One of the many early events organised by the Abarth Berkshire Group in 2021, soon after the Group was founded was a meet at Millets Farm. This was a venue that I’d not even heard of, though it turns out it was actually pretty well known and hugely popular with lots of people as a place to visit, with attractions that go far beyond the original Farm Shop. There are brown tourist signs in the area pointing to it, and you will find it a few miles to the east of the A420 road that links Swindon to Oxford or a few miles west of Abingdon, depending on where you are coming from. The site is vast and there is a massive public car park, which does tend to get pretty full, but there is also additional parking on the grass both beyond the surfaced area and also in an adjoining field and it was this latter which was allocated to us for a 2022 meeting there. The Abarth Berkshire team decided it would be fun to extend the invite to encompass all Italian cars and not just Abarths, so when I arrived on site, I was not sure quite what I was going to find in the designated parking area. There were already a number of cars – some familiar, some not – parked up and others arrived to make a nice-sized event.
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 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.
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. Serial Abarth owner Ed Tan bought one of the first of the 500C bicolore cars and is now on his fifth example of the model, with his much admired Podium Blue and Scorpione Nero car being one of three Cabrio models here, though all are relatively recent cars.
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.
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 five years and with Abarth sales on the rise, it was no surprise that they were particularly well represented here.
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.
Many Abarth owners spend a lot of time and money on modifying 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). Three cars present here come in the highly modified category. Paul Hatton’s car has been a feature of the community for some years now, and has continued to evolve as he applies more changes to what he now calls the “Imposto”.
There were a couple of more recent modified cars here, too, including Mark Rosales’ black Competizione and Cathan Evans’ distinctively liveried car.
With two of the Berkshire Admin team owning a 124 Spider and them also linking to a Fiat/Abarth 124 Spider Group this model was better represented here than is sometimes the case. 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. Sales ceased during 2019, with around 1800 cars having been brought into the UK, so this is always going to be a rare car, and values are already increasing at a rate reflecting its desirability and the difficulty in finding one.
Also here were a couple of examples of the Fiat 124 Spider. Announced at the 2015 LA Auto Show and going on sale in mid 2016, concurrently with the Abarth version and having the same short production life, the Fiat version has slightly less power than then Abarth, with 138 bhp from its 1.4 litre MultiAir engine, and is more focused as a comfortable tourer than a sports car. In May 2012, Mazda and Alfa Romeo — at the time a subsidiary of the Fiat Group, now Stellantis — announced a joint venture to manufacture a common rear wheel drive platform. The companies would “develop two differentiated, distinctly styled, iconic and brand specific, lightweight roadsters featuring rear wheel drive”, with the two variants offering proprietary engines unique to each brand. In December 2014, FCA’s Sergio Marchionne determined Alfa Romeos would be manufactured only in Italy, saying “some things belong to a place. Alfa belongs to Italy,” adding “I remain committed to that architecture, with our powertrain. I’m not sure it will be with Alfa. But it will be with one of our brands.” At the time, Alfa Romeos were manufactured only in Italy, while Fiats were manufactured in Italy, but also globally — from Tychy, Poland, to Toluca, Mexico. With their prior agreement in place — for FCA to market a roadster based on the MX-5 to be manufactured by Mazda at its Hiroshima factory — FCA conceived of marketing a Fiat badged variant in lieu of the Alfa Romeo variant. In August 2016, FCA formally announced the Fiat 124 Spider based on the Mazda ND platform. In December 2016, the Detroit News stated “in partnering with Mazda’s MX-5 Miata to resurrect the classic Fiat 124 Spider, Fiat Chrysler not only gained a halo sports car for its struggling Italian brand, but likely saved the most celebrated small sports car of the past 25 years (the MX-5)” — citing the markedly increased cost of developing a new car at the time and “the costliest wave of government regulation since the 1970s.” In January 2019, FCA announced that the Fiat 124 Spider was to be withdrawn from the market in the United Kingdom with immediate effect. The Abarth 124 Spider continued to be sold, but this too was withdrawn from the UK market in April 2019.
The 916 Series cars were conceived to replace two very different models in the Alfa range. First of these was the open topped 105 Series Spider which had been in production since 1966 and by the 1990s was long overdue a replacement. Alfa decided to combine a follow on to the Alfetta GTV, long out of production, with a new Spider model, and first work started in the late 1980s. The task was handed to Pininfarina, and Enrico Fumia’s initial renderings were produced in September 1987, with the first clay models to complete 1:1 scale model made in July 1988. Fumia produced something rather special. Clearly an Italian design, with the Alfa Romeo grille with dual round headlights, recalling the Audi-based Pininfarina Quartz, another design produced by Enrico Fumia back in 1981, the proposal was for a car that was low-slung, wedge-shaped with a low nose and high kicked up tail. The back of the car is “cut-off” with a “Kamm tail” giving improved aerodynamics. The Spider would share these traits with the GTV except that the rear is rounded, and would feature a folding soft-top with five hoop frame, which would completely disappear from sight under a flush fitting cover. An electric folding mechanism would be fitted as an option. Details included a one-piece rear lamp/foglamp/indicator strip across the rear of the body, the minor instruments in the centre console angled towards the driver. The exterior design was finished in July 1988. After Vittorio Ghidella, Fiat’s CEO, accepted the design, Alfa Romeo Centro Stile under Walter de Silva was made responsible for the completion of the detail work and also for the design of the interiors, as Pininfarina’s proposal was not accepted. The Spider and GTV were to be based on the then-current Fiat Group platform, called Tipo Due, in this case a heavily modified version with an all new multilink rear suspension. The front suspension and drivetrain was based on the 1992 Alfa Romeo 155 saloon. Chief engineer at that time was Bruno Cena. Drag coefficient was 0.33 for the GTV and 0.38 for the Spider. Production began in late 1993 with four cars, all 3.0 V6 Spiders, assembled at the Alfa Romeo Arese Plant in Milan. In early 1994 the first GTV was produced, with 2.0 Twin Spark engine. The first premiere was then held at the Paris Motor Show in 1994. The GTV and Spider were officially launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1995 and sales began the same year. The cars were well received. At launch, many journalists commented that Alfa had improved overall build quality considerably and that it came very close to equalling its German rivals. I can vouch for that, as I owned an early GTV for eighteen months, and it was a well built and reliable car. In 1997 a new engine, a 24-valve 3.0 litre V6, was available for the GTV along with bigger, 12.0 inch brakes and red four-pot calipers from Brembo. The console knobs were changed from round central to rectangle ones and to a three-spoke steering wheel. Some versions were upgraded with different front bumper mesh to bring the wind noise down to 74 dBA. In May 1998 the cars were revamped for the first time, creating the Phase 2 models. Most of the alterations were inside. The interior was changed with new centre console, painted letters on skirt seals, changed controls and switches arrangement and different instrument cluster. Outside, the main changes included chrome frame around the grille and colour-coded side skirts and bumpers. A new engine was introduced, the 142 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 Alfa Romeo 4C is a two-seater, rear-wheel drive coupé with technology and materials derived from the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, with a 1750 cc turbo petrol engine with direct injection, the “Alfa TCT” twin dry clutch transmission, and the Alfa DNA dynamic control selector. The 4C concept version was unveiled in the 81st Geneva Motor Show in March 2011, followed by the Mille Miglia 2011 parade, Goodwood Festival of Speed 2011,2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. It was displayed for the first time outside in Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in 2012. Compared to the production version, it is very similar, with the biggest differences being front lights, side vents and mirrors. The Alfa Romeo 4C Concept was voted the ‘Most Beautiful Concept Car of the Year’ award by the readers of German magazine Auto Bild, and won the Auto Bild Design Award 2011. It was awarded the “Design Award for Concept Cars & Prototypes” by referendum of the public in Villa d’Este. The production car was unveiled at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, followed by 2013 Essen ‘Techno Classica’, Goodwood Festival of Speed 2013, Moscow Raceway, 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show. The bare ‘4C000’ chassis was also shown at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. Ordering of European models began in October 2013 at Alfa Romeo dealerships in Europe. As part of the Alfa Romeo 4C launch, Alfa Romeo Style Centre and Compagnia Ducale designed a 4C IFD (Innovative Frame Design) Bicycle, inspired by the Alfa Romeo 4C coupé. The vehicle went on sale in December 2013 and marketed in Europe, Asia and America. Production of the 4C began May 2013 at Maserati’s plant in Modena, with an expected production of up to 2500 units per year. It was the first mass-produced Alfa Romeo model to be sold in the US market since 1995 when the 164 sedan stopped being sold in the US. Production of the Alfa Romeo 4C was originally estimated to be over 1000 units per year, with an upper limit of 3500 units per year, depending on the quantity of carbon fibre chassis that can be built by the supplier Adler Plastic.Within the 3,500-unit quota, 1,000 units are earmarked for Europe. Delivery of the European Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition took place at Balocco (Vercelli, Italy) Test Centre. In 2018, the 4C coupe was discontinued for the North American market. The 4C Spider, however continued to be sold there for model year 2019 and model year 2020. In other markets, such as Australia and Japan, both the coupe and Spider continued. In late 2020, a new tribute-edition named the 4C Spider 33 Stradale Tributo was announced. The car was designed by Centro Stile Alfa Romeo (Style Centre) and developed by Alfa Romeo. The chassis is composed of a central carbon fibre tub, with aluminium subframes front and rear. The carbon fibre tub is produced by TTA (Tecno Tessile Adler) in Airola, as a joint venture between Adler Plastic and Lavorazione Materiali Compositi. The carbon fibre components that make up the chassis are cut using CNC technology. The entire carbon-fiber monocoque chassis (“tub”) of the car weighs 143 pounds (65 kg). Front and rear aluminium subframes combine with the tub, roof reinforcements and engine mounting to comprise the 4C chassis giving the vehicle a total chassis weight of 236 lb (107 kg) and a total vehicle curb weight of just 2,465 lb (1,118 kg). The 4C has a single carbon fibre body, similar to the body of many supercars. The outer body is made of a composite material (SMC for Sheet Moulding Compound) which is 20% lighter than steel. The stability is comparable to steel and better than aluminium. The 4C employs double wishbone suspensions at the front and MacPherson struts at the rear. The resultant weight distribution is 38% on the front and 62% on the rear axle. Wheels and tyres have different diameters and widths front and rear: 205/45 R17 front and 235/40 R18 back as standard, with optional 205/40 R18 and 235/35 R19. Both wheel options come equipped with Pirelli P Zero tyres. The 4C uses vented disc brakes on all wheels; Brembo 305 millimetres (12.0 in) on the front and 292 millimetres (11.5 in) on the rear. The car can stop from 100 km/h (62 mph) in 36 metres. To save weight and increase steering feel, the 4C has no power steering. Its center of gravity height, at 40 centimetres (16 in) off the ground, is 7 centimetres (2.8 in) lower than that of the Lotus Elise. The 4C uses a new all-aluminium 1,742 cc inline 4 cylinder turbocharged engine producing 240 PS at 6000 rpm. The engine has been designed for minimum weight. The engine’s combined fuel consumption 6.8 l/100 km (42 mpg‑imp; 35 mpg‑US). 0–62 mph (0–100 km/h) acceleration is achieved in 4.5 seconds and the top speed is 258 km/h (160 mph), the power-to-weight-ratio being just 0.267 hp/kg (8.22 lb/hp) A journalist from Quattroruote car magazine demonstrated how the 4C accelerates from 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) faster than 4.5 seconds. In race mode, with left foot on the brake pedal, if you pull the right shift paddle the engine will rev to 3500 rpm, but if you also pull the left paddle the engine will rev to 6000 rpm and 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) time will go down to 4.2 seconds. Italian car magazine Quattroruote published the lap time of 4C around Nürburgring. It lapped the ring in 8:04. The 4C is equipped with a six speed Alfa TCT Dual Dry Clutch Transmission, and can be operated via gearshift paddles on the steering wheel. It also has an Alfa ‘DNA’ dynamic control selector which controls the behavior of engine, brakes, throttle response, suspension and gearbox. In addition to the modes already seen in Giulietta, the 4C has a new “Race” mode. The U.S. version of the 4C was introduced in the 2014 New York International Auto Show with the first 100 4C’s being shipped to the U.S. early July, with a total of 850 being shipped by the end of 2014. The U.S. model includes extra bracing and strengthening required to meet U.S. crash regulations (including aluminium inserts in the carbon fiber chassis), resulting in 100 kg (220 lb) of weight increase. This version also has new headlamps similar to those seen before in the 4C Spider version. In 2018, the 4C coupe was discontinued for the North American market due to US DOT NHTSA FMVSS 226 Ejection Mitigation. The regulation called for a progressive compliance date based on volume and, due to low volume, the 4C was allowed to continue until the last compliance date of 9/1/2017, thus all 2018 4C coupes in North America have build dates of 8/2017 or earlier. The 4C Spider, however continued to be sold in North America for model year 2019 and model year 2020. The Spider version of the 4C was previewed showing a pre-production prototype at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. Sharing its engine with the Coupé version, the 4C Spider has different external parts such as the headlights, exhaust and engine hood, as well as a different roof section that features a removable roof panel. The North American spec 4C reflects a weight difference of only 22 lb (10 kg) (2,465 lbs vs. 2,487 lbs) for the Spider variant. Top speed is quoted at 257 km/h (160 mph) and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) at 4.5 seconds. The 4C Launch Edition was a limited and numbered edition, unveiled at the vehicle’s launch at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. The vehicle came in a choice of four paint colours (Rosso Alfa, Rosso Competizione tri-coat, Madreperla White tri-coat or Carrara White matte). 500 examples were reserved for Europe/ROW, 500 for North America, 88 for Australia (Rosso Alfa and Madreperla White only), 200 to Japan and 100 for the Middle East. Note that the original press release cited 500 for North America, 400 Europe, and 100 ROW; however, the plaques on actual cars suggest that more were built and are the numbers referenced above. Distinguishing features of the Launch Edition were carbon fiber trim (including headlight housings, spoiler and door mirror caps), rear aluminium extractor with dark finishing, Bi-LED headlights, dark painted 18-inch front and 19-inch rear alloy wheels, additional air intakes on the front fascia, red brake calipers, racing exhaust system, BMC air cleaner, specific calibration for shock absorbers and rear anti-roll bar, leather/fabric sports seats with parts in Alcantara and a numbered plaque. Alfa Red coloured cars got matching red stitching on the steering wheel, handbrake, mats, handles and sports seats. In Europe the vehicle went on sale for 60,000 euros including VAT. The 4C Competizione is a limited edition version of the 4C introduced in the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, finished in matte Vesuvio Grey, with carbon details on the roof, rear spoiler, mirror caps, side air vents and headlight moulding. The run reportedly consisted of 108 units. The Japanese market received 25 units, and 10 units were assigned to Australia. The US-market received no Competizione editions. The car had a very mixed reaction. The UK press hated it at launch, but owners generally disagreed and loved it. A total of 9117 were built before production ceased in 2020.
An all new design, the 458 Italia was first officially unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. Once more, Ferrari advised that the model incorporated technologies developed from the company’s experience in Formula 1. The body computer system was developed by Magneti Marelli Automotive Lighting. The 458 came with a 4,499 cc V8 engine of the “Ferrari/Maserati” F136 engine family, producing 570 PS ( 562 hp) at 9,000 rpm and 540 N·m (398 lb/ft) at 6,000 rpm with 80% torque available at 3,250 rpm. The engine featured direct fuel injection, a first for Ferrari mid-engine setups in its road cars. The only transmission available was a dual-clutch 7-speed Getrag gearbox, in a different state of tune shared with the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. There was no traditional manual option, making this the fourth road-car after the Enzo, Challenge Stradale and 430 Scuderia not to be offered with Ferrari’s classic gated manual. The car’s suspension featured double wishbones at the front and a multi-link setup at the rear, coupled with E-Diff and F1-Trac traction control systems, designed to improve the car’s cornering and longitudinal acceleration by 32% when compared with its predecessors.The brakes included a prefill function whereby the pistons in the calipers move the pads into contact with the discs on lift off to minimise delay in the brakes being applied. This combined with the ABS and standard Carbon Ceramic brakes caused a reduction in stopping distance from 100–0 km/h (62-0 mph) to 32.5 metres. Ferrari’s official 0–100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration time was quoted as 2.9–3.0 seconds with a top speed of 340 km/h (210 mph). In keeping with Ferrari tradition the body was designed by Pininfarina under the leadership of Donato Coco, the Ferrari design director. The interior design of Ferrari 458 Italia was designed by Bertrand Rapatel, a French automobile designer. The car’s exterior styling and features were designed for aerodynamic efficiency, producing a downforce of 140 kg (309 lb) at 200 km/h. In particular, the front grille features deformable winglets that lower at high speeds, in order to offer reduced drag. The car’s interior was designed using input from former Ferrari Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher; in a layout common to racing cars, the new steering wheel incorporates many controls normally located on the dashboard or on stalks, such as turning signals or high beams. At launch the car was widely praised as being pretty much near perfect in every regard. It did lack a fresh air version, though, but that was addressed with the launch of the 458 Spider at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. This convertible variant of the 458 Italia featured an aluminium retractable hardtop which, according to Ferrari, weighs 25 kilograms (55 lb) less than a soft roof such as the one found on the Ferrari F430 Spider, and can be opened in 14 seconds The engine cover was redesigned to accommodate the retractable roof system. It had the same 0–100 km/h time as the hard-top but a lower top speed of 199 mph. It quickly became the better seller of the two versions.
Without question, the star car of the event was this fabulous Fiat 520, believed to be the only one of its type in the UK. The owner had driven around 40 miles to get to the event as well, so he was clearly keen to show off his fabulous machine. Launched in 1927, the 520 was Fiat’s “upper middle-class” model in the later 1920s, and was smaller and more modestly powered than an earlier car that had also been badged 520. It was sold with a choice of three body styles, all with four doors: a saloon, a landaulette and a cabriolet. All had a 2244cc straight 6 cylinder engine which generated 44 bhp. During the early decades of the 20th century, European automakers, once steering wheels had replaced centrally positioned steering tillers, tended to place the driver and his steering wheel on the right side of the car regardless of local regulations or conventions concerning which side of the road cars should be driven. By the 1920s, as the number of motorized vehicles on the roads increased, clearer consensus had become necessary in the more populous parts of Italy about the need for everyone to drive along the right side of the road. The 1927 Fiat 520 was one of the first cars, presumably in recognition of this trend, to place the steering wheel on the left side of the car. The 520 was replaced by the Fiat 521 in 1928, although the 520 appears to have continued in production until 1929, by when more than 20,000 six-cylinder Fiat 520s had been produced
Arriving relatively late was Andy Hurley in one of the pair of Punto GT models he owns (as well as an Abarth). Internally codenamed Project 176, the Punto was announced in September 1993 as a replacement for the ageing Fiat Uno and launched in the end of 1993 or the beginning of 1994, depending on the market. The Fiat Punto was voted European Car of the Year for 1995, defeating rival Volkswagen Polo by only 78 points. The Punto was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and was available as a three-door or five door hatchback, a two-door cabriolet and a three-door panel van. As with the majority of the new Fiat group models, suspension was all independent, composed of MacPherson struts at the front and trailing arms at the rear. Entry level in the Punto range were the 1.1 and 1.2 L petrol engines and the 1.7 diesel engine. The 1.2 engine’s actual capacity is 1242 cc, available in three versions. The first, was fitted in the Punto ELX 75 and produced 75 hp at 6000 rpm while the second, fitted to Punto ELX 85 produced 86 hp at 6000 rpm. The third was a 60 hp engine which eventually replaced the 1.1 54 hp engine. A Sporting model was also available with a 1.6 8v updated 128 SOHC engine, producing 88 hp, later replaced in 1997 by the 1.2 16v FIRE engine used in the 85 ELX, and a power drop to 86 hp. The top of the range model was the 136 PS 1.4 GT, using an evolution of the turbocharged 128 SOHC engine originally found in the Fiat Uno Turbo Mk II – capable of running over 200 km/h (120 mph) and reaching 100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.9 seconds, which came fitted with a five speed manual gearbox. During the years the GT was made in three different “series” with power 136 PS (1993–1995),133 PS (1995–1997) and 130 PS (1997–1999).
Also here was Grande Punto, the third generation of the Punto family. launched in 2005 and which would go on to have a much longer production life than either of its two predecessors, with the model running through to 2018.
To help broaden the variety of Italian cars present, I was asked to bring the Ghibli rather than my Abarth, and was happy to oblige. It turned out to be the only Maserati we had at the event.
NOT QUITE ITALIAN
As we were headed over to get some food, we spotted this gem. It is a Bristol 401, which of course means it is a British car, but it does have an Italian designed body, so it sort of counts as theme compliant. This 401 is an example of the second body design produced by Bristol Cars. The 401 model replaced the first ever Bristol model, the 400, and then a program of updates saw the car morph into the 403 (the 402 having been an open topped version of the 401) and this car was then produced between 1953 and 1955, the third of the eventual five series of Bristols powered by the BMW-derived pushrod straight-six engine. It replaced both the Bristol 401 and 402 in 1953 and whilst it retained much the same styling as the 401, the new 403 featured many mechanical improvements compared to its predecessor. The 1971 cc six-cylinder engine was modified through the use of bigger valves and larger main bearings with a diameter of 54 mm as against 51 mm on the 400 and 401, which increased the power output to 100 hp as against 85 hp in the 401. The acceleration was markedly improved: the 403 could reach 60 mph in 13.4 seconds as against 16.4 seconds for the 401. The 403 had a top speed of 104 mph. To cope with this increased power, an anti-roll bar was fitted on the front suspension and improved drum brakes known as “Alfins” (Aluminium finned) were fitted. Early models had them on all wheels, but Bristol thought the car was over-braked and they were thus restricted to the front wheels on later 403s. The 403 was the last Bristol to feature a BMW-style radiator grille. It is also noteworthy for having two extra headlamps at the side, almost pre-dating the adoption of the four-headlamp layout in larger cars (Bristol themselves adopted it with the 411 in the late 1960s).
There’s no obvious Italian connection for the modern MINI, though, but as it was Ben Husband who came along in his, we were hardly going to tell him to park in the main car park!
AND OFF TO THE PUB
After spending some hours at the site, looking at the cars an enjoying a particularly good cooked breakfast – for which there was quite a long wait, such is the popularity of the Cafe here – we headed off to local pub for a drink and some further conversation. The car park was pretty full as we arrived but luckily, quite a few cars seemed to be leaving as we pulled in, so we managed to get most of the cars in the main car park, with only a couple that had to be parked out on the road.
Among the cars that were parked up was this Lamborghini Huracan.
This proved to be an excellent day, with some nice cars and plenty of time for a relaxed meeting with friends. The glorious weather was an added bonus. Millets Farm is a great venue and one to which I am sure we will be returning.