Fiat FreakOut for 2012 was a huge hit. The four day event kicked off with an exciting track day run by Phil Wicks Driving Academy at Virginia International Raceway, numerous scenic drives through the absolutely gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountain area of Virginia and lots of get together time meeting interesting friendly Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo owners.
Fiat 124 Spiders of all years. Pininfarina designed one of the most elegant small convertibles ever made.
New Fiat 500 and 500 Abarths were in abundance. Unlike many car clubs, the Fiat Lancia Unlimited Club (FLU) welcomes the new cars along with the older models. There is something there for everyone to enjoy and appreciate.
The Fiat Uno was European Car of the Year in 1984. The Uno was a revolutionary design because it featured tall roof / high seating, making it surprisingly roomy. Its design set the standard for the modern small car. Despite being boxy, it is quite aerodynamic, with a drag coefficient of .34. Fiat Group Auto holds the record for winning the most European Car of the Year Awards. Read more here.
The Fiat 124 sedan was also voted European Car of the year. This time it was 1967 and the 124 showed the world that a car the size of a VW Beetle could be roomy, fast and safe. For example, this car has four wheel disc brakes, something that took American car manufacturers almost thirty years to catch up with.
Seeing this Lombardi Grand Prix was a rare treat. Small car companies in Italy would often use Fiat chassis and come up with beautiful designs like this.
The Lancia Scorpion was designed in the early 1970s and still looks striking today. The car originally was meant to replace the Fiat 124 Spider, but the design was given to Lancia as a reward for their impressive racing victories with the Lancia Stratos among other models.
Another look at the Lancia Scorpion. In Europe, the car is called the Lancia Montecarlo. This car has the original European style front end with an aftermarket airdam. Only the Italians offered cars with this much style in the mid 1970s.
Fiat USA brought a car with prototype blacked out headlights, turn signals and tailights that will be available at Fiat Studios through its Mopar parts division. September may finally bring these and other long awaited Abarth accessories to your local Fiat Studio, so keep an eye out for them.
Of course, whenever there is a Fiat car show, the exotics come out. This Lamborghini Miura and Ferrari 348 were just some of the eye candy to enjoy. Exotics like these never look out of place at a Fiat show. You'll never see this at a Toyota or Hyundai show, my friends.
Tim Kuniskis, Head of Fiat Brand North America, gave a presentation and then graciously held a question and answer session at the Fiat FreakOut closing dinner. He gave an overview on how the marketing for the 500 evolved and where it is heading in the future.
Kuniskis revealed they are shooting a follow up to the Seduction ad, this time featuring another car. Also, there will be five new versions of the Immigration ad, highlighting different US cities.
New model information was kept in check, but there were some hints. The upcoming Fiat 500L will make it across the Atlantic, but adapted to the US market, much like how the US Fiat 500 was modified from its European cousin. In Europe, the 500L will be available with the two cylinder TwinAir engine, but that engine has been dismissed out of hand for the US. My sources tell me the TwinAir engine, at least in its current form, has to be operated at such a high duty cycle to keep up with driving conditions here in the US, that fuel economy suffers and negates many of the TwinAir's advantages.
Likewise, the 1.3L MultiJet II diesel engine is also a long shot because certification costs would add considerably to the price of the car, making the diesel engine option a tough business case to argue.
Interestingly, Kuniskis brought up the Fiat 500 Coupé Zagato concept car and wanted opinions of those in the room on this vehicle. Unfortunately, it seems there weren't many at the dinner that knew of this stunning car, but if we keep our fingers crossed maybe we'll see the 500 by Zagato in North America.
During the question and answer period, Kuniskis mentioned that 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth production will be increased substantially to meet, but not exceed the demand for this car. This should be happy news for those who have had a hard time finding an Abarth. Kuniskis cautioned though, there will never be a glut of these cars at Fiat Studios.
On a personal note, what came across during Kuniskis' 45 minute presentation was his enthusiasm, openness and ability to field the tough questions. When you realise that auto execs are dealing with car plans that are 2 -3 years ahead of current production and the need to not let anything out of the bag, it was quite a coup for Kuniskis to jump right in and field any and all questions.
2012 Fiat FreakOut was the biggest Fiat event yet, and we can't wait to see what's in store for next year. Rest assured it will be another great time. Keep an eye on the FLU website and Fiat500USA.com for more FreakOut news.
Image of Fiat 500s at 2012 Fiat FreakOut courtesy of Fiat Lancia Unlimited