This was the Club’s first dinner meeting at the Warragul Country Club without daylight saving and consequently it presented a challenge with presenting the display car, Mike Whitford’s Fiat Abarth 124 Spider, with the limited outside lighting available. Fortunately, with a bit of forethought Mike brought along a small spot light providing additional lighting for those who ventured outside to view the car.
Mike’s presentation provided our members with details of the design origins, product differentiation to the Mazda MX5, unique technical features and the background of the Abarth badge name. The underpinnings of the 124 Spider are based on the Mazda MX5 architecture and is built in Mazda’s manufacturing plant in Japan. Fiat’s subtle body design changes were aimed to give hints of the late 1960’s Fiat 124 styling. Other points of difference to the MX5 are the Brembo brakes, Bilstein shocks, stiffer springs, Recaro seats and an enviably sounding sports exhaust system.
The main point of difference to the MX5 is found under the bonnet with the Fiat (Abarth) developed Multiair 1.4-litre turbocharged engine which makes 125kw/250Nm – or 7kw/50Nm more than normally aspirated 2.0-litre MX5 engines. It’s the torque rush that makes the difference here, giving the Fiat Abarth stronger drive from the bends and better in-gear acceleration. This “Multiair” engine has hydraulically actuated variable valve timing technology enabling ‘cylinder by cylinder & stroke by stroke’ control of air directly via the engine’s inlet valves. The aim of Fiat in developing this technology was to bypass a primary engine inefficiency of pumping losses caused by restrictions of the intake passage by the throttle plate used to regulate air feeding the cylinders. The result of this development increased the engine’s power and torque as well as reducing fuel consumption and emissions. In 2010 the Multiair engine won the International Engine of the Year.
FYI – The Abarth badge is Fiat’s performance sub-brand along the lines of Mercedes’ AMG and BMW’s M Series. Abarth was founded by Carlo Abarth in 1949 to produce racing and road cars, and was bought by Fiat in 1971. It is now a fully owned subsidiary of the Fiat Chrysler Group. Current models include versions of the Fiat 500 and 124 Spider. Carlo’s star sign inspired Abarth’s now iconic scorpion logo.
The motivation for Mike in acquiring the Fiat Abarth 124 Spider was that his Mercedes SLK230 was getting to a point where there was a high likelihood that significant maintenance would soon be required so a decision was made to trade it and he hasn’t looked back.
Words and photos by Phil Barnard