The Classic Motor Show 2010 – Car of the Show
The TotallyMotor Verdict
In our first TotallyMotor show report from the Classic Motor Show at the NEC we covered the legends of all things classic and nostalgic. We had the ultimate driver’s car the Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7, Honda’s supercar the NSX and rally rudeboy the Audi Quattro, just to name but a few of the rare and wonderful beauties.
Well now it’s time to centre our attention on my choice for the car of the show; the car that most made my day with its combination of rarity, stunning style and arresting presence. It was a seriously difficult choice to make as the vast halls of the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham were entirely stacked with some real automotive treats, all lovingly prepared, polished on put on display by enthusiastic owners or specialist suppliers and tuners.
But the white lightning that stopped me in my tracks like a slap in the face was this 1970 Fiat Abarth 850 Sport Coupe. Here are a few pictures from a few different angles, but I think you’ll agree, this too cool coupe is entirely desirable from any viewpoint.
This excellent example has had its thin chrome bumpers removed and treated to a handsome lowering of the suspension, giving it a squat, mean and lean attitude that actually made me say ‘wow’ out loud, drawing nervous looks from the people around me.
The Fiat 850, a rear-engine’d, rear-wheel-drive supermini of old, was produced between 1964 and 1973, and came fighting fit from the factory with an 843cc (hence the name) 4-cylinder, llongitudinally-mounted engine producing a snigger-worthy 37bhp. Sowing machine power indeed, but it doesn’t take much to move something that weighs about as much as a gas barbeque, and the feisty Fiat could hit nearly 80mph.
The Coupe version was first seen at the 1965 Geneva Motor Show and had more power and speed to shout about from a tuned version of the same engine, this time making 47bhp and hitting (eventually) a top speed of 84mph. Serious stuff.
Fiat revised the successful Coupe in 1968, installing a bigger engine at 903cc (hence the name of our ‘1000’ star car) that now pumped out a healthier 52bhp. The Coupe driver also enjoyed sports seats and a sports steering wheel, and, wait for it, a round speedo, to elevate the Sport Coupe above the lowly basic version of the car.
But our modified star of the show was made all the more shiny by the Abarth factory. Fiat sent them incomplete cars and it was up to Abarth to fit them out with uprated brakes, exhausts, carburettors and crankshafts. And because the Arbarth workers didn’t have to disassemble complete cars, it kept the prices for these famous tuning factory-tuned Coupes at a reasonable level. All good for the lucky man in the 1970s street.
In 1967, Road & Track magazine called the Fiat 850 Sport Coupe "one of the handsomest, best-balanced designs ever seen on a small car.", and now, having stood back to breathe her all in, in a dimly-lit corner of the NEC, right outside the toilets, I’d wholeheartedly agree with that succinct statement.