The good old day at Fiat

Interesting articles, poems, stories, and more from around the Fiat/Lancia community.
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The good old day at Fiat

Post by juppy » Thu Jan 12, 2006 8:28 pm

I found this story in another (non fiat) forum. I hope who ever wrote it doesn't mind it being posted here but I thought it was really interesting.....


At one time Fiat had the best PR department of any car manufacturer in the world. I had been invited to go to Turin, collect a new Fiat 124 Coupé and try out the soon to be launched Fiat Dino.

In a moment of madness I decided to drive my Abarth-Fiat 695SS to Italy and take it to the factory to get it fixed once and for all. I would be able to leave it there for a month while we were finishing off "Monte Carlo or Bust".

It was an epic trip. The Abarth, which could just about manage 90 mph in the right conditions, was blown about on the autobahn and as I came down the mountain towards Aosta, the exhaust broke - yet another one and it had only been on for a month! Then it started to misfire. I opened up the distributor to discover that it was chewing itself to bits. The shaft had started to move up and down as well as sideways, so there were little bits of copper all over the place. I cleaned it out and made my way to the Turin Autostrada entrance. Once again I went round to the engine compartment and fiddled about. A man in Fiat overalls joined me. He had obviously walked over from the large van with Servizio Fiat emblazened on the side.

"Uno probleme, Signore?", he asked me.

I pointed to the broken exhaust and told him it was the third in 6 months. Then I took the distributor cap off and showed him the mess. He shook his head knowingly, went back to his van and returned with a new distributor and a small portable welder. In half an hour I was on my way. No money changed hands and I thanked him profusely. I did give him some of my Duty Free Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes though!

Arriving in Turin at about lunchtime, I put off going to the Abarth factory until I had checked into the Hotel Suisse, one of the world's best hotels at that time. Fiat PR had booked me a suite for which they were paying. Oh happy days. I had a quick soak in the marble bathroom whilst listening to Petula Clark singing "Downtown" and consuming a couple of well chilled Nastro Azzuros. Once I'd had something to eat, I armed myself with a map and directions from the Concierge and made my way to the Abarth factory.

What a wonderful sight, I had arrived at last at the hallowed portals. I spoke to the man on the gate. He didn't speak English and my Italian wasn't too good.

"Uno momento, Signore", he told me and pointed towards the office. Somebody who said that he was the export manager appeared, looked quizically at the 695SS and asked me what I wanted.

"This car, my little Abarth-Fiat, has a problem, well a number of them in fact, and I've driven it all the way here so that you can fix it."

"Signore, I am sorry to tell you this but this car is not an Abarth-Fiat, it is a Fiat Cinquecento with Abarth bits stuck on it."

"But I bought it as an Abarth-Fiat from your UK Concessionaires, Radbourne Racing. The papers say it is."

But the man from Abarth was adamant. I returned to the hotel and boy was I livid. And when I'm livid I write. Once back in my room out came the old portable Olympia. I had already decided on the title,

"The Abarth that Never Was".

The opening line, I thought was great, apt and to the point(I know- double whatsit): -

"My friends in Holland, Belgium, Germany and the UK, you all think that you are the proud owners of Abarth-Fiats but you are not.."
I continued the rant and when it was finished about 1800 words later I felt better.

My phone rang, it was the guy from Fiat who was downstairs in the lobby. I joined him.

"How was the trip?", he asked me.

Well I had to tell him didn't I! He asked me for the copy of the Abarth story and said that he would sort things out in the morning. Then he told me my schedule. I would be picked up by one of the Fiat test drivers at 9.00am the following morning and taken out to the Autostrada for timed maximum speed runs in the new Dino Spyder and Coupé. This would by followed by lunch and then a trip to the Fiat Museum in the afternoon. After that I would be able to collect the new 124 Coupé, stay another night at the hotel and leave early in the morning if I wished.

I thanked him, we had a wonderful dinner and then I went to bed. The following morning as I was enjoying a succulent peach and some prosciutto, the head waiter approached my table. He spoke good Italian English.

"Signore," he said looking disapprovingly from me towards the entrance of the restaurant, "ahem, Signore, there is a persone who wish to speak with you".

I looked towards the door and could see a little man in red overalls looking at me. He nodded as I caught his eye. It transpired that he was from the Abarth factory and wanted my car keys. The Fiat PR guy, Ferrara, had obviously been busy. I went with the Abarth "persone" to my car . Then I looked round. Parked down by the side of the hotel was an Abarth racing transporter! Oh boy Ferrara really had laid it on. Another Abarth person appeared and between them they loaded the car. I did not see it again for at least 4 weeks but to cut a long story short the engine was balanced, a special factory exhaust and competition distributor were fitted and the whole car was cleaned and polished inside and out. And the exhaust and distributor lasted the day until I sold it. It was a hell of a lot faster too!

Dino testing was amazing, belting up and down the Autostrada at speeds approaching 240kph. Fiat even had their own timing strips inserted in the road. I had lunch with the chief tester - as if by magic at 1.00pm on the nail a Fiat van appeared, tables and chairs were unloaded and we all sat down for a four course lunch (served hot!) by the entrance to the Autostrada. There was chilled beer and/or red and white wine. And the van even had its own espresso machine in the back. Those guys did not do things by halves.

Well we finished the promotional film for "Monte Carlo or Bust" and I managed to get the Fiat 124 Coupé into it. The car appeared for almost two minutes in the film which was shown on US Network TV. And that was worth a fortune. I was a "loved" person by Fiat for a long, long, time thereafter. I even had a letter from Agnelli thanking me. And not long after that they bought Abarth! Sad it's all changed now. Agnelli's dead and the company's having a hard time.

Ah well, that's life.


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Ce n'est pas magnifique mais demain c'est la gare! Je roule en Renault - quelquefois.
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Just a GRAND Story!

Post by Fiat Freak » Sun Jul 23, 2006 9:57 pm

Thanks for sharing! What dreams are made of.....
Bobb Rayner,"The Fiat Freak"
Co-Founder: "Fiat Freak-Out" Annual Gathering and club Fiat-Lancia Unlimited
Author, "The Fiat Freak" article in RICAMBI magazine
Founding Member of Club FLU/FCA (I've been around this group of Fiat Freaks before there even WAS a Club FLU or FCA!)

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Re: The good old day at Fiat

Post by JDA » Wed Jul 10, 2013 6:56 pm

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Re: The good old day at Fiat

Post by AAMovers » Tue Oct 20, 2015 10:16 pm

Great read. Long gone are those days...


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Re: The good old day at Fiat

Post by Amacento » Mon Nov 02, 2015 10:40 am

Thanks for sharing this!

“... there is only one way to drive a small FIAT, and that is without mercy.” - James May

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Re: The good old day at Fiat

Post by f-runner » Thu Sep 21, 2017 1:13 am

Great story, thanks for sharing this one.

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