Abarth is to Fiat what AMG is to Mercedes, Shelby is to Ford, and Cooper is to MINI — a hotted up version of a standard production car. Most Americans were not alive the last time a Fiat Abarth graced our shores. But that may be about to change.
Let’s start with the basics. We know that Fiat will breathe a little Italian flair into the next generation Mazda Miata. Known as the Fiat 124 Spyder, it will feature its own bespoke sheetmetal and the Fiat engine used in the Dodge Dart under the hood. That got some people thinking that maybe the 200 horsepower turbocharged 4 cylinder Abarth version of the same engine would slip nicely into the Mazda engine compartment as well.
Italy’s Corriere Della Sera quotes Fiat chief operating officer Alfredo Altavilla as saying, “The Geneva Motor Show will be an unprecedented event for FCA, the most significant in years. We expose news for all brands in the group, completing the Fiat Tipo family with two other models, the five-door and station wagon, which mark our return in the most important category of the European market, the C-segment that is chosen by families.”
Altavilla also hinted at the possibility of more variants of the 124 Spyder in the future. “Fiat means to widen the scope of its emotional image so it is no longer linked only to the 500.”according to a translation of Altavilla’s remarks. And that is where the rumor of 124 Spyder Abarth got started.
Such a car would have nearly one third more horsepower than the stock Miata, giving it scintillating performance. It would also hark back to Abarth models for the 124 spyder and 131 coupe from the 70’s. The rumor is given an extra gloss of hype by a slick video showing secret plans stolen from Abarth headquarters in Italy being delivered to an Abarth enthusiast in London. The plans are delivered by three Fiat 500 Abarths that reprise the chase scene from the movie The Italian Job. In a 3:02 second video entitled The Real Italian Job, the viewer manages to get precisely a one second glimpse of the plans for a bold new spyder inside a purloined briefcase. See if you can spot it.
Fiat used to have a performance image before its brand identity was destroyed by shoddily built cars and a dreadful dealer network. (Ask the man who owned one and swore never to own another.) Could a few new models with the Abarth badge reignite passion for Fiats? If they are as good as 124 Spyder Abarth edition promises to be, that idea may not be entirely farfetched. If that happens, be advised the correct pronunciation for the performance brand is “ah BARTH.” Don’t mispronounce it “AY barth.” If you do, the cognoscenti will spot you as an ingenuo.
Photo credits: Road & Track