Hello from Albertan Winter Texans

Introduce yourself to the group!
Post Reply
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 3:01 am

Hello from Albertan Winter Texans

Post by SquadraFiatDriver » Sun Sep 14, 2014 6:12 am

We are very happy to be new members of the FCA and this forum.

My wife and I are Canadian retirees and "snowbirds". so, due to our age and our 45 year association with Fiats, this introduction/bio may be a little longer than usual. So here we go....

After over 10 years involved in top level car rallying we had taken up sailing in the 1980s and in 1991 we stopped working to pursue a life of travel. We spent over 20 years doing just that, the first 10 years in Europe and the Mediterranean aboard our custom 37 ft sailing catamaran, which we had built in England, and then, following a car accident which left me with chronic cervical pain that made the rigors of sailing more than I cope with, we made our last passage to bring the yacht across the Atlantic in 2003 and sell it in the USA.

After the yacht sold we continued our travels ashore with a series of travel trailers until the combination of my cervical pain, bad knees resulting from more recent injuries and a developing peripheral neuropathy condition, made setting up our 36 ft HitchHiker 5th wheel trailer (5W) at the end of a day on the road, and then making it ready to travel the following morning, more painful than I was willing to continue to tolerate.

Last year we purchased a manufactured home in southern Alberta as our summer residence (eventually year 'round) and parked our HitchHiker 5W permanently in an RV Park in Mission, Texas to serve as our winter "snowbird" home for the foreseeable future. We bought a nice,low mileage, used Safari Trek Class A motorhome (MH) for the north-south-north migrations and some occasional touring from time to time when the travel bug bites. With hydraulic levelers, on board generator and the ability to lay down and stretch out when travelling while Linda drives, the MH is far less work and much easier for me to handle than the pickup truck and trailer.

This past summer we traded our pickup on new 2014 Fiat 500c Abarth Cabrio to be our daily driver and "toad" (RVer speak for a vehicle towed behind a motorhome). The Abarth rekindled a long time ambition to have a vintage sports car when we stopped travelling. To this end, we ordered a new custom aluminum tilt-bed car hauler. The builder, JIMGLO Trailers, modified their 17 ft model by extending the stationary deck 18" so we can transport my mobility scooter sideways between the 40" high stone shield/storage box and the front of the tilt deck.

When it came to deciding which vintage sports car to choose, our history with Fiats made the 124 Spider a "no brainer" choice.

To not so briefly explain:

We were members of the Fiat Auto Club of Toronto in the late 1960s & 1970s. As I had won the club's Rally Championship for Drivers in 1969, I was contacted by Fiat Motors of Canada and offered the driver's seat for their new Squadra Fiat Canadese (Team Fiat Canada) rally car. The car was to be the 124 Special sedan which was just being introduced into the North American markets. Sadly to say, the results that year were a mix of moderate successes and a number of "DNFs" due to mechanical or structural failures.

Unhappy with the preparation and maintenance provided by the Fiat Canada mechanics, I left Squadra Fiat at the end of that year and, as Fiat was offering a substantial contingency awards program for privateers, my wife and I formed Trident Rallysport to compete in the Ontario, Canadian and North American championships as well as the Canadian round of the World Rally Championship (WRC) at the time, the Rally of the Rideau Lakes.

We had support from Fiat Canada and sponsorship from Dino's Garage, and later Yonge-Steeles Motors, Toronto Fiat dealers, together with Gino's Sports Car Accessories, an importer/distributor/retailer of Italian auto accessories and performance parts, based in Hamilton, Ontario.

We campaigned 124 Specials modified to the European spec "TC" version with the twin cam engine and 5 speed tranny, and a 124 Sport Coupe, initially built for the 1971 BC Centennial Rally, Ottawa to Victoria. We added a 2 door 128 sedan for winter rallies to have the advantage of FWD on snow and ice.

With the help of an experienced and talented Fiat mechanic who was our volunteer crew chief , I did most of the preparation and maintenance of the cars myself except for engine and powertrain upgrades which were carried out by Leny Rabitto of Leny's Garage in Toronto, later Leny's Automega in Mississauga. Leny was a former crew chief/mechanic in the Can Am racing series and a leading sports car specialist with shop facilities that included a dyno, rare in the day for that area. Leny went on to be Canada's first Lamborghini dealer.

Our major events program came to an end in 1974 after Fiat withdrew their contingency program and our individual support. The cost of travel made it cost prohibitive without this funding.

During that period, 1970 through 1974, my daily driver was a Fiat 124 Spider and Linda's was a 124 Special sedan with a transplanted twin cam engine and 5 speed tranny. With the accumulated 124 spares in our shop we managed to keep Linda’s 124TC going until 1980.

We continued to compete with the 124 Coupe through 1976, entering selected events in Ontario, Quebec, and the border states, when, with support from VW Canada and substantial sponsorship from Agincourt Autohaus, a Toronto dealer, we returned to full time rally competition in mid 1977 with a VW Rabbit/Golf prepared for the newly introduced Production Class for stock powertrain cars .

In 1978 we won the Ontario Performance Rally Championship - Production Class . However we felt our crowning achievement that year was finishing 9th overall with our stock 78 hp Production Class Golf, in the Criterium du Quebec, the Canadian round of the WRC, in a field of 61 cars that included "works" teams from Europe, the USA and Canada, most with full Group 4 rally cars with up to 4 times the horsepower of our stock engine Golf.

In late 1978, VW Canada's advertising and promotional budget administration was moved to VW USA and the support we had from VW Canada was no longer available. Again, due to the economics of travel in the major rally series, we decided the time had come to retire from rally competition permanently.

Back to the present....

We are now seriously looking for a nice RUST FREE 124 Spider Turbo, either original or restored. Knowing there were only about 700 turbo conversions done by Legend Industries for Fiat USA, we realize that one in good condition is a rarity today. That considered, our alternate choice will be a 1980.5 to 1985 Fiat or Pininfarina 124 Spider 2000 with EFI. No matter model which we buy, condition is the primary criteria as we want a driver and NOT a restoration project.

Once we have obtained our Spider, hopefully before the end of this year, the plan is to subject it to some performance upgrades, both powertrain and suspension, to make it competitive in auto slaloms, gymkhanas and the like. While my physical ailments have slowed me I feel I can still drive reasonably competitively and know my competitive spirit is alive and well and will be for some years to come.
Daily Driver/Toad: 2014 FIAT 500c Abarth Cabrio
Classic (2B): 1983-85 Pininfarina Azzurra Spider OR 1985.5 Pininfarina Spider Europa
Towed By: 2005 Safari Trek 29' Motorhome w/ Custom Aluminum Tilt-Deck Trailer for Abarth or Spider + Mobility Scooter.

Posts: 828
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2003 3:35 pm
Location: Ottawa, ON

Re: Hello from Albertan Winter Texans

Post by rpconlon » Tue Oct 14, 2014 3:36 pm

There is a fully restored sky blue Pinin in Oklahoma.

Ron Conlon
2016 Fiat 500 Sport
Ottawa, Ontario

Post Reply