Since making my first visit to Caffeine & Machine in early 2019, not long after the venue opened, I’ve been back countless times, and always found plenty of interest to see, people to talk to and food and drink to enjoy. It’s quite evident from what people say and post online, as well as stickers you see in cars at other events, that an awful lot of car enthusiasts have also made at least one visit to this location, which, located just to the south east of Stratford on Avon is pretty much right in the centre of England. But there are plenty of people who still haven’t been, and it was when talking with some of the North West Abarth group that it became that quite a lot of them had never been, and there was plenty of interest to rectify that. They asked if I could help to set up a visit, and decided that they would happily travel to the area one evening mid-week, for which I thought would make it a lot easier to get a date. I was a little surprised when, at the time of asking in early July, Caffeine & Machine came up with just one option in August and otherwise suggested dates from mid September onwards. The challenge with September, of course, is that the evenings have drawn in somewhat, but that was the timing we decided would actually work better around other planned activities. We were initially allocated 50 places, and I wondered whether we could fill them. That proved to be no problem, and I had to go back twice to ask for more spaces and in the end we had around 85 Abarths booked in, which I thought was particularly impressive for a Tuesday evening. All I had to worry about now was the weather, and as the date neared, that did not look too promising. In the end, it was dry during our visit, but it had rained a lot earlier in the day, and I drove through a cloudburst getting there, so some of the cars arrived not quite as clean as their proud owners had intended (me included!), and of course part of the site itself gets to be rather a challenge after heavy rain. Not that this was going to put off an enthusiastic bunch of Abarth owners, and as the venue was still open to everyone else as well, there were also a number of non-Abarths on site to take in. Here is what I saw during the evening:
The vast majority of Abarths 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 be 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. Several of the original style of cars were 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, with a roll-back roof which provided the best of open-topped motoring and yet still with the rigidity of the regular body style. 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.
Having used the legendary 695 badging from the 1960s on the Tributo cars, at the 2012 Geneva Show, Abarth dusted off the 595 name that had been used on the less powerful of the Nuova 500 based cars of the same generation, and created two new versions which we should think of as Series 2 cars, the 595 Turismo and Competizione, both of which could be bought in either closed or open top C guise, with either the 5 speed manual or robotised automated gearshifts. Both models had the 160 bhp engine as standard. Effectively they were a replacement for the Esseesse kit, and it meant that the cars were produced complete at the factory, rather than needing the dealer to undertake the upgrade (and the associated paperwork), though Abarth did not withdraw the Esseesse kits from the market for some while. Turismo, as the name suggests was aimed slightly less extreme in intent, featuring standard leather upholstery, upgraded dampers and climate control, Xenon headlights and Alutex interior details. The sportier Abarth 595 Competizione replaced the leather seats with Sabelt cloth sport seats and Alutex with aluminium, while adding p-cross-drilled brakes and the Record Monza dual-mode exhaust.
Rumours started to circulate towards the end of 2014 that Abarth were going to upgrade the Competizione model, so as better to bridge the gap between the Turismo and the 190 bhp 695 Biposto that had been added to the range earlier in the year. It was Geneva 2015 when the result was finally shown to an expectant fan base. Most exciting news was that thanks to a bigger Garrett Turbo, the engine had been tweaked to 180 bhp, and with reduced CO2 emissions. A standard spec that included Koni Dampers, Brembo brakes, Xenon lights, Sabelt seats, Climate Control, parking sensors as well as other refinements that had been added like the TFT instrument display all proved very compelling, so not long after the first cars reached the UK in June of 2015, I found temptation too hard to resist, and as is well documented here, swapped my 2010 car for one of these. At the time I ordered it, Cordolo Red, a tri-coat pearlescent paint which shimmers in bright sunlight looked set to become one of the most popular colours of the lot, even though it is a cost option. Indeed, the Launch Edition models were all offered either in this colour or Scorpion Black, with black wheels. Surprisingly, the colour was not carried over to the Series 4 cars.
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 over four years and with Abarth sales on the rise, it was no surprise that they were particularly well represented here.
A top of the range 595 Esseesse model was added in early 2019. These cars have only sold in quite small numbers, so you don’t see them that often, but there were some here, including Tristan Fudge’s example, which is black. This makes it unusual as the majority of these cars seem to be Campovolo Grey, and indeed there was a grey one here as well. The most obvious change externally is the adoption of the neat white painted 17inch multi-spoke alloy wheels that are an Esseesse trademark, while elsewhere it gets the same recently reprofiled bumpers as the standard 595. Inside, there’s a pair of bespoke figure-hugging Sabelt high-backed seats with a carbonfibre shell and some natty red stitching, while carbonfibre trim also covers the pedals and the dashboard. Under the bonnet is the familiar 178bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre engine, but here it breathes in through a BMC filter and exhales from a switchable carbonfibre-tipped Akrapovič twin exit exhaust. There’s no more power than the old Competizione, but the Esseesse gets that model’s Brembo callipers for its 305mm front discs, plus a limited-slip differential. The suspension is largely carried over, including Koni’s frequency selective dampers. All this comes at a price though, and so this has remained a relatively rare sighting compared to the Competizione which many still feel offers rather better value for money.
Abarth announced two limited edition models in the autumn of 2020 and one of these was here, the 595 Scorpioneoro. Another model which takes its inspiration from a history which few in the Uk will be familiar with, there will be just 2000 units of this distinctive model available globally. The 595 Scorpioneoro was born to continue the legacy of the famous A112 Abarth “Gold Ring” of 1979, better known as the A112 Abarth “Targa Oro”, of which only 150 models produced and, as with the new Abarth 595 Scorpioneoro, what made it so special were its stylistic details. These details included black livery, gold-coloured decorative line contouring the bodywork and the alloy wheels, also painted in the distinctive gold colour. This car is liveried in the same way, marked out by its black livery, decorative gold bodywork lining and gold-painted alloy wheels. It also boasts a matt black chessboard roof and grey finish on the door handles and mirror caps. And to mirror the ‘Gold Scorpion’ name, the car is adorned with gold scorpions on the bonnet and the wheel centres. Inside the cabin of this new exciting new model, you’ll be greeted with a black dashboard which is home to the new gold finished 500 logo. Leather detailing on the seats introduces the original “scorpionflage”. The seats are further embellished with dedicated stitching and personalised headrests with the word “Scorpioneoro”, the Italian flag and Abarth embroidered on them. An additional touch of exclusivity comes from the numbered, gold coloured plaque, available solely on this model. The Scorpioneoro also comes with Abarth’s top-of-the-range seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a Beats Audio sound system. Mechanically, there is nothing new, as the car has the 165 bhp version of the familiar T-Jet engine and the other features you get in the regular production Trofeo cars.
A large number of Abarth owners modify their cars, in the quest of extracting more power or simply because they want to personalise them in some way. Over the years a vast amount of knowledge, expertise and experience has been amassed and there is a very active group called Modified Abarth which is the focal point for this topic.
The Abarth Grande Punto debuted at the 2007 Frankfurt IAA Show, going on sale in the UK in late summer of 2008. Offering 155 bhp from its 1.4 litre T-Jet engine, coupled to a six speed gearbox, and riding on 45 profile 17″ alloys, the standard car got rave reviews from the journalists when they first tried it, and they were even more impressed by the changes wrought by the optional Esseesse kit. This increased power to 177 bhp, brought 18″ OZ lower profile wheels, whilst new springs lowered the ride height by 15-20mm, and high-performance front brake pads and cross-drilled front disc brakes helped the car to stop more quickly. The most distinctive feature of the car were the white alloy wheels, though, as owners found, keeping these clean is not a job for the uncommitted, and many have a second set of wheels that they use for grubbier conditions. Despite the positive press at launch, the car entered a very competitive sector of the market, and the combination of being relatively unknown, a limited number of dealers and the existence of established rivals from Renault and others meant that this always remained a left-field choice. The owners loved them, though, and they still do. The oldest cars have now had their 13th birthdays, and some have amassed relatively big mileages, but they are still a car for the cognoscenti.
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.
Slightly surprisingly, there was only example of the 124 Spider here, that of Mark Gorman. The 124 Spider went on sale in September 2016. A quick reminder as to what this car is: The Abarth 124 Spider was developed in parallel with the Fiat model. It does cost a lot more, and there are those who think you don’t get enough extra for your money, but those who have driven it will tell you otherwise. You certainly get more power. The 1.4 MultiAir turbo unit jumps up from 138bhp to 168bhp, while torque also increases by a modest 10Nm to 250Nm, which gives it a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds, which is half a second quicker than the 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5. The top speed is 143mph. It weighs just 1060kg meaning a power-to-weight ratio of 158bhp-per-tonne, and with the new Record Monza exhaust system it sounds great even at idle. The Abarth version gets a stiffer suspension setup than the regular Fiat 124 Spider, with Bilstein dampers and beefed-up anti-roll bars. Bigger Brembo brakes also feature, with aluminium calipers. It can be had with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with paddles, and the latter gets a Sport mode for quicker shifts. Many of the UK cars sport the ‘Heritage Look’ pack, which is a no-cost option. It brings a matt black bonnet and bootlid, plus red exterior trim detailing and has proved popular. The £29,565 starting price gets you standard equipment such as cruise control, climate control, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and satnav, plus Alcantara black and red (or pure black) seat trim. The automatic gearbox is a £2,035 extra, while an optional visibility pack brings LED DRLs, auto lights and wipers and rear parking sensors. Production ceased in 2019 and around 1800 examples came to the UK, so this will always be a rare car.
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.
Follow on to the DB7 was the DB9 (there has never been a car called DB8 – supposedly because people might have assumed this meant a V8 engine), and there was a nice example here. The Aston Martin DB9, designed by Marek Reichmann and Hendrik Fisker, was first shown by Aston Martin at the 2003 Frankfurt Auto Show, in coupe form. It was widely praised for the beauty of its lines. This was the first model to be built at Aston Martin’s Gaydon facility. It was built on the VH platform, which would become the basis for all subsequent Aston models. The Aston Martin DB9 was initially launched equipped with a 6.0 litre V12 engine, originally taken from the V12 Vanquish. The engine produced 420 lbf·ft of torque at 5,000 rpm and a maximum power of 444 hp at 6,000 rpm, allowing the DB9 to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 299 km/h (186 mph). The engine largely sits behind the front-axle line to improve weight distribution. Changes to the engine for the 2013 model year increased the power to 503 hp and torque to 457 lb-ft, decreasing the 0 to 60 mph time to 4.50 seconds and with a new top speed is 295 km/h (183 mph). The DB9 was available with either a six-speed conventional manual gearbox from Graziano or a six-speed ZF automatic gearbox featuring paddle-operated semi-automatic mode. The gearbox is rear-mounted and is driven by a carbon-fibre tail shaft inside a cast aluminium torque tube. The DB9 was the first Aston Martin model to be designed and developed on Ford’s aluminium VH (vertical/horizontal) platform. The body structure is composed of aluminium and composites melded together by mechanically fixed self-piercing rivets and robotic assisted adhesive bonding techniques. The bonded aluminium structure is claimed to possess more than double the torsional rigidity of its predecessor’s, despite being 25 percent lighter. The DB9 also contains anti-roll bars and double wishbone suspension, supported by coil springs. To keep the back-end in control under heavy acceleration or braking, the rear suspension has additional anti-squat and anti-lift technology. Later versions of the car also features three modes for the tuning: normal, for every-day use, sport, for more precise movement at the cost of ride comfort, and track, which furthers the effects of the sport setting. The Aston Martin DB9 Volante, the convertible version of the DB9 coupe, followed a few months later. The chassis, though stiffer, uses the same base VH platform. To protect occupants from rollovers, the Volante has strengthened windscreen pillars and added two pop-up hoops behind the rear seats. The hoops cannot be disabled and will break the car’s rear window if deployed. In an effort to improve the Volante’s ride while cruising, Aston Martin have softened the springs and lightened the anti-roll bars in the Volante, leading to a gentler suspension. The retractable roof of the Volante is made of folding fabric and takes 17 seconds to be put up or down. The Volante weighs 59 kilograms (130 pounds) more than the coupe. The coupe and Volante both share the same semi-automatic and automatic gearboxes and engine. The car was limited to 266 km/h (165 mph) to retain the integrity of the roof. Like the coupe, the original Volante has 420 lb·ft of torque at 5,000 rpm and a maximum power of 450 hp at 6,000 rpm. The 0 to 60 mph slowed to 4.9 seconds due to the additional weight. The DB9 was facelifted in July 2008, which mainly amounted to an increase in engine power, to 476 hp and a redesigned centre console. Externally, the DB9 remained virtually unchanged. For the 2013 model year revision, Aston made minor changes to the bodywork by adapting designs from the Virage, including enlarging the recessed headlight clusters with bi-xenon lights and LED daytime strips, widening the front splitter, updating the grille and side heat extractors, updating the LED rear lights with clear lenses and integrating a new rear spoiler with the boot lid. .On newer models, like the coupe’s, the Volante’s horsepower and torque increased to 517 PS (510 hp) and 457 lb·ft respectively. As a finale for the model, a more powerful DB9 was released in 2015, called the DB9 GT. This had 540 bhp and 457 lb-ft of torque at 5500 rpm, giving a 0 to 60mph time of 4.4 seconds and 0 to 100mph in 10.2 seconds, with the standing quarter mile dispatched in 12.8 to 12.9 seconds and a top speed of 183mph. Production of the DB9 ended in 2016 being replaced by its successor, the DB11.
The second generation of the R8 (model code: Type 4S) was unveiled at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show and is based on the Modular Sports System platform shared with the Lamborghini Huracan. The development of the Type 4S commenced in late 2013 and was completed in late 2014. Initial models included the all-electric e-Tron and the V10 5.2 FSI along with the V10 plus. Unlike its predecessor, there was no manual transmission available and the entry-level V8 trim was also dropped. In 2016, the convertible (Spyder) variant was added to the line up which was initially available in the base V10 trim. In mid-2017, the high performance V10 plus Spyder was added to the range. A rear-wheel-drive model called the R8 RWS was introduced. In 2018, the R8 received a mid-cycle refresh with mechanical and exterior changes. The newer and more aggressive design language carried over from famous Audi models of the past and it’s appearance is slightly more angular up front. Some of the aerodynamic features such as the front aeroblades are shared with the Lamborghini Huracàn. The refreshed model had substantial performance improvements over its predecessor. The base R8 gets a power boost from 532 hp to 562 hp, while the V10 Plus was renamed V10 Performance Quattro and the engine saw a power increase by 10 bhp, now up to 612 bhp. The Audi R8 e-tron (2015) was an all-electric version of the second-generation R8. Unlike the earlier 2010 prototype based on the first-generation R8, it actually entered production, but only on a small scale, with less than 100 units sold. It featured a 92-kWh battery.
When I pulled in, I parked next to a pair of BMWs and quickly realised that I knew the owners of both of them, as they were both former Abarth owners who had changed marque earlier in the year. They had been at the venue for some time, and actually left before the majority of the Abarths arrived.
The M2 was first revealed in Need for Speed: No Limits on November 2015, before later premiering at the North American International Auto Show in January 2016. Production commenced in October 2015 and is only available as a rear-wheel drive coupé. The M2 is powered by the turbocharged 3.0-litre N55B30T0 straight-six engine producing 365 bhp at 6,500 rpm and 465 Nm (343 lb/ft) between 1,450–4,750 rpm, while an overboost function temporarily increases torque to 500 N⋅m (369 lb⋅ft). The M2 features pistons from the F80 M3 and F82 M4, and has lighter aluminium front and rear suspension components resulting in a 5 kg (11 lb) weight reduction. The M2 is available with a 6-speed manual or with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission which features a ‘Smokey Burnout’ mode. 0-100 km/h acceleration times are 4.5 seconds manual transmission models and 4.3 seconds for models equipped with the 7-speed dual clutch transmission. Top speed is limited to 250 km/h (155 mph) but can be extended to 270 km/h (168 mph) with the optional M Driver’s package. The M2 Competition was introduced at the 2018 Beijing Auto Show and succeeded the standard M2 Coupé. Production began in July 2018. The M2 Competition uses the high performance S55 engine which is a variant of the 3.0-litre twin turbocharged straight six engine found in the F80 M3 and F82 M4. The engine features a redesigned oil supply system and modified cooling system from the BMW M4 with the Competition Package, and also features a gasoline particulate filter in certain European Union countries to reduce emissions. Compared to the standard M2, the S55 produces an additional 40 bhp and 85 Nm (63 lb/ft), resulting in a larger and more sustained power output of 405 bhp between 5,370–7,200 rpm, and 550 Nm (406 lb/ft) at 2,350–5,230 rpm. The 0-100 km/h acceleration time is 4.4 seconds for six-speed manual transmission models, and 4.2 seconds for models with the 7-speed dual clutch transmission. Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h (155 mph), but the M Driver’s package can extend the limit to 280 km/h (174 mph) which is 10 km/h (6 mph) further than in the M2. The M2 Competition also has a carbon-fibre reinforced plastic strut bar, enlarged kidney grilles, and larger brake discs of 400 mm (15.7 in) in the front axle and 380 mm (15.0 in) in the rear axle. Because of the new engine and cooling system, the M2 Competition is 55 kg (121 lb) heavier than the standard M2 at 1,550 kg (3,417 lb) for manual transmission models and 1,575 kg (3,472 lb) for dual-clutch transmission models. It remains in production.
The S2000 was first alluded to at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show, with the Honda Sport Study Model (SSM) concept car, a rear-wheel-drive roadster powered by a 2.0 litre inline 4-cylinder engine and featuring a rigid ‘high X-bone frame’ which Honda claimed improved the vehicle’s rigidity and collision safety. The concept car was constructed with aluminium body panels and featured a 50:50 weight distribution. The SSM appeared at many automotive shows for several years afterwards, hinting at the possibility of a production version, which Honda finally announced in 1999. It featured a front mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout with power being delivered by a 1,997 cc inline 4-cylinder DOHC-VTEC engine. The engine produced outputs of 237–247 hp, and 153–161 lb/ft depending on the target market., and it was mated to a six-speed manual transmission and Torsen limited slip differential. The S2000 achieved what Honda claimed as “the world’s top level, high performance 4-cylinder naturally aspirated engine”. Features included independent double wishbone suspension, electrically assisted steering and integrated roll hoops. The compact and lightweight engine, mounted entirely behind the front axle, allowed the S2000 to achieve a 50:50 front/rear weight distribution and lower rotational inertia. An electrically powered vinyl top with internal cloth lining was standard, with an aluminium hardtop available as an optional extra. Although the S2000 changed little visually during its production run, there were some alterations, especially in 2004, at which point production of the S2000 moved to Suzuka. The facelifted car introduced 17 in wheels and Bridgestone RE-050 tyres along with a retuned suspension to reduce oversteer. The spring rates and shock absorber damping were altered and the suspension geometry modified to improve stability by reducing toe-in changes under cornering loads. The subframe has also received a revision in design to achieve a high rigidity. In the gearbox the brass synchronisers were replaced with carbon fibre. In addition, cosmetic changes were made to the exterior with new front and rear bumpers, revised headlight assemblies, new LED tail-lights, and oval-tipped exhausts. Although all the cosmetic, suspension and most drivetrain upgrades were included on the Japanese and European S2000s, they retained the 2.0l F20C engine and remained designated as an AP1. A number of special editions were made, such as the more track-oriented Club Racer version offered in the US in 2007/8 and the Type S for Japan in 2008/9. The UK received a GT for 2009, which featured a removable hard-top and an outside temperature gauge. The S2000 Ultimate Edition (continental Europe) and GT Edition 100 (UK) were limited versions of the S2000 released to commemorate the end of production. Both included Grand Prix White body colour, removable hard top, graphite-coloured alloy wheels, red leather interior with red colouring for stitching on the gear lever gaiter. The Ultimate Edition was unveiled at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show and went on sale in March 2009. The GT Edition 100 was a limited run of 100 units released for the UK market. In addition to the Ultimate Edition’s specification, it featured a black S2000 badge and a numbered plaque on the kick-plate indicating which vehicle in the series it was. The car was never replaced, as Honda decided to head off in the same direction as Toyota, producing a series of very dull appliance-like cars that focused on low emissions and dependability but of no appeal to the sort of enthusiast who bought (and probably kept!) an S2000.
Now an established part of the McLaren range, the 570S along with its slightly cheaper and less powerful brother, the 540C, was revealed at the 2015 New York Auto Show, going on sale towards the end of that year. These were labelled as part of McLaren’s Sports Series. This mid-engine sportscar features the lightweight carbon fibre MonoCell II chassis, and a highly efficient 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 engine generating 562bhp and 443lb/ft of torque. Although the model has been conceived with a greater focus on day-to-day usability and refinement, it is still very much a pure McLaren, boasting a class-leading power-to-weight ratio of 434PS per tonne, and electrifying performance. The 570S Coupé accelerates from 0 to 100km/h in just 3.2 seconds, reaches 200km/h (124mph) in 9.5 seconds, and on to a top speed of 204mph. Pricing for the 570S Coupé started at £143,250, though like all cars of this type, that figure can quickly rise once you raid the options list.
The 968 was launched in 1992, renamed from the 944, as so little of the outgoing S2 remained unaltered. In addition to the numerous mechanical upgrades, the new model also received significantly evolved styling both inside and out, with a more modern, streamlined look and more standard luxury than on the 944. Production was moved from the Audi plant in Neckarsulm to Porsche’s own factory in Zuffenhausen. The 968 was powered by an updated version of the 944’s straight-four engine, now displacing 3.0 L with 104 mm bore, 88 mm stroke and producing 240 PS. Changes to the 968’s powertrain also included the addition of Porsche’s then-new VarioCam variable valve timing system, newly optimized induction and exhaust systems, a dual-mass flywheel, and updated engine management electronics among other more minor revisions. The 968’s engine was the second-largest four-cylinder ever offered in a production car up to that time. A new 6-speed manual transmission replaced the 944’s old 5-speed, and Porsche’s dual-mode Tiptronic automatic became an available option. Both the VarioCam timing system and Tiptronic transmission were very recent developments for Porsche. The Tiptronic transmission had debuted for the first time ever only 3 years prior to the debut of the 968, on the 1989 Type 964 911. The VarioCam timing system was first introduced on the 968 and would later become a feature of the Type 993 air-cooled six-cylinder engine. The 968’s styling was an evolution on that of the outgoing 944, itself styled evolutionarily from the earlier 924, but elements were borrowed from the more expensive 928 model in an attempt to create a “family resemblance” between models, and the swooping headlamp design, inspired by those of the 959, previewed similar units found later on the Type 993 911. Along with the new styling, the 968 featured numerous small equipment and detail upgrades, including a Fuba roof-mounted antenna, updated single lens tail lamps, “Cup” style 16″ alloy wheels, a wider selection of interior and exterior colours, and a slightly updated “B” pillar and rear quarter window to accommodate adhesive installation to replace the older rubber gasket installation. Because some parts are interchangeable between the 968, 944 and 924, some enthusiasts purchase those parts from Porsche parts warehouses as “upgrades” for their older models. Like the 944, the 968 was sold as both a coupe and a convertible. Much of the 968’s chassis was carried over from the 944 S2, which in itself shared many components with the 944 Turbo. Borrowed components include the Brembo-sourced four-piston brake calipers on all four wheels, aluminium semi-trailing arms and aluminium front A-arms, used in a Macpherson strut arrangement. The steel unibody structure was also very similar to that of the previous models. Porsche maintained that 80% of the car was new. From 1993 through 1995, Porsche offered a lighter-weight “Club Sport” version of the 968 designed for enthusiasts seeking increased track performance. Much of the 968’s luxury-oriented equipment was removed or taken off the options list; less sound deadening material was used, electrical windows were replaced with crank-driven units, upgraded stereo systems, A/C and sunroof were still optional as on the standard Coupe and Convertible models. In addition, Porsche installed manually adjustable lightweight Recaro racing seats rather than the standard power-operated leather buckets (also manufactured by Recaro), a revised suspension system optimised and lowered by 20 mm for possible track use, 17-inch wheels rather than the 16-inch and wider tyres, 225 front and 255 rears rather than 205 and 225 respectively. The four-spoke airbag steering wheel was replaced with a thicker-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel with no airbag, heated washer jets were replaced with non heated, vanity covers in the engine bay were deleted, as was the rear wiper. The Club Sport has no rear seats, unlike the 2+2 Coupé. Club Sports were only available in Grand Prix White, black, Speed yellow, Guards red, Riviera blue or Maritime blue. Seat backs were colour-coded to the body. Club Sport decals were standard in either black, red or white but there was a ‘delete’ option. All Club Sports had black interiors with the 944 S2 door cards. Due to the reduction in the number of electrical items the wiring loom was reduced in complexity which saved weight and also the battery was replaced with a smaller one, again reducing weight. With the no frills approach meaning less weight, as well as the optimising of the suspension, Porsche could focus media attention on the Club Sport variants fast road and track abilities. This helped to slightly bolster the flagging sales figures in the mid-1990s. The Club Sport variant achieved a ‘Performance Car Of The Year’ award in 1993 from Performance Car magazine in the UK. Club Sport models were only officially available in the UK, Europe, Japan & Australia, although “grey market” cars found their way elsewhere. The declared weight of the 968 CS is 1320 kg, ~100 kg lighter than the regular 968. Acceleration from standstill to 100 km/h is 6.3 seconds and a top speed is 260 km/h (160 mph). A UK-only version called “968 Sport”, was offered in 1994 and 1995, and was essentially a Club Sport model (and was produced on the same production line with similar chassis numbers) with electric windows, electric release boot, central locking, cloth comfort seats (different from both the standard and the Club Sport). With the added electrics the larger wiring loom was used. The Sport Variant also got back the two rear seats, again in the cloth material specific to the Sport. At £29,975, the 968 Sport was priced £5,500 lower than the standard 968, but had most of the latter’s desirable “luxuries” and consequently outsold it by a large margin (306 of the 968 Sport models compared to 40 standard 968 coupés). In 1993, Porsche Motorsports at Weissach briefly produced a turbocharged 968 Turbo S, a fairly odd naming choice for Porsche which usually reserves the added “S” moniker for models that have been tuned for more power over a “lesser” counterpart, such as with the 911 Turbo. The 968 Turbo S shared the same body and interior as the Club Sport and visually can be identified by the NACA bonnet hood scoops, adjustable rear wing and deeper front spoiler. Powered by a large 8 valve SOHC cylinder head (944 Turbo S) with 3.0 Litre 944S2 style engine block. Tests conducted in 1993 produced a 0 to 60 mph of 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 282 km/h (175 mph), performance comparable to the much newer Type 996 911. It generated 305 bhp at 5600 rpm with a maximum torque of 370 lb/ft) at 3000rpm. Only 16 were produced in total and only for sale in mainland Europe. Between 1992 and 1994, Porsche Motorsports Research and Development built and provided a full “Race” version (stripped out 968 Turbo S) for Porsche’s customer race teams. The 968 Turbo RS was available in two variations; a 337 bhp version using the K27 turbocharger from the Turbo S, which was built to the German ADAC GT specification (ballast added to bring the car up to the 1350 kg minimum weight limit), and an international spec version which used a KKK L41 turbocharger producing 350 bhp and was reduced to 1212 kg in weight. Only 4 were ever produced ; 1 Guards Red, 1 Speed Yellow, 1 Black and 1 White. These are the rarest 968s ever produced.
TVR replaced their long-running shape with something really quite radical looking in early 1980. with the Tasmin, and there was a relatively early version of these “wedge” era TVRs here. During the 1970s, when Martin Lilley started to look where to take the Blackpool based company next, he noted that Lotus appeared to have reinvented itself with the Elite, Eclat and Esprit, losing much of the kit-car image in the process, and he thought he needed to do something similar. He needed a new design language, so he contacted Oliver Winterbottom who had done the Elite/Eclat for the Norfolk firm, hoping for something new. The wedge-shaped design that Winterbottom created was produced in 1977, and a prototype was created the following year, before the new car’s launch very early in 1980. Based on the Taimar, but with very different wedge styling, the car was not exactly received with massive enthusiasm. The styling looked a bit like yesterday’s car, as the wedge era was on the wane, and the car’s price pitched it against cars like the Porsche 924 Turbo. Development of the new car had drained TVR’s finances, which led to Lilley ceding control of the company in 1981 to Peter Wheeler. The convertible that followed helped matters a bit, whereas the 2 litre 200 and the 2+2 model did not, but in 1983, TVR announced a revised version with the potent Rover 3.5 litre V8 under the bonnet, in lieu of the 2.8 litre Ford Essex unit, and it transformed the car. It was just what was needed, and over the next few years, a series of ever more potent models, with ever wilder styling came into the range. By 1986, the 450SEAC boasted 340 bhp, making this something of a supercar.
Needless to say, this proved to be a most enjoyable evening. It was great to get the chance to meet up with a number of other friends who live quite a way from me and thus whom I do not see that often, as well as being able to meet yet more Abarth owners. It was also very pleasing to have owners from a number of different Abarth Regional Groups, so whilst this started out as an event for North West Abarth, it was much more broadly attended than that. Most people arrived early enough to be able to see their cars and to grab photos of them before the light faded, which was also good, though of course the majority of people were still on site long after darkness had taken over. And being Caffeine & Machine there were a number of other interesting cars to see, as well. Not perhaps in large numbers, but that is quite normal for a mid-week day, I believe. I am sure that it will not be long before I, and a lot of the other Abarth owners are back at this location.