyers in the summer of that year, and it incorporated many of the changes which had been seen a few months earlier on the associated Fiat models, the visual alterations being the most obvious, with the car taking on the nose of the associated Fiat, but adapted to make it distinctively Abarth, new rear lights and new badging. There was more to it than this, though, as under the bonnet, the T-Jet unit was swapped for the 1.4 litre Multi-Air, coupled to a 6 speed gearbox, which meant that the car now had 165 bhp at its disposal. Eventually, Abarth offered an Esseesse kit for these cars, though these are exceedingly rare. Part of the Punto Evo family is the SuperSport, usually identified by the distinctive black bonnet, though not all cars 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. Ben Waite’s car, in a fabulous bright blue, is actually a wrap of a red car. I think it looks amazing.
This one is not an Abarth Punto. The first clue is the five door body, which was never offered by the factory. Then you look more closely and spot that although there are Abarth badges on the car, plenty of the other details are an indication that this is a Fiat Grande Punto with modifications.
Seen often at Italian car gatherings, especially in the South East is Carlo Cacciavelli’s car. Although this amazing machine has the form of a classic Nuova 500, don’t be too taken in by that. The car is actually built on a chassis that has its origins in the Abarth Osella 2000SP sports racing car, with double wishbone suspension and disc brakes front and rear. Sitting in the back is a fuel injected 1.5 litre Alfa Romeo “boxer” engine of the type originally found in the front of the Alfa Romeo ‘Sud, Sprint 33 and even the Nissan Arna GTi. It is coupled to an Alfa 5-speed gearbox. Carlo’s coachwork company built the special extra wide body, which is all steel. The car was first registered in the UK on the 28th July 2000 and it has been seen at a great variety of events ever since. It never fails to pull the crowds wherever it its taken.
The 155 was one of a series of cars built by the Fiat Group on a shared platform, the so called Tipo 3 or Tipo Tre, which sat under the Fiat Tipo, and Lancia Delta 2, as well as the Fiat Coupe. Built to replace the rear wheel drive 75, the 155 was somewhat larger in dimension than its predecessor. The 155 was designed by Italian design house I.DE.A Institute which achieved an exceptional drag coefficient of 0.29, and the rather boxy design gave the car a sizeable boot, as well. The single most significant technical change from the 75 was the change to a front-wheel drive layout. This new configuration gave cost and packaging benefits but many Alfa die-hards and the automotive press lamented the passing of the “purer” rear-wheel drive layout on a car from this sporting marque. Not even the availability of the 155 Q4, which had a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and a permanent four-wheel drive powertrain, both derived from the Lancia Delta Integrale; making the car essentially a Lancia Delta Integrale with a different body was enough to win the sceptics over. Reception of the model was generally lukewarm. The 75 had been conceived prior to Fiat’s acquisition of the Alfa brand, so as “the last real Alfa” it cast rather a shadow over the 155; the loss of rear-wheel drive was frequently cited as the main cause of the disappointment. Nevertheless, the 155 was entered in Touring Car racing and was successful in every major championship it entered, which gradually improved its image. Belatedly, the factory introduced a wider version in 1995 (the “wide-body”) which as well as a wider track and revised steering based on racing experience or requirements, also brought in new 16-valve engines for the 1.8 and 2.0-litre whilst retaining the 2.5 V6 and making some improvements to cabin materials and build quality. There were several Sport Packs available, including a race-inspired body kit (spoiler and side skirts) and black or graphite-coloured 16-inch Speedline wheels. The more genteel could opt for the Super which came with wood inserts in the cabin and silver-painted alloy wheels. With this version, the 155 really came good. When production ceased in 1998, following the launch of the 156, 192,618 examples had been built.
When it came to replacing the 33, Alfa decided that they needed not just a five door hatch, but a three door as well, just as had been offered with the AlfaSud. The three door model, the Alfa Romeo 145 (Tipo 930A) was first to appear, making its debut on static display at the April 1994 Turin Motor Show and then at the Paris Motor Show in July. A simultaneous European commercial launch was planned for 9 September, but it was delayed until October. It was only in April 1992 that work had begun on a second car, the 146 or Tipo 930B, derived from and to be sold alongside the 145; with its more traditionally Alfa Romeo style it was aimed at a different clientele, that of the outgoing Alfa Romeo 33. The 146 premiéred in November 1994 at the Bologna Motor Show and went on sale in May 1995. The two cars shared design plans and interior components from the B-pillar forwards, but with very different looking rear ends. Based, as they were, on the Fiat Group’s Tipo Due (Type Two) platform, the 145 and 146 had a unibody structure, front MacPherson strut and rear trailing arm suspensions. A peculiarity of these cars is that they were designed to be fitted with both longitudinal engines (the older Boxers) and with transverse engines (the diesels and the Twin Spark). The former were mounted in the same configuration as on the 33 or Alfasud, that is longitudinally overhanging the front axle with the gearbox towards the cabin; the latter in the conventional transverse position with the gearbox to the left side. All engines were coupled to 5-speed manual transmissions. Steering was rack and pinion, with standard hydraulic power assistance. At launch the engine line-up for both cars comprised a 1.9-litre inline-four turbo diesel and the boxer petrol engines from the 33, in 1.3 8-valve, 1.6 8-valve and range topping 1.7 16-valve flat four forms. Depending on the market, the engines were available in either or both base and better equipped L (for “Lusso”) trim levels; L trim standard equipment was richer on larger engined cars. Flagship sport models with the two-litre 16-valve Twin Spark inline-four engine from the Alfa Romeo 155 arrived a year after the début: the 145 Quadrifoglio and 146 ti. Each of the two-litre versions had a unique trim level; both included richer standard equipment than L trims, like ABS, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob and available Recaro sport seats. The 145 Quadrifoglio (145 Cloverleaf in the UK), launched at the September 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show and on sale from October,had deep body-colour side skirts with “green cloverleaf” badges and 5-hole alloy wheels. The 146 ti went on sale in February 1996. It came with painted side skirts, a boot spoiler and 12-hole alloy wheels. Two-litre cars were equipped with stiffer suspension, uprated all-disk braking system, ABS, wider, lower-profile tires and ‘quick-rack’ direct steering (also seen on the 155, GTV and Spider) which improved responsiveness, but also compromised the turning circle. The sporty suspension set-up was harsher than many others in its category at the time, but this was in line with the Fiat Group’s marketing of Alfa Romeo as a sporting brand and it is said to have resulted in class leading handling. From January 1997 all the boxer engines were phased out in favour of 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8 versions of the Twin Spark 16-valve engine.1.8-litre cars adopted the sport chassis, steering and brakes of the Quadrifoglio/ti, and also offered some of their optional equipment such as the sport seats. At the same time the interior was updated: a new air conditioning system, a redesigned dashboard an upholstered insert were fitted. Outside changes were minor: new wheel covers and alloy wheels and a wider choice of paint colours. In late 1997 Alfa Romeo introduced the Junior, a trim level targeted at young buyers that combined the sport styling and chassis setup of the range topping models with the affordable entry-level 1.4 powertrain,later with 1.6 engine too. Based on the 1.4 L, Junior cars were distinguished by the Quadrifoglio’s side skirts with “Junior” badges, specific 15 inch alloy wheels, and by the stainless steel exhaust tip (as well as, on the 146, the boot spoiler) from the ti. A year later 1.8 and 2.0 Twin Spark engines received the updates first introduced on the Alfa Romeo 156; thanks to variable length intake manifolds the two powertrains gained 4-5 PS and reached peak torque at engine speeds some 500 rpm lower. At the Geneva Motor Show in March 1999 Alfa Romeo introduced the restyled ’99 line-up for both models. The new common rail direct injection 1.9 JTD turbo diesel replaced the 1.9 TD. The main changes outside were new, body-colour bumpers with round fog lights and narrow protection strips; the interior got new upholstery and detail trim changes such as chrome vent surrounds. Optional side airbags complemented the already available passenger and standard driver airbags. The Junior trim level was discontinued, in favour of “pack sport” option package that included side skirts, rear spoiler, alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel and sport seats, all standard features on the two-litre models. A second “pack lusso” package offered leather steering wheel, velour upholstery and mahogany wood trim. In September of the next year, at the Paris Motor Show the all-new Alfa Romeo 147 was presented Eventually, in 2000, the 145/146 cars were superseded by the all-new 147, which was a far bigger commercial success, with its acclaimed styling front end and improved quality. Still, many enthusiasts feel that it lost a little of the special feel and Alfa Romeo that the 145 had. 221,037 145s and 233,295 146s were built, There are depressingly few survivors of either model in the UK, so it was nice to see three examples of the 145 represented here.
The 916 Series GTV and Spider 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 hp 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 hp. 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 hp 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.
The 156 GTA cars were launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2001. Named after the Alfa Romeo GTA from the 1960s, the letters GTA meaning Gran Turismo Alleggerita (English: lightened Grand Tourer). 2,973 berlinas and 1,678 Sportwagons were built until the GTA production stopped in October 2005 as the 156 gave way to the Alfa Romeo 159. The GTA came with the 3.2 litre Bussone V6 engine (The big Busso, so called after legendary Ferrari engineer Giuseppe Busso), the largest capacity version of the much loved V6 engine. With a 93 mm bore and a 78 mm stroke giving it a capacity of 3,179 cc, it generated 250 PS (247 hp) and 220 lb/ft of torque. After market Alfa Romeo specialist Autodelta produced performance versions up to 3.7 litres and 400 PS. The European Touring Car Championship winning 156 GTA was however running a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder 300 PS engine due to class regulations. The GTA variants were equipped with either a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed Selespeed (paddles in steering wheel, hydraulically operated robotised) gearbox, had a lowered and stiffened suspension, a distinctive body kit, wider rear arches and leather interior. The suspension was specifically made for the GTA by Fiat Research Centre and Fiat Auto Design and Development Department. Steering was also made faster, only 1.7 turns from lock to lock compared to 2.1 in normal models. The GTA had also larger brakes (Brembo), with 12″ front discs and 10.8″ at the rear. The front discs were later upgraded to 13 ” to cope with the performance potential. Even though the name suggests a light car, the GTA isn’t any lighter than other 156s, as it was actually 91 kilograms (201 lb) heavier than the 2.5 litre V6 engined version. The GTA did not get the Giugiaro designed facelift introduced to the 156 in 2002, but continued with the acclaimed Walter de Silva design to the very end of production.
The 166 may have failed to hit the jackpot, but the next Alfa certainly did. This was the 147, launched at the 2000 Turin Motor Show as a replacement for the 145 and 146 hatchbacks, and based on the running gear of the larger 156 saloon. Designed by Walter de’Silva and Wolfgang Egger, the 147 received considerable praise for its styling on launch, later it was awarded with some styling awards. It was available initially with 1.6, 2.0, petrol engines and a 1.9-litre diesel engine. A sequential, paddle operated ‘Selespeed’ transmission was available from launch. Two trim levels were available, Turismo and Lusso. The 147 was the first Alfa Romeo to feature dual-zone climate control and electronic traction control. Although some thought the car had lost of some of the Alfa magic, it was well received and was awarded the Car of the Year trophy a few weeks after launch. The entire 147 range was revamped in 2004, with the exterior styling changed considerably to be more reminiscent of the new 159 and Brera models, and Alfa Romeo Visconti concept car, most notably for its more aggressive look, with a new front grille, new headlights, new rear lights and the interior was updated on all models besides the GTA version. A new more powerful diesel engine arrived and suspension was also tweaked. In 2006, the 147 1.9 JTD Q2 version was launched, which featured a front Torsen limited slip differential. Alfa Romeo presented a new limited edition 147 called Ducati Corse at the 2007 Bologna Motor Show. The car came equipped with a 170 PS (68 hp) JTD diesel engine and Q2, a front Torsen limited slip differential. The 147 was in production for ten years, making it one of the oldest small family cars on sale in Europe at the time of its replacement by the Alfa Romeo Giulietta in late May 2010. In total around 580,000 cars were made.
Having a rather short production life was the GTA version of the 147. Launched in 2002. this car was intended to compete with the most sporting Golf and Focus models of the day. as well as injecting more potency into a range which always seemed like it needed more power. Fitted with a 3.2 V6 engine which produced 247 bhp, the 147GTA was the most powerful hot hatch available at the time, and the modifications to the body, including lower sills and wider wheel arches, if anything, made it look even better rather than endowing it with the sort of “after market look” that can afflict some high end performance versions of regular family cars. Performance figures were impressive, with the car able to achieve a top speed of 153 mph. It had a widened body by 15 mm at each side to accommodate the 225/45R17 tyres. Most models had a 6-speed manual transmissions; whilst a smaller number of other models used the semi automatic Selespeed system. Production ran through to 2004 and in total 5,029 147 GTAs were built, 1004 of which were Selespeeds. Only around 300 came to the UK, so this was never a common sighting on British roads.
Replacement for the much loved 156 was the 159. The Alfa Romeo 159 had a troubled development, being designed in the midst of the Fiat-General Motors joint venture which was terminated in 2005. Originally, the 159 was intended to use GM’s Epsilon platform; however, late during its development it was changed to the GM/Fiat Premium platform. The Premium platform was more refined and expensive, being intended for E-segment executive cars such as an Alfa Romeo 166 successor but that never materialised, so Alfa Romeo attempted to recoup some of the platform development costs with the 159. General Motors originally planned Cadillac, Buick and Saab models for this platform but ending up discarded them over cost concerns. Unfortunately, the 159’s late transition to what was fundamentally made as an E-segment platform resulted in the 159 having excessive weight, a problem shared by its sisters, the Alfa Romeo Brera coupe and Spider convertible. The 159 was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro in collaboration with the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo. The nose featured a traditional Alfa Romeo V-shaped grille and bonnet, and cylindrical head light clusters. Similar to its coupé counterpart, front of the car was influenced by the Giugiaro designed 2002 Brera Concept. Several exterior design cues were intended to make the car appear larger, supposedly to appeal to potential buyers in the United States; however, the 159 was never exported to that region. The interior featured styling treatments familiar from earlier cars, including the 156, such as deeply recessed instruments which are angled towards the driver. Alfa Romeo intended for the 159 to compete more directly with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi by using higher quality interior materials; however, it has been said that Alfa Romeo misjudged their brand’s positioning relative to the more well-known German luxury automakers. Several levels of trim were available, depending on market. Four trim levels: Progression, Distinctive, Exclusive and Turismo Internazionale (TI) featured across Europe. In the UK there were three levels of trim: Turismo, Lusso and Turismo Internazionale (TI). A Sportwagon variant was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 2006. The 159’s size made it considerably more comfortable than the 156 due to its larger, roomy interior. However, the considerable growth in dimensions deterred many 156 owners from considering the 159 as a direct replacement model, and something seemed to be lost in the character of the new car. Initially offered with a choice of 1.9 and 2,2 litre 4 cylinder and 3.2 litre V6 petrol engines and 1.9 and 2.4 litre diesel units, and an optional four wheel drive system. An automatic gearbox option for the 2.4 JTDM diesel model was also launched in late 2006, and later extended to other versions. In 2007 a four-wheel drive diesel model was released and the 2.4-litre diesel engines’ power output increased to 210 hp, with a newly reintroduced TI trim level also available as an option. For model year 2008 the mechanics and interiors of the 159 were further developed. The 3.2 litre V6 model was offered in front wheel drive configuration, achieving a top speed of 160 mph. All model variants came with Alfa’s electronic “Q2” limited slip differential. As a result of newly introduced aluminium components, a 45 kilograms (99 lb) weight reduction was achieved. For 2009, Alfa introduced a new turbocharged petrol engine badged as “TBi”. This 1742 cc unit had direct injection and variable valve timing in both inlet and exhaust cams. This new engine had 200 PS (197 hp) and would eventually replace the GM-derived 2.2 and 1.9 JTS units.In 2010, all petrol engines except for the 1750 TBi were retired, ending the use of General Motors-based engines in the 159. The only remaining diesel engines were the 136 PS and 170 PS 2.0 JTDm engines. In 2011, the 159 was powered only by diesel engines. In the UK, Alfa Romeo stopped taking orders for the 159 on 8 July 2011. Production for all markets ceased at the end of 2011, after 240,000 had been built.
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. It was built at the Pomigliano plant, alongside the 147 and 159. The GT was based on the Alfa 156 platform, which was also used for the 147, providing the 2-door coupé with genuine five-passenger capacity. It was styled by Bertone. Most mechanicals were taken directly from the 156/147 using the same double wishbone front suspension and MacPherson rear setup. The interior was derived form the smaller hatchback 147 and shared many common parts. The GT shared the same dash layout and functions, the climate control system as well as having a similar electrical system. Some exterior parts were taken from 147 with the same bonnet, wing mirrors and front wings (from 147 GTA). The engine range included both a 1.8 TS, and 2.0 JTS petrol engine, a 1.9 MultiJet turbodiesel, and a top-of-the-range 240 bhp 3.2 V6 petrol. There were few changes during the GT’s production life. In 2006 Alfa introduced a 1.9 JTD Q2 version with a limited slip differential, and also added a new trim level called Black Line. In 2008 Alfa introduced the cloverleaf model as a limited edition complete with new trim levels, lowered suspension, body kit, 18 inch alloy wheels and was only available in the colours black, Alfa red, or blue. with 1.8 and 2.0 litre petrol engines as well as the 1.9 litre Multijet turbo diesel. The GT was acclaimed for its attractive styling and purposeful good looks, in 2004 being voted the world’s most beautiful coupe in the annual ‘World’s Most Beautiful Automobile’ (L’Automobile più Bella del Mondo) awards. The car sold reasonably well, with 80,832 units being produced before the model was deleted in 2010.
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.
Known internally as the Tipo 955, the MiTo (the name allegedly standing for Mi-lano and To-rino, where it was designed and is built, respectively, and a pun on the Italian word for “myth”), the smallest Alfa ever made is a three-door only supermini, which was officially introduced on June 19, 2008, at Castello Sforzesco in Milan,, going on sale a few weeks later, with UK supplies reaching the country after the British Motor Show in 2008. Built on the Fiat Small platform used on the Grande Punto, and also employed by the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, the MiTo was intended to compete with the MINI and the newer Audi A1. Designed by Centro Stile Alfa Romeo, the design is believed to be inspired by the 8C Competizione. A range of engines has been offered since launch, though sadly the GTA Concept that was shown at the 2009 Geneva Show never made it to production.
The 4C Competizione was 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!
There were disappointingly few Ferrari here. Just three, in fact, which was something of a surprise, as in previous years there have been literally dozens of the model at this event.
Oldest of those three was a 360 Challenge Stradale. This was a low production track day focused car based on the 360 Modena. From a handling and braking performance perspective was the equivalent of adding a FHP (Fiorano Handling Pack) to the 360, which was available for V12 models such as the 550, 575 or F599 but never separately for the V8’s. It was inspired by the 360 Modena Challenge racing car series so the focus was primarily on improving its track lapping performance credentials by concentrating on handling, braking and weight reduction characteristics, which are essential in pure racing cars. Ferrari engineers designed the car from the outset with a goal of 20% track day use in mind and 80% road use. With only a small 20 bhp improvement in engine power from the Modena (and boasting an improved power-to-weight ratio) the Challenge Stradale accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.1 seconds according to Ferrari, four tenths faster than a Modena, but bald figures do not paint the full picture. For the enthusiastic driver the differences are truly staggering; genuine systematic improvements were achieved to the setup and feel of the whole car. Throttle response from the digital throttle was ratcheted up and feedback through the steering wheel was enhanced. The responsiveness of the controls, the balance of the chassis, the braking performance and the driver feedback all contribute greatly to the overall driving experience. Thanks to CCM brakes borrowed from the Enzo, some lower weight parts and a FHP handling pack, the Challenge Stradale was able to claim an impressive 3.5 seconds improvement per lap of its Fiorano circuit compared to the Modena (the target was 2.5 seconds). In total, the Challenge Stradale is up to 110 kg (243 lb) lighter than the standard Modena if all the lightweight options are specified such as deleted radio, lexan (plexiglass) door window and Alcantara fabric (instead of the leather option). As much as 74 kilograms (207 lb) was taken off on the car by lightening the bumpers, stripping the interior of its sound deadening and carbon mirrors and making the optional Modena carbon seats standard. Resin Transfer Moulding was utilized for the bumpers and skirts, a carry over from the Challenge cars which resulted in lighter bumpers than on the Modena. The engine and transmission weight was slimmed down 11 kg (24 lb) through the use of a smaller, lighter weight sports (yet still stainless steel) exhaust back box and valved exit pipes. The Challenge Stradale also got Brembo carbon ceramic brakes as standard (which later became standard fitment on the F430) which shaved 16 kg off the curb weight and improved handling by reducing unsprung weight and completely eliminating brake fade. Cars fitted with the centre console stereo option, sub speaker box behind the seats and glass side windows re-gained approximately 30 kg over the best selected options (from a weight perspective). Challenge Stradale models are much sought after these days, and when they do come up for sale, they command a huge premium over the regular 360 Modena cars.
After a gap of some years, Ferrari added a 4 seater V8 model to the range at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, with the California. According to industry rumours, the California originally started as a concept for a new Maserati, but the resulting expense to produce the car led the Fiat Group to badge it as a Ferrari in order to justify the high cost of purchase; the company denies this, however. The California heralded a number of firsts for Ferrari: the first front engined Ferrari with a V8; te first to feature a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission; the first with a folding metal roof; the first with multi-link rear suspension; and the first with direct petrol injection. Bosch produced the direct injection system. The engine displaces 4,297 cc, and used direct injection. It delivered 453 bhp at 7,750 rpm; its maximum torque produced was 358 lb/ft at 5,000 rpm. The resulting 106 bhp per litre of engine displacement is one of the highest for a naturally aspirated engine, as other manufacturers have used supercharging or turbocharging to reach similar power levels. Ferrari spent over 1,000 hours in the wind tunnel with a one-third-scale model of the California perfecting its aerodynamics. With the top up, the California has a drag coefficient of Cd=0.32, making it the most aerodynamic Ferrari ever made until the introduction of the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. Throughout the California’s production, only 3 cars were built with manual transmission, including one order from the UK. On 15 February 2012, Ferrari announced an upgrade, which was lighter and more powerful. Changes include reducing body weight by 30 kg (66 lb), increased power by output of 30 PS and 11 lbf·ft, acceleration from 0–100 km/h (62 mph) time reduced to 3.8 seconds, introduction of Handling Speciale package and elimination of the manual transmission option. The car was released at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show as a 2012 model in Europe. To give the clients a more dynamic driving experience, an optional HS (Handling Speciale) package was developed as part of the update. It can be recognised by a silver coloured grille and ventilation blisters behind the front wheel wells. The HS package includes Delphi MagneRide magnetorheological dampers controlled by an ECU with 50% faster response time running patented Ferrari software, stiffer springs for more precise body control and a steering rack with a 9 per cent quicker steering ratio (2.3 turns lock to lock as opposed to the standard rack’s 2.5). A more substantive update came in 2014, with the launch of the California T, which remains in production. It featured new sheetmetal, a new interior, a revised chassis and a new turbocharged powertrain.
The 458 evolved into the 488 GTB, and this model was represented here, too. Launched at the 2015 Geneva Show, the 488GTB followed the lead set by the California T in bringing turbocharging into a modern-day, mid-engined V8 Ferrari supercar for the first time. The engine is completely new when compared with its V8 stablemate, not only in components but also in feel and character. It is a twin-turbocharged 3902cc unit whilst that in the California T is 3855cc. In the 488 GTB, it produces 660bhp at 8000rpm and 560lb ft at 3000rpm. Both outputs are significant increases over the normally aspirated 4.5-litre V8 used in the 562 bhp 458 Italia and 597 bhp 458 Speciale, and also greater than the car’s biggest rival, the McLaren 650S. The torque figure of the 488 GTB is such that it also exceeds the 509lb ft at 6000rpm of the normally aspirated V12 used in the range-topping Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. The mighty new engine in the 488 GTB drives the rear wheels through a revised seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox derived from the 458. It features a new ‘Variable Torque Management’ system which, Ferrari says, “unleashes the engine’s massive torque smoothly and powerfully right across the rev range”. The gear ratios are also tuned to “deliver incredibly progressive acceleration when the driver floors the throttle”. The 488 GTB can crack 0-62mph in just 3.0sec, 0-124mph in 8.4sec and reach a top speed of 205mph. Its 0-62mph and 0-124mph times match the McLaren 650S’s, but the Woking car’s top speed is slightly higher at 207mph. The engine also accounts for the ‘488’ element of the car’s name, because each of the engine’s eight cylinders is 488cc in capacity when rounded up. The GTB suffix, standing for Gran Turismo Berlinetta, is a hallmark of previous mid-engined V8 Ferraris such as the 308 GTB. Not only is the new turbo engine more potent than the 4.5-litre V8 from the 458 Italia, but it is also more economical. Combined fuel economy is rated at 24.8mpg, compared with 21.2mpg in the 458 Italia, and CO2 emissions are 260g/km – a 47g/km improvement. Ferrari’s HELE engine stop-start system features on the 488 GTB. Developments on the dynamic side include a second generation of the Side Slip Angle Control system, called SSC2. This allows the driver to oversteer without intruding, unless it detects a loss of control. The SSC2 now controls the active dampers, in addition to the F1-Trac traction control system and E-Diff electronic differential. Ferrari says the result is “more precise and less invasive, providing greater longitudinal acceleration out of corners” and flatter, more stable behaviour during “complex manoeuvres”. Learnings from the Ferrari XX programme have also been incorporated into the 488 GTB, something that Ferrari says allows all drivers and not just professionals, to make the most of its electronic and vehicle control systems. It also claims the 488 GTB is “the most responsive production model there is”, with responses comparable to a track car. The 488 GTB has lapped Ferrari’s Fiorano test track in 1min 23sec – two seconds faster than the 458 Italia, and half a second quicker than the 458 Speciale. The dimensions of the 488 GTB – it is 4568mm in length, 1952mm in width and 1213mm in height – closely match the 458 Italia from which it has evolved. Its dry weight is 1370kg when equipped with lightweight options – 40kg more than the McLaren 650S. The new look, styled at the Ferrari Styling Centre, features several new aerodynamic features that improve downforce and reduce drag. Most notable is the addition of active aerodynamics at the rear through a ‘blown’ rear spoiler, where air is channelled from the base of the glass engine cover under the spoiler. This contributes to the 50% increase in downforce over the 458 Italia. Also new is a double front spoiler, an aerodynamic underbody, a large air intake at the front that references the 308 GTB, a diffuser with active flaps, new positioning for the exhaust flaps and new-look lights. The interior has been redesigned to be made more usable, including new switchgear, air vents and instrument panel. The multi-function steering wheel remains, while the infotainment system gets a new interface and graphics. The Spider followed the closed coupe model six months later, and supplies of that car are now reaching the UK. It is expected that this will be bigger seller of the car, as was the case with the 458 models.
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.
There were a number of Fiat Uno models here, all of them the well-regarded Turbo model, as, like so many cars it is the performance versions that have survived in far greater quantity than the versions that were actually produced in much greater volumes when new. Fiat launched the Uno, the Tipo 146, in January 1983, just one day before the equally iconic Peugeot 205, to replace the elderly Fiat 127. Both were huge sellers, and deservedly so too, but it was the Fiat that sold in greater quantity, with over 8 million examples produced. It was Italy’s best selling car, and by some margin, throughout its 10 year production life, though you might find that hard to believe now, as they were are not a common sight even in Italy. The 127 had revolutionised the supermini market on its launch more than 10 years earlier, and the Uno followed the same format, but brought uptodate. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s ItalDesign company, its tall, square body utilising a Kamm tail achieved a low drag coefficient of 0.34 won it much praise for interior space and fuel economy as well as its excellent ride and handling, and was widely regarded as the most innovative small car in Europe at the time of its launch. It incorporated many packaging lessons learnt from Giugiaro’s 1978 Lancia Megagamma concept car (the first modern people carrier / MPV / mini-van) but miniaturised. Its tall car / high seating packaging is imitated by every small car today. It reversed the trend for lower and lower built cars. It showed that not just low sleek cars could be aerodynamic, but small, roomy, boxy well packaged cars could be too. There was a lot of activity in the supermini class in 1983, as the Uno hit the UK market a couple of months before the Peugeot 205 – another small European car which became the benchmark for this market sector, enjoying a long production life and strong sales, and just after General Motors launched its new Opel Corsa/Vauxhall Nova. Within a few months of its launch it had gained two new major competitors in the shape of the restyled Ford Fiesta and Nissan’s new Micra. UK sales began in June 1983, and more than 20,000 were sold in its first full year and peaking at more than 40,000 sales in 1988, making it one of the UK’s most popular imported cars during the 1980s. In December 1983, it was European Car of the Year for 1984, finishing narrowly ahead of the Peugeot 205. Initially, the Uno was offered with the 0.9 litre (903 cc) 100-series OHV, 1.1 litre (1116 cc) and 1.3 litre (1301 cc) 128-series SOHC petrol engines and transmissions carried over from the 127. The Uno’s badging was not by the commonly used measurement of engine size but by metric horsepower: 45, 55, 60, 70, or 75. The Uno was available as either a three- or five-door hatchback. It also featured ergonomic “pod” switchgear clusters each side of the main instrument binnacle, (that could be operated without removing the driver’s hands from the steering wheel), although indicators remained on a stalk; an unusual arrangement similar to that used by Citroën. The Uno had MacPherson strut independent front suspension and twist-beam rear suspension with telescopic dampers and coil springs. From 1985, the 1.0 litre (999 cc) SOHC Fully Integrated Robotised Engine (FIRE) powerplant was offered, replacing the 0.9 litre unit. This was a lighter engine, built with fewer parts, and gave improved performance and economy. The most luxurious version, the single-point injected 75 SX i.e., had remote door locks, integrated front foglamps, and the oval exhaust tip also used on the Turbo. In April 1985 the hot hatch version of the first series Uno – the Uno Turbo i.e. – was launched as a three-door only derivative. It competed with the likes of the Ford Fiesta XR2, MG Metro Turbo and Peugeot 205 GTI. The Uno was replaced by the Punto in late 1993, although production for some markets continued for some time after that.
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.
After the 124 Spider ended production, there was a wait of over 10 years before Fiat would produce another open-topped car. Developed between 1990 and 1994 under the project name Tipo B Spider 176, the Barchetta, a small open topped rival to the Mazda MX5 was designed by Andreas Zapatinas and Alessandro Cavazza under the supervision of Peter Barrett Davis and other car designers at the Fiat Centro Stile, and prototyping was carried out by Stola. Production began in February 1995 and lasted until June 2005, with a brief pause due to the bankruptcy of coachbuilder Maggiora. The Barchetta was based on the chassis of the Mark 1 Fiat Punto. The Barchetta has 1,747 cc DOHC petrol engine fitted with variable camshaft timing, used for the first time in a Fiat production car, after being patented in 1970. The engine has 132 PS, and with a weight of 1056 kg (2328 lb) without air conditioning can accelerate to 100 km/h in 8.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph). It came in various trim levels which offered different features, for example, diamond cross stitch – patterned red leather instead of the standard black leather or fabric seats, alloy wheels instead of steel wheels, or fog-lights as an option. Arguably one of the biggest external cosmetic changes was made by the addition of the third brake light, first introduced by Fiat on the Lido and Riviera in 2000, and on sub models thereafter. The bodies were welded at ILCAS in Sparone Canavese, and final assembly was done in Chivasso by the coachbuilder Maggiora. After Maggiora’s bankruptcy in 2002, Fiat relocated production of the Barchetta to its Mirafiori plant and resumed production two years later. The most notable changes were the revised front spoiler and rear bumper. Production of the car eventually stopped in June 2005, with around 57,700 cars having been built. Production of the Barchetta was limited to LHD cars only, even though the car was marketed and sold in two RHD markets, the United Kingdom and Japan.
The 124 Spider of 2016 proved to be a rather short-lived addition to the range, and a car which probably lived somewhat in the shadow of the Abarth versions, even though roughly equal numbers of Fiat and Abarth models were sold before production ceased in 2019.
The latest addition to the Fiat range is the new all-electric version of the 500. Deliveries of the car are just starting, with Launch Editions like this one being the first to reach customers. It attracted lots of attention during the day, as you might expect.
In its turn, the Diablo gave way to the Murcielago in 2001. Taking its name from the Spanish for “bat”, this was Lamborghini’s first new design in eleven years and more importantly, the brand’s first new model under the ownership of German parent company Audi, which was manifest in a much higher level of quality and reliability. The Murcielago was styled by Peruvian-born Belgian Luc Donckerwolke, Lamborghini’s head of design from 1998 to 2005. Initially it was only available as a Coupe. The Murciélago was an all-wheel drive, mid-engined supersports car. With an angular design and an exceptionally low slung body, the highest point of the roof is just under 4 feet above the ground. One of the vehicle’s most distinguishing features are its scissor doors. which lends to the extreme image. First-generation Murciélagos, produced between 2001 and 2006, were powered by a Lamborghini V12 that traces its roots back to the company’s beginnings in the 1960s. The rear differential is integrated with the engine itself, with a viscous coupling centre differential providing drive to the front wheels. Power is delivered through a 6-speed manual transmission. The Murciélago suspension uses an independent double-wishbone design, and bodywork features carbon fiber, steel and aluminium parts. The rear spoiler and the active air intakes integrated into the car’s shoulders are electromechanically controlled, deploying automatically only at high speeds in an effort to maximise both aerodynamic and cooling efficiency. The first generation cars were produced between 2001 and 2006, and known simply as Murciélago, sometimes Murciélago VT. Their V12 engines produced just under 580 PS (572 hp), and powered the car to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.8 seconds. Subsequent versions incorporated an alphanumeric designation to the name Murciélago, which indicated their engine configuration and output. However, the original cars are never referred to as “LP 580s”. The Murciélago Roadster was introduced in 2004. Primarily designed to be an open top car, it employed a manually attached soft roof as cover from adverse weather, but a warning on the windshield header advised the driver not to exceed 100 mph (160 km/h) with the top in place. The designer used the B-2 stealth bomber, the Wally 118 WallyPower yacht, and architect Santiago Calatrava’s Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències in Valencia, Spain as his inspiration for the roadster’s revised rear pillars and engine cover. In March 2006, Lamborghini unveiled a new version of its halo car at the Geneva Motor Show: the Murciélago LP 640. The new title incorporated the car’s name, along with an alphanumeric designation which indicated the engine’s orientation (Longitudinale Posteriore), along with the newly updated power output. With displacement now increased to 6.5 litres, the new car made 640 PS ( 631 hp) at 8000 rpm. The Murciélago’s exterior received a minor facelift. Front and rear details were revised, and side air intakes were now asymmetrical with the left side feeding an oil cooler. A new single outlet exhaust system incorporated into the rear diffuser, modified suspension tuning, revised programming and upgraded clutch for the 6-speed “e-Gear” automated sequential transmission with launch control rounded out the performance modifications. Interior seating was also re-shaped to provide greater headroom, and a new stereo system formed part of the updated dashboard. Optional equipment included Carbon fibre-reinforced Silicon Carbide (C/SiC) ceramic composite brakes, chrome paddle shifters and a glass engine cover. At the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show, Lamborghini announced that the roadster version of the Murciélago would also be updated to LP 640 status. At the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, Lamborghini unveiled the ultimate version of the Murciélago, the LP 670–4 SuperVeloce. The SV moniker had previously appeared on the Diablo SV, and Miura. SV variants are more extreme and track-oriented, and are released at the end of each model’s production run. The SuperVeloce’s V12 produced 670 PS (661 hp) at 8000 rpm and 660 N·m (490 lbf·ft) of torque at 6500 rpm, thanks to revised valve timing and upgraded intake system. The car’s weight was also reduced by 100 kg (220 lb) through extensive use of carbon fibre inside and out. A new lighter exhaust system was also used. As a result of the extensive weight loss, the SV had a power-to-weight ratio of 429 bhp/ton. Also standard were the LP 640’s optional 15-inch carbon-ceramic disc brakes with 6 piston calipers. The original production plan for the SV was limited to 350 cars, but in fact only 186 LP 670-4s were produced before the factory had to make room for the new Aventador production line. Numbered cars 1–350 do not represent the order in which cars were manufactured. Only 5-6 were made with manual transmission. Production of the Murciélago ended on November 5, 2010, with a total run of 4,099 cars. Its successor, the Aventador, was released at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.
The Lamborghini Gallardo is a sports car built by the Italian automotive manufacturer Lamborghini from 2003 to 2013. Named after a famous breed of fighting bull, the V10 powered Gallardo has been Lamborghini’s sales leader and stable-mate to a succession of V12 flagship models—first to the Murciélago (4,099 built between 2001 and 2010), then to the current flagship, the Aventador. The first generation of the Gallardo was powered with an even firing 4,961 cc (5.0 L) 90 degree V10 engine generating a maximum power output of 500 PS at 7500 rpm and 510 Nm (376 lb/ft) of torque at 4500 rpm. The Gallardo was offered with two choices of transmission; a conventional (H-pattern) six-speed manual transmission, and a six-speed electro-hydraulically actuated single-clutch automated manual transmission that Lamborghini called “E-gear”. The “E-gear” transmission provides gear changes more quickly than could be achieved through a manual shift. The driver shifts up and down via paddles behind the steering wheel, but can also change to an automatic mode via the gear selector located in place of the gear shift lever. The vehicle was designed by Luc Donckerwolke and was based on the 1995 Calà prototype designed by Italdesign Giugiaro. For the 2006 model year (launched in late 2005), Lamborghini introduced many changes to the car to counter some criticisms garnered from the press and owners. The exhaust system was changed to a more sporty one (including a flap to make it quieter during city driving), the suspension was revised, a new steering rack was fitted, the engine power was increased by 20 PS to a maximum of 520 PS and the biggest change was overall lower gearing ratios, especially in 1st to 5th gear. These changes gave the car a much better performance than the original and were also included in the limited edition Gallardo SE. The convertible variant of the Gallardo, called the Gallardo Spyder, was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in January 2006. It was considered by the company to be an entirely new model, with the engine having a power output of 520 PS (382 kW; 513 hp) and a low-ratio six-speed manual transmission. The Spyder has a retractable soft-top. At the 2007 Geneva Auto Show, Lamborghini unveiled the Gallardo Superleggera. The name paid tribute to the construction style of the first Lamborghini production model, the 350 GT, designed and built by Carrozzeria Touring and its emphasis on weight reduction. The Superleggera is lighter than the base model by 100 kg (220 lb) due to the use of carbon fibre panels for the rear diffuser, undertray, the rearview-mirror housings, the interior door panels, the central tunnel, engine cover; titanium wheel nuts and carbon fibre sports seats. The engine power was uprated by 10 PS courtesy of an improved intake, exhaust and ECU for a total power output of 530 PS. The 6-speed E-Gear transmission was standard on US spec models with the 6-speed manual transmission offered as a no cost option. Production of the Superleggera amounted to 618 units worldwide. Presented at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, the Gallardo LP 560-4 was a significant update of the Gallardo, powered by a new, uneven firing5,200 cc V10 engine that produces 560 PS at 8,000 rpm and 540 Nm (398 lb/ft) of torque at 6,500 rpm. Featuring “Iniezione Diretta Stratificata” direct fuel injection system to improve efficiency; fuel consumption and CO2 emissions have been reduced by 18% despite the increase in performance. The car was redesigned, inspired by the Murciélago LP 640 and Reventón. The new engine, 40 PS more powerful than in the previous car, comes with two transmission choices: a 6-speed manual or 6-speed E-gear, the latter of which was revised to offer a Corsa mode which makes 40% quicker shifts than before and decreases traction control restrictions, a Thrust Mode launch control system was also added. Accompanied with a 20 kg (44 lb) weight reduction. All the improvements add up to a claimed performance of 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.7 seconds, 0-200 km/h (124 mph) of 11.8 and a top speed of 325 km/h (202 mph). The MSRP base price was $198,000 in the US and £147,330 (including NavTrak vehicle tracking system and delivery package) in the UK. The first US car was sold in the 16th Annual Race to Erase MS charity auction for $198,000 to former True Religion Jeans co-founder/co-creator Kymberly Gold and music producer Victor Newman. The Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4 Spyder was unveiled at the 2008 LA Auto Show.as the replacement for the previous Gallardo Spyder. It is the convertible model of the Gallardo LP 560-4 and as such possess all of its features like the new uneven firing 5.2 L V10 engine, improved E-gear transmission and 20 kg (44 lb) weight reduction. Performance has been improved to 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.8 seconds, 0-200 km/h (124 mph) of 13.1 and a top speed of 324 km/h (201 mph) In March 2010, Lamborghini announced the release of the Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera, a lightweight and more powerful version of the Gallardo LP 560–4 in the same vein as the previous Superleggera. With carbon fibre used extensively inside and out to reduce weight to just 1,340 kg (2,954 lb) making it the lightest road-going Lamborghini in the range. The odd firing 5.2 L V10 on the LP 570-4 gets a power bump over the standard Gallardo to 570 PS at 8,000 rpm and 540 Nm (398 lb/ft) at 6,500 rpm of torque. Performance has been improved to 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.2 seconds, and a 329 km/h (204 mph) top speed. The Gallardo became Lamborghini’s best-selling model with 14,022 built throughout its production run. On 25 November 2013, the last Gallardo was rolled off the production line. The Gallardo was replaced by the Huracán in 2014
The Aventador came out in 2012, to take the place of the Murcielago, and it remains every inch a true Lamborghini, with bold looks and an awesome sound track from its 7 litre engine. This one was an Aventador S, a version which was revealed on 19 December 2016 at the Sant’Agata factory, whilst the official reveal of the car took place at the March 2017 Geneva Motor Show. The Aventador S is an update to the then outgoing Aventador with mechanical and exterior changes. The updated exterior of the car was designed by Lamborghini’s head of design Mitja Borkert. The 6.5 litre V12 engine now produces 740 PS (730 hp) at 8,400 rpm, 39 bhp more than the standard Aventador and 690 Nm (509 lb/ft) of torque at 5,500 rpm. The performance figures remain the same as the standard Aventador. The S received four wheel steering, permanent four wheel drive and a slightly updated suspension. The suspension is controlled by the ‘Lamborghini Dinamica Veicolo Attiva’ (LDVA) control unit. The LDVA has four selectable modes – Sport, Strada (Street), Corsa (Track) and Ego (i.e. individual). Carbon ceramic brakes are standard (front: 400 mm, rear: 380 mm). The nose was redesigned with a bigger front splitter and two new air ducts in the front bumper. At the rear it has a new black rear diffuser with fins, and three single exit exhausts tips. It has 130 percent more front downforce than the standard Aventador. It remains in the range, though more potent SV and SV-J versions have since joined it.
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 were several examples of the Integrale here.
The first generation Delta had been given a second lease of life by its rallying successes, but by the 1990s it was over ten years old and due replacement; its four-door saloon sibling, the Prisma, had already been replaced by the Lancia Dedra. By the time the new car was ready, Lancia had all but pulled out of the UK, so the car was never officially sold here. A few have since been brought in, though, and there were two of them here. Both are the three door HPE models, and are familiar sights at Italian car and other gatherings in the area. The “Nuova Delta” (Tipo 836)—always referred to by Lancia as Lancia δ with the lower-case Greek letter – was introduced at the Geneva Show in 1993, alongside the final “Evo 2” HF Integrale. Sales commenced in May 1993. Initially the Nuova Delta was offered with three engines and outputs varying from 76 to 142 PS: an entry level SOHC 1.6-litre, and two DOHC inline fours with Lancia’s twin counter rotating balance shafts, an 8-valve 1.8 and a 16-valve 2.0 litre. Trim levels were three: base and LE for the 1.6 and 1.8, base and richer LS for two-litre models. The sportier 2.0 HF was also unveiled in Geneva, but went on sale in September; it used a version of the 16-valve 2.0 litre equipped with a Garrett T3 turbocharger and an intercooler to produce 186 PS. Mechanical changes from the other Deltas included up-sized 205/50 tyres, stiffer suspension, standard 4-way ABS, a “Viscodrive” viscous coupling limited slip differential and, in the HF LS trim, electronically adjustable dampers with two settings. Visually the HF turbo was set apart by an eggcrate grille with a gunmetal surround and a yellow HF badge, a sportier front bumper complementing 1.1 inch wider front wings, black side skirts, specific 15 inch 7-spoke alloy wheels and a spoiler at the base of the rear window. Larger disk brakes and optional Alcantara Recaro sport seats were shared with the 2.0 LS. About a year after the launch, in June 1994, the 1.9 turbo ds turbodiesel variant was added to the range; it was powered by the usual 1,929 cc SOHC unit, pushing out 90 PS. The turbo ds was given the flared fenders and bumper of the HF, and was available in base and LE trim. Presented a month later and put on sale in autumn, the Delta 2.0 GT paired the naturally aspirated 2-litre engine with the looks of the HF—flared wings, bumper and spoiler. Although a three-door had been rumoured since 1991, it was not until the 1995 Geneva Motor Show that one became available. It was christened HPE—a denomination that had previously been used for a variant of the Lancia Beta, and standing for “High Performance Executive”. At first the HPE was only available with the three top engines: 2.0 16v, 1.9 turbodiesel and 2.0 16v turbo in HF guise. The three-door bodyshell had entirely redesigned body sides, but retained the roof and rear section of the five-door model; rear wheelarch flares complemented the HF-derived wide front wings and bumper, sported by all HPE versions. This meant the HPE was around 2.4 inches wider than a standard Delta, while all other exterior dimensions remained unchanged. Styling differences from the five-door included specific side skirts and a body-colour grille, to which the HPE 2.0 HF added all the accoutrements of the five-door HF and additional air intakes under the headlights. At the beginning of 1996 the range was updated. All naturally aspirated engines were replaced; the 1.6 and 1.8 8-valve by 16-valve units, while the 2.0 16v was discontinued in favour of a 1.8 16v equipped with variable valve timing. Trim levels for the 5-door were now three: base LE, richer LX and GT, exclusive to the 1.8 V.V.T. engine. The three-door HF turbo remained the only one offered, as the five-door version was discontinued. In addition to the turbocharged engines, the HPE was available with 1.8 V.V.T. and also the smaller 1.6 engines; the latter, entry level HPE adopted the bumper and narrow front wings of the standard Delta. Minor styling changes were introduced, such as alloy wheels and wheel covers of a new design, chrome vertical bars to the 5-door cars’ grille, and body colour mirror caps. November 1997 brought the last revisions for the Delta. Seven models made up the updated range: 5-door and HPE with a choice of 1.6, 1.8 V.V.T. or 1.9 td engines—the 18 16v having been phased out—and a renewed 2.0 HF, again in HPE form only. The 5-door range was reduced to a single LS trim. More of the plastic exterior details were now painted in body colour, namely bumper, bodyside and C-pillar inserts. All HPEs donned flared front wings. The updated HPE 2.0 HF was shown at the Bologna Motor Show in November. Visually it continued the monochrome theme of the restyled cars, and it was made more distinctive by bumpers, side skirts, and spoiler of a new design, and 16 inch Speedline Montecarlo alloy wheels with 215/50 tyres; inside the seats were upholstered in black leather with contrasting colour Alcantara centres. Mechanically it received a tweaked engine, producing 193 PS, which made for a 5 km/h higher top speed. The Delta was dropped from Lancia’s lineup in 1999, with no immediate successor.
After producing BiTurbo based cars for 17 years, Maserati replaced their entire range with a new model in July 1998, the 3200 GT. This very elegant 2+2 grand tourer was styled by Italdesign, whose founder and head Giorgetto Giugiaro had previously designed, among others, the Ghibli, Bora and Merak. The interior design was commissioned to Enrico Fumia. Its name honoured the Maserati 3500 GT, the Trident’s first series production grand tourer. Sold mainly in Europe, the 3200 GT was powered by the twin-turbo, 32-valve, dual overhead cam 3.2-litre V8 engine featured in the Quattroporte Evoluzione, set up to develop 370 PS (365 hp). The car was praised for its styling, with the distinctive array of tail-lights, consisting of LEDs, arranged in the shape of boomerang being particularly worthy of comment. The outer layer of the ‘boomerang’ provided the brake light, with the inner layer providing the directional indicator. The car was also reviewed quite well by the press when they got to drive it in early 1999, though it was clear that they expected more power and excitement. That came after 4,795 cars had been produced, in 2001, with the launch of the 4200 models. Officially called the Coupé and joined by an open-topped Spyder (Tipo M138 in Maserati speak), these models had larger 4.2 litre engines and had been engineered so the cars could be sold in America, marking the return to that market for Maserati after an 11 year gap. There were some detailed styling changes, most notable of which were the replacement of the boomerang rear lights with conventional rectangular units. Few felt that this was an improvement. The cars proved popular, though, selling strongly up until 2007 when they were replaced by the next generation of Maserati. Minor changes were made to the model during its six year production, but more significant was the launch at the 2004 Geneva Show of the GranSport which sported aerodynamic body cladding, a chrome mesh grille, carbon fibre interior trim, and special 19-inch wheels. It used the Skyhook active suspension, with a 0.4 inch lower ride height, and the Cambiocorsa transmission recalibrated for quicker shifts. The exhaust was specially tuned to “growl” on start-up and full throttle. The GranSport was powered by the same 4244 cc, 90° V8 petrol engine used on the Coupé and Spyder, but developing 400 PS (395 hp) at 7000 rpm due primarily to a different exhaust system and improvements on the intake manifolds and valve seats. A six-speed paddle shift transmission came as standard. The GranSport has a claimed top speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) and a 0–62 mph (0–100 km/h) time of 4.8 seconds. Production ceased at the end of 2006.
The Maserati GranTurismo and GranCabrio (Tipo M145) are a series of a grand tourers produced from 2007 to 2019. They succeeded the 2-door V8 grand tourers offered by the company, the Maserati Coupé, and Spyder. The GranTurismo set a record for the most quickly developed car in the auto industry, going from design to production stage in just nine months. The reason being that Ferrari, after selling off Maserati to the Fiat Chrysler Group, took the designs of the proposed replacement of the Maserati Coupé and after some modifications, launched it as the Ferrari California. Unveiled at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show, the GranTurismo has a drag coefficient of 0.33. The model was initially equipped with a 4.2-litre V8 engine developed in conjunction with Ferrari. The engine generates a maximum power output of 405 PS and is equipped with a 6-speed ZF automatic transmission. The 2+2 body was derived from the Maserati M139 platform, also shared with the Maserati Quattroporte V, with double-wishbone front suspension and a multilink rear suspension. The grand tourer emphasises comfort in harmony with speed and driver-enjoyment. The better equipped S variant was unveiled at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show and features the enlarged 4.7-litre V8 engine shared with the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, rated at 440 PS at 7,000 rpm and 490 Nm (361 lb/ft) of torque at 4,750 rpm. At the time of its introduction, it was the most powerful road-legal Maserati offered for sale (excluding the homologation special MC12). The engine is mated to the 6-speed automated manual shared with the Ferrari F430. With the transaxle layout weight distribution improved to 47% front and 53% rear. The standard suspension set-up is fixed-setting steel dampers, with the Skyhook adaptive suspension available as an option along with a new exhaust system, and upgraded Brembo brakes. The seats were also offered with various leather and Alcantara trim options. The upgrades were made to make the car more powerful and more appealing to the buyers while increasing performance, with acceleration from 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) happening in 4.9 seconds and a maximum speed of 295 km/h (183 mph). Aside from the power upgrades, the car featured new side skirts, unique 20-inch wheels unavailable on the standard car, a small boot lip spoiler, and black headlight clusters in place of the original silver. The variant was available in the North American market only for MY2009 with only 300 units offered for sale. The GranTurismo MC is the racing version of the GranTurismo S developed to compete in the FIA GT4 European Cup and is based on the Maserati MC concept. The car included a 6-point racing harness, 120 litre fuel tank, 380 mm (15.0 in) front and 326 mm (12.8 in) rear brake discs with 6-piston calipers at the front and 4-piston calipers at the rear, 18-inch racing wheels with 305/645/18 front and 305/680/18 rear tyres, carbon fibre bodywork and lexan windows throughout along with a race interior. All the weight-saving measures lower the weight to about 3,000 lb (1,361 kg). The car shares the 4.7-litre V8 engine from the GranTurismo S but is tuned to generate a maximum power output of 450 PS along with the 6-speed automated manual transmission. The GranTurismo MC was unveiled at the Paul Ricard Circuit in France. It went on sale in October, 2009 through the Maserati Corse programme. 15 GranTurismo MC racecars were developed, homologated for the European Cup and National Endurance Series, one of which was taken to be raced by GT motorsport organization Cool Victory in Dubai in January, 2010. Introduced in 2008, the GranTurismo MC Sport Line is a customisation programme based on the GranTurismo MC concept. Changes include front and rear carbon-fibre spoilers, carbon-fibre mirror housings and door handles, 20-inch wheels, carbon-fibre interior (steering wheel rim, paddle shifters, instrument panel, dashboard, door panels), stiffer springs, shock absorbers and anti-roll bars with custom Maserati Stability Programme software and 10 mm (0.4 in) lower height than GranTurismo S. The programme was initially offered for the GranTurismo S only, with the product line expanded to all GranTurismo variants and eventually all Maserati vehicles in 2009. Replacing both the GranTurismo S and S Automatic, the Granturismo Sport was unveiled in March 2012 at the Geneva Motor Show. The revised 4.7L engine is rated at 460 PS. The Sport features a unique MC Stradale-inspired front fascia, new headlights and new, sportier steering wheel and seats. The ZF six-speed automatic gearbox is now standard, while the six-speed automated manual transaxle is available as an option. The latter has steering column-mounted paddle-shifters, a feature that’s optional with the automatic gearbox. New redesigned front bumper and air splitter lowers drag coefficient from Cd=0.33 to 0.32. In September 2010, Maserati announced plans to unveil a new version of the GranTurismo – the MC Stradale – at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. The strictly two-seat MC Stradale is more powerful than the GranTurismo at 450 PS, friction reduction accounts for the increase, says Maserati, due to the strategic use of “diamond-like coating”, an antifriction technology derived from Formula 1, on wear parts such as the cams and followers. It is also 110 kg lighter (1,670 kg dry weight) from the GranTurismo, and more aerodynamic than any previous GranTurismo model – all with the same fuel consumption as the regular GranTurismo. In addition to two air intakes in the bonnet, the MC Stradale also receives a new front splitter and rear air dam for better aerodynamics, downforce, and improved cooling of carbon-ceramic brakes and engine. The body modifications make the car 48 mm (2 in) longer. The MC Race Shift 6-speed robotised manual gearbox (which shares its electronics and some of its hardware from the Ferrari 599 GTO) usually operates in an “auto” mode, but the driver can switch this to ‘sport’ or ‘race’ (shifting happening in 60 milliseconds in ‘race’ mode), which affects gearbox operations, suspension, traction control, and even the sound of the engine. The MC Stradale is the first GranTurismo to break the 300 km/h (186 mph) barrier, with a claimed top speed of 303 km/h (188 mph). The push for the Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale came from existing Maserati customers who wanted a road-legal super sports car that looked and felt like the GT4, GTD, and Trofeo race cars. It has been confirmed by the Maserati head office that only 497 units of 2-seater MC Stradales were built in total from 2011 to 2013 in the world, Europe: 225 units, China: 45 units, Hong Kong: 12, Taiwan: 23 units, Japan: 33 units, Oceania: 15 units and 144 units in other countries. US market MC’s do not have the “Stradale” part of the name, and they are sold with a fully automatic six-speed transmission rather than the one available in the rest of the world. US market cars also do not come with carbon fibre lightweight seats like the rest of the world. The MC Stradale’s suspension is 8% stiffer and the car rides slightly lower than the GranTurismo S following feedback from racing drivers who appreciated the better grip and intuitive driving feel of the lower profile. Pirelli has custom-designed extra-wide 20-inch P Zero Corsa tyres to fit new flow-formed alloy wheels. The Brembo braking system with carbon-ceramic discs weighs around 60% less than the traditional system with steel discs. The front is equipped with 380 x 34 mm ventilated discs, operated by a 6 piston caliper. The rear discs measure 360 x 32 mm with four-piston calipers. The stopping distance is 33 m at 100 km/h (62 mph) with an average deceleration of 1.2g. At the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, an update to the GranTurismo MC Stradale was unveiled. It features an updated 4.7 litre V8 engine rated at 460 PS at 7,000 rpm and 520 Nm (384 lb/ft) of torque at 4,750 rpm, as well as the MC Race Shift 6-speed robotized manual gearbox which shifts in 60 milliseconds in ‘race’ mode. The top speed is 303 km/h (188 mph). All models were built at the historic factory in viale Ciro Menotti in Modena. A total of 28,805 GranTurismos and 11,715 units of the convertible were produced. The final production example of the GranTurismo, called Zéda, was presented painted in a gradient of blue, black and white colours.
From the current range was this example of the Levante and my recently acquired Ghibli Hybrid.
Although the number of cars attending this event has still not returned to anything like the levels that were achieved in the pre-Covid world, that did not detract from the enjoyment of the day. It was good to see a nice variety of Italian machines, with plenty of cars that were not Abarths as well as plenty that were, and to catch up with a number of friends who I’ve not seen for some time. That the weather turned out to be rather better than forecast was an added bonus. Let’s hope that by the time of the 2022 event, things are much more “normal” and this event generates a bumper attendance.