The Fiat FreakOut is the largest Fiat event of the year. Make plans now so you don't miss it!
The Fiat 500X has an advanced All-Wheel-Drive system. See how it outperforms the competition.
A look at how the new Fiat 124 Spider stacks up against the original
Within its compact dimensions, the Fiat 500L has the room of a full-sized car. See how Fiat did it and the concept and goals of the design team
FIAT 500, FIAT 500L, Fiat 500X AND FIAT 500 ABARTH SPECS
Monday, July 30, 2012
Are you attending FIAT FreakOut this year? Do you have a great FIAT story to tell? Do you want exclusive FIAT prizes? If you answered yes to all of the above, be sure to stop by the FIAT Story Booth located in Pryor’s Porch at the Wintergreen Resort to share your FIAT story. You’ll have the chance to share photos as well, so be sure to bring those with you on a USB drive. If you submit your story, you’re eligible to win one of three FIAT prize packs that will be awarded during the banquet ceremony. Bring your story and even bring some pictures on a USB drive.
If you’re not headed to FreakOut this year, you can still visit FIAT USA’s official blog to tell us your story. The best stories will be featured on FIAT Backstage at www.fiatusa.com !
Source: Fiat Lancia Unlimited
Saturday, July 28, 2012
I updated this story with the auction video. Jay Leno's Fiat 500 Prima Edizione sold for $350,000!!
Jay Leno, TV's Tonight Show host and noted Fiat enthusiast is auctioning off his Fiat 500 Prima Edizione to raise funds for charity.
The limited-edition 2012 Fiat 500 Prima Ediziones were the first 500 production cars off of the assembly line and were offered to Fiat enthusiasts in the U.S. as a reward for their years of loyalty to the Fiat brand. The cars came with a sequentially numbered badge, 1 through 500. Car numbers 1 through 10 and number 500 were held in reserve for VIPs and museums. Sergio Marchionne received car number 1, Jay Leno's Fiat 500 Prima Edizione is car number 2.
The car will be auctioned off at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on August 19 by Gooding & Company, with proceeds going to the Fisher House Foundation, a four-star, non-profit organization that provides services and support to the families of wounded American soldiers. Leno's Fiat 500 Prima Edizione is estimated to sell for $25,000 to $35,000. The winning bidder will also be given a tour of Leno's garage and car collection.
Update: Jay Leno's Fiat 500 Prima Edizione sold for $350,000!!
In the above video, Leno talks about his Fiat 500 which he enjoyed and frequently used as his daily driver. Leno's vast car collection encompasses just about every significant car ever produced, so endorsements don't get much better than that!
Leno may be replacing his Fiat 500 Prima Edizione with a new 500 Abarth. Watch the following video and see what you think...
Source: Jay Leno's Garage
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
For owners of European 500 Abarths, the "Abarth Corse by Sabelt" seats are the one of the most coveted options. The Sabelt company supplies original equipment seats to the likes of Ferrari and Maserati. So it is only natural that these fantastic sport seats made their first appearance on two hundred Abarth 500s used as courtesy cars by European Ferrari dealers. They also equip the Abarth Tributo Ferrari and other special Abarth models.
Sabelt seats in leather and carbon fiber as installed in the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth Venom concept car. Link to larger image.
Here in North American, Abarth enthusiasts are anxious to know when the seats will be available and how much. Hints were dropped that the seats will make their way from Europe when Fiat USA unveiled the 500 Abarth Venom last February. That car highlighted upcoming Abarth accessories that will be available through Fiat Studios.
Fiat 500 Abarth Venom seating surfaces by Katzkin. Link to larger image.
I had the good fortune of being given a personal tour of the Fiat 500 Abarth Venom by Tim Kuniskis, Head of Fiat Brand North America. Kuniskis is a real car guy, and when talking with him, you can feel the passion and enthusiasm for the Abarth name and Fiat brand. He is high energy and is a man that gets things done. While showing the car, it was quite obvious the seats were a prominent part of the Abarth Venom concept, which Kuniskis had a personal hand in. To give the Venom a different feel from the standard 500 Abarth, Kuniskis had the seats lowered for a more sports car like experience. There are clearly fans of the Sabelt seats at Fiat USA, which is promising for Abarth owners on this side of the Atlantic.
The Sabelt seats in the 500 Abarth Venom feature carbon fiber seat backs. Link to larger image.
As far as pricing, the seats in Europe typically range between £1399 and £1799 ($2170 - $2790). And that is without carbon fiber trim. Add the cost of air shipment of around £600 - £1300 ($930 - $2014) and you are looking at seats not for the faint of heart or wallet. If that is not enough to dampen your mood, the European Sabelt seats do not feature side air bags. I know some are saying "who cares!", but the problem is there is no air bag bypass connector available to keep the air bag warning light from illuminating, and that kills the market for the average enthusiast.
Fiat 500 Abarth Venon's Sabelt seat bracket. Link to larger image.
All this hasn't been lost on North American Fiat Abarth aftermarket and accessories suppliers. With the real possibility of spending $3 - $5,000 on a set of Sabelts to test fit and find that they won't work in a North American car, there is a wait and see attitude on when these seats will be available through Mopar channels. Indeed, pricing is even on Fiat USA's mind as this appears to be a point of contention for them.
So at this moment, it is a waiting game on when or if the Sabelt seats will officially arrive on our shores.
Another look ar the Abarth Venom's Sabelt seat bracket. Link to larger image.
One of the members on the Fiat 500 USA Forum named "yul" is installing Sabelt seats into his 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Follow the progress here.
Close-up on the Fiat 500 Abarth Venom's seat bracket. Link to larger image.
Friday, July 20, 2012
FIAT USA has teamed with the shopping site Gilt to offer fantastic deals on a new Fiat 500. Gilt is a flash sale shopping site that offers incredible deals on high quality, designer products. Now the deals on the Fiat 500 that we are talking about are not your normal discounts - take a look at some of the prices that have been mentioned on the Internet.
2013 Fiat 500 Abarth for $15,999
2013 Fiat 500 Cabrio Lounge for $9,999
2013 Fiat 500 by Gucci with trip to Italy for $27,750
Sounds interesting, right?
The Fiat 500 flash sale on Gilt will be on Tuesday, July 24 and will take place at 12:00 p.m. ET, 3:00 p.m. ET and 9:00 p.m. ET. To take advantage of this exceptional offer you must be a Gilt member, which is free and very easy to join.
Source: FIAT Backstage
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
The registration deadline for the 2012 Fiat FreakOut is drawing near. What's the Fiat FreakOut? Only the largest get together of Fiat Group cars in North America! Specifically it is the Fiat Lancia Unlimited (FLU) car clubs national convention, a four day event that is filled with cars, activities and enjoyable, fun people. The 29th annual Fiat FreakOut will be held at Wintergreen Resort near Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 2nd through the August 5th, 2012.
This year's event promises to be something memorable with a venue nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain area of Virginia that has hosted large automotive groups including BMW, Ford, and the massive “Camp Jeep” national event.
Expect to see a wide variety of Fiat Group cars both old and new. Fiat USA is the title sponsor and will also be there. The folks at this event are welcoming, and the atmosphere is relaxed. It is an event you cannot miss! One thing:
FFO12 Schedule General Outline:
- Wednesday, August 1st, 2012:
- Early Bird Arrivals, check in 4PM
- Wintergreen Resort (WGR) Family Activities (on own)
- Sleep Inn – Danville, VA night before VIR Track Day
- Thursday, August 2nd, 2012:
- Virginia Intl Raceway School & Track Day
- WGR Evening Patio Reception (dinner on own)
- Friday, August 3rd, 2012:
- IAP Open House & Free Lunch
- Wine Tour Afternoon Drive
- Welcome Party – WGR outdoor terrace
- Friday Night Movie & Kids movie
- Saturday, August 4th, 2012:
- FFO12 Concours Show @ WGR
- Concours Lunch @ WGR
- Afternoon Drive
- Awards Banquet
- Late night lot party
- Sunday, August 5th, 2012
- Monticello Drive
- Closeout informal dinner @ WGR
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Earlier this year I brought you the first images of the what could be the Fiat 500T. Now driving footage of a car identical to the one I photographed is seen in the latest Fiat commercial that began airing last night. Preliminary info is the Fiat 500T is an uprated HP version of the Fiat 500 Sport, using a detuned version of the 500 Abarth's 1.4 L MultiAir Turbo engine.
Back in February, I was given a tour by Fiat top brass of a couple of concept cars. The first one was the familiar Fiat 500 Abarth Venom / Magneti Marelli showcase concept. The other was a brief look at this grey Fiat 500 Sport with 500 Abarth front and rear fascias and side skirts. Abarth badges were nowhere to be found, and a Fiat emblem was grafted onto the front whiskers. When I asked if this were the new upcoming 500T, I was given the usual friendly "I don't know." Still, the vibe was there, and it was worth taking pictures. I peeked through every opening I could look through and couldn't discern an intercooler and the car had a single exhaust tip.
Rumors of the Fiat 500T have been around since last fall, but now seeing an identical car in a commercial looks to be a confirmation of at least the appearance of the car. Naturally, we'll be watching this closely for you.
Monday, July 16, 2012
A new Fiat commercial called "Immigrants" debuts on TV later this evening. The commercial shows the whole US Fiat range, the Fiat 500, 500c Cabrio and the 500 Abarth, leaving Italy and arriving / immigrating to America. Naturally, being a Fiat commercial, this is depicted with a lot of style and in a surprising way.
Olivier Francois, President and Chief Executive Officer - Fiat Brand Worldwide, explains:
“’Immigrants’ tells the story ’FIAT’s resurgence in America in a manner that is smart, unexpected and stylish while introducing viewers to our product portfolio. We are proud and thankful to be back in this country and we wanted to capture the viewer’s attention in a way that is impactful, visually-appealing and entertaining, while reinforcing our distinctive Italian origin.”
The Fiat commercial features recording artist Pitbull, and international artist, Arianna performing the musical score. The song, the classic ‘Torna a Surriento,’(Come Back to Sorrento) is heard during the scenes of the various Fiat models driving through the picturesque countryside in the Amalfi and Sorrento area of Italy. As the cars arrive in the US, the music is remixed for a contemporary, high energy sound.
Keep an eye out for "Immigrants" later tonight and use this link to watch all the other Fiat USA commercials.
Source: Chrysler Media
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
OKAY Fiat 500 and 500 Abarth owners, here is your chance to get some serious track time and driver training from a world class racer. Phil Wicks Driving Academy has partnered with the Fiat Lancia Unlimited car club to provide a special driving school for club members during the upcoming Fiat FreakOut national convention.
The Fiat FreakOut “Driven” Track Day featuring the Phil Wicks Driving Academy will be held at Virginia International Raceway on Thursday, August 2nd. Price for the event is ONLY $89! Folks, that is an incredible deal.
Phil Wicks is a renown racer and has an extensive resume' including being a development engineer and works driver for Fiat Abarth – Radbourne Racing, test driver and engineer in Italy for Lamborghini, and a stunt driver for movies and TV. If you have watched the Michael Caine movie "The Italian Job," you have seen his work, he drove the red MINI in the film. His Phil Wicks Driving Academy has graduated more than 10,000 students and earned a reputation as being one of the best in the country.
Space is limited for this event so you need to register now. The deadline to take advantage of this special rate is this
Thursday, July 12.
Don't miss this opportunity to experience driving your Fiat to its full potential and to learn car control from one of the best.
Use these important Links:
Info on the 2012 Fiat FreakOut
2012 Fiat FreakOut registration page
2012 Fiat Freakout Phil Wicks Driving Academy info
Below is more on the Fiat FreakOut “Driven” Track Day Event, courtesy of FLU
THURSDAY, August 2nd
Fiat FreakOut “Driven” Track Day kicks off our FreakOut weekend featuring a special Phil Wick’s Driving Academy at Virginia International Raceway just for Fiat/Lancia/Alfa owners $89 per driver! Legendary Abarth racer Phil Wicks has graduated over 10,000 driving school students and will personally train you. Get the most out of your Fiat and your driving skills with the best in the business at a special FFO price. Experience your Fiat in a safe, controlled environment at one of America’s best race tracks! Reserve for Wednesday night, August 1st, Sleep Inn in Danville, VA.
•Room rate is $75.99 king / $79.99 double with free breakfast included.
•Three levels of training will be available: Novice, Intermediate and Expert.
•Here’s a video preview of the world famous 12 turn, 1.65 mile VIR South course.
Here is some in-car footage.
The schedule is as follows for the Phil Wicks Driving Academy:
•See www.fiatdriving.com for details and registration (separate from FFO12 registration)
•Special rate @ Sleep Inn, 1483 South Boston Road, Danville, VA. 24540 1-434-793-6090
•Virginia International Raceway is 115 miles (2 hours) south of Wintergreen Resort.
•Reserve rooms in Danville Wednesday night, August 1st. Cars teched on Wed. evening.
•Tech inspection and registration 7:00 – 8:30 AM, helmets provided. All registrants sign liability waiver. Cars do not need roll bars. Helmets are provided.
•Driver’s meeting 8:30 AM, Track goes green 9:00AM. Lunch provided for all registered drivers included with the $89 fee per driver. Catered lunch served trackside.
•Alternating 20 minute sessions for Novice, Intermediate and Expert/race drivers
•Novice and Intermediate classroom between their on-track sessions
•New Fiat demo ride and drives on-track — 2 twenty-minute sessions between 9:00AM and 12:00 Noon.
•Lunch and lunchtime touring laps including Fiat demo sessions: 12:00 Noon to 1:00 PM
•Track goes green 1:00PM – 3:00PM with alternating twenty minute sessions. Solo I Time Trials 3:00PM – 3:30PM
•Vintage race for Vintage race cars (Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Abarth, etc…) 3:30PM – 4:00PM
•On-track sessions 4:00PM – 5:00PM
All academy students to receive a minimum of 5 twenty-minute sessions on the track. Vintage racers would get two practice sessions in the morning, a qualifying session in the afternoon and the race — a total of four sessions.
Awards ceremony — medallions for Solo I Time Trials winners, certificates for all driving academy students, and trophy presentation to the winner of the race — 5:00 pm. Sponsor name on all trophies. *Subject to change based on the number of registrations received. Fiat USA may provide demo ride and drives. See www.fiatdriving.com for details!
Monday, July 9, 2012
Forty five years ago, a young auto executive walked into a New York auto show room and signed the dealer principal to a new car franchise...
That executive was Joe Wells, the franchise was Abarth, and the dealer was Alfredo Gulla of Alfredo's Foreign Car, Larchmont, New York. Recently, the encounter was repeated, only the roles were reversed, this time Joe Wells was buying an Abarth and Alfredo Gulla was doing the selling. These two men contributed to the success of Abarth and Fiat during the company's heydays; Joe Wells, the general manager of Abarth Sales Corp, and Alfredo Gulla, consistently the nation's top Fiat dealer.
I had the opportunity to talk to the two men on that day and learn some of the history of Abarth in the US during the mid-1960s.
In the 1960s, Abarth was an unstoppable force on the race tracks, with world championships in: 1964, '65, '66, and '67, plus numerous world records for speed and endurance and nearly uncountable record of race victories, over 900 in 1967 alone. During this time in the mid 1960s, Abarth Sales Corp was the official importer, taking over street car distribution from Roosevelt Automobile Co. (Franklin D. Roosevelt JR's company). Additionally, Abarth racecars were also imported such as the Abarth 1000 Berlina Corsa; however, Al Cosentino of FAZA fame, and it is believed John Rich of Rich Motors, and others, also had deals importing mainly racecars in somewhat smaller numbers.
At Abarth Sales Corp, Joe Wells was the man charged with pretty much everything: selling franchises, promoting cars at the auto shows, translating Abarth manuals into English. Wells said "It was a dream job for a young man."
The cars ranged from the OT 1000 Coupes and Spiders, OTS and OTR 1000s, Berlina Corsas, OTAS and other special bodied Abarths. Sometimes Joe would travel the country in Abarths demonstrating the car and its performance to dealers. He recounted tales of driving a Fiat Abarth 1000 Corsa, and other full boat race cars not homologated for street use, on a single Dutch registration slip printed on onionskin paper that could easily be erased and a new VIN hastily written in.
Fiat Abarth 1000 Berlina Corsa. Don't let the humble Fiat 600 origins fool you. These lightweight, purpose built racecars were the product of some of the most renowned racing engineers of all time. The Abarth 1000 Corsa featured the best racing equipment, suspension and brakes; and it was common to see them put a hurting on larger Alfa Romeos and Porsches. Later versions had engines producing 120 SAE HP, weighed in at 1,200 lbs and hit top speeds of 133 MPH.
These trips were often eventful. On one of them from the home office in Newark, NJ to the Chicago Auto Show, Joe was halfway through and noticed someone forgot to put plates on the OT 1000 Spider he was driving. Grabbing a piece of cardboard from a Penzoil box, Joe fashioned a license plate up and continued on his way to Chicago and then back home, without ever being questioned!
The Fiat Abarth OTR 1000 featured a new hemi head and front mounted radiator among other enhancements. The 982cc engine produced over 100 SAE HP at 7,400 rpm, running 12:1 compression and twin dual throat 40 DCOE Weber carburetors. This is about double the HP the standard Fiat 850 Coupe had. Weight is approximately 1,600 lbs.
On another journey, this time to Indianapolis, Joe was driving a red OTR 1000 Coupe and about three quarters of the way through Ohio noticed the Gilmer belt (a special toothed belt used to drive the waterpump and generator) just about to let go. You could imagine finding this special Pirelli made belt would be impossible, and it looked that way to Joe too, however, Joe remembered that Abarth would sometimes use parts from other industries and found the exact Pirelli belt being used for Italian lathes and milling machines at a local supplier!
Joe also dealt with Abarth & Co headquarters in Torino, Italy and with Carlo Abarth and Carlo Scagliarina, Abarth's partner. Joe said the factory located at Corsa Marche was spotless, like Enzo Ferrari's factory, the workers wearing uniformed jumpsuits. Carlo Abarth was a man with a keen sense of personal style, impeccably dressed with hair slicked back. Abarth was charming when he need be, but also a driven man, who pushed his crew hard. This paid off as Abarth's cars were considered Giant Killers, winning races and setting records with cars that had engines as little as 479cc.
Abarth cars were more than just an engine treatment, but were a balanced package with the transmission, brakes and suspension receiving attention from the engineers. These engineers included Gioachino Colombo, Luciano Fochi, Stefano Iacapone and Mario Colucci, all legends that left their mark in the auto industry.
The 1966 Motor Vehicle Safety Act and subsequent 1968 Clean Air Act standards brought Abarth street car importation to an end in the US in 1968. Trying to get a jump on the upcoming standards, Abarth Sales Corp set up engine testing right away and experimented with ways to meet EPA emission standards. An engine test stand was made up and various configurations were tried, including hanging a Toyota Air Pump onto the engine with a common water faucet being used to adjust the air flowing into the exhaust header. Carburetor jetting was critical but the end results were melted manifolds and exploded mufflers.
A SPICA fuel injection setup was also tried, but abysmal cold start characteristics killed that idea. Finally, the 982cc engine of the Abarth OT 1000 was reduced to 817cc, or just under the 50 cu in threshold for emission standards, but was abandoned due to the lack of performance.
Joe actually drove an Abarth OT 1000 at the EPA labs for testing. He recalled being there at the same time GM engineers where there, and the strange juxtaposition of the tiny Abarth Sales Corp and huge GM Corp both at the mercy of a disheveled bureaucratic emission tester with mismatched socks. During the 7 mode driving test cycle, Joe related you had to be so careful and not decelerate during shifting as the fuel mixture would go rich, blowing the test. Exhaust gasses were collected and the lab would send the report back in two weeks' time, the results looking like they were crudely hand calculated.
The final straw was DOT safety regulations that came into effect in 1968. Fiat SpA wouldn't sell US spec Fiat 850 bodyshells to Abarth & Co. Seems the US Fiat distributor (Fiat Roosevelt Motors) didn't like Abarth Sales Corp selling the Fiat OT 1000 Spider - basically the Fiat 850 Bertone Spider - before the US distributor was able to, and put pressure on Fiat not to sell Abarth the cars. So with no US spec cars and Abarth & Co not interested in meeting US emission standards, Abarth US street car sales ended and Joe Wells moved on to a position at General Motors.
A New Chapter
Now, forty years later, Joe Wells, the man who sold so many Abarths during the 1960s, is now the one doing the buying. During our conversation, Joe explained why he bought a new Fiat 500 Abarth.
As Joe explained it, "I've always liked small cars, that's what drew me to Abarth in the first place. Once you drive in Europe and see the plethora of small cars there you never lose interest in that type of car. My history with the company made me always want to get an Abarth, but at the time I left Abarth Sales Corp I had two small boys and many years of expenses raising them. As time went by, and I was in a position to buy a car, I found that the special bodied cars were way too expensive and the coupes and spiders we brought in were nonexistent."
Joe went on to say, "Then I read about the 500 in Europe and at almost the same time Fiats purchase of Chrysler. I had earlier thought about trying to bring in a used 500 or 850. When the Prima Edizione arrived I was very close to buying one, but like some decided to wait for an Abarth rather than modify a stock 500. While I considered an older Fiat or kit car, the many benefits of a new car (air bags, crash protection, air, cruise control, and a warranty to name a few) made it a no brainer. You have the fun and uniqueness of an older Abarth with a reliability new car."
Asked what he likes about the new Fiat 500 Abarth, Joe commented on how he likes that the car honors the Abarth tradition. "Back then, the cars were a complete package: engine, brakes, suspension and the new cars hold true to the Abarth way of doing things. There are the twin intercoolers, the heavy duty trans, the upgraded suspension and larger brakes. It's not just a bigger engine and a badge and a stripe."
Joe Wells, General Manager of Abarth Sales Corp, the US Abarth distributor during the mid-1960s.
When the time came, it was natural that Joe would call Alfredo Gulla and come back to Alfredo's Foreign Car/Fiat of Larchmont, the nation's oldest Fiat dealer and the dealer he signed up all those many years ago. I was privileged to spend some time with the two men, and while we enjoyed stories of the past we also talked about the future and look forward to new Fiat Abarth stories.
Join Alfredo Gulla, family and friends this Thursday, July 12 as they celebrate Alfredo's 50th anniversary of being a Fiat dealer. The above image shows the invitation and details. Visit Fiat of Larchmont's Facebook page here for the latest news.
or call 914-924-5548
Thursday, July 5, 2012
A sneak peek at the future Fiat 500X crossover was given during a media presentation of the new Fiat 500L. The Fiat 500X crossover is larger than the Fiat 500 and uses the chassis of the 5 door Fiat 500L MPV that will be debuting later this year.
The Fiat 500X shown is sleeker and decidedly more sporty than the practical Fiat 500L, the 500L design emphasis being more on maximum family room and versatility.
The Fiat 500X will replace the Fiat Sedici crossover that Fiat sells in Europe. The Fiat Sedici is a joint venture with Suzuki and will be recognized in the US as the Suzuki SX4.
Fiat 500X will be built at Fiat's Melfi factory in central Italy, along with a new Jeep model, code-named B-SUV. The new Jeep will be smaller than the Jeep Compass and Patriot, and will be sold in the United States, Europe and other markets.
Production of the Fiat 500X is rumored to begin at the end of 2014 and expect to see the US version sometime in 2015.
*07/4/13 updated production location
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Fiat 500 sales have set another record for the fifth month in a row. Sales of the various Fiat 500 models reached 4,004 units, just eking by last month's previous record breaking 4,003 cars. This brings the amount of Fiats sold in the US during the past six months to 20,706 cars, exceeding 2011's year end total of 19,769 cars. The Fiat 500 went on sale in March of 2011, so last year sales are for a ten month period, but it still gives an idea where sales are going.
Fiat has gathered a lot of momentum since the beginning of the year, kicking off with attention grabbing commercials, hitting Facebook and social media hard and revising their website. This summer promises to be an exciting one for Fiat owners, with the Abarth Experience about to commence, more accessories coming into the dealers via Mopar and Magneti Marelli and the upcoming Fiat FreakOut, the national Fiat convention that starts August 2 (read about it here). Go down to a Fiat Studio, grab a car and get in on the fun!
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