Fiat 500 Abarth

December 16th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham
Track footage of Fiat’s sport-tuned 500 Abarth

Track footage of Fiat’s sport-tuned 500 Abarth

Dodge ready to make new Viper

November 6th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Dodge Viper SRT10 fq

Ralph Gilles, big boss of the Dodge car brand has dropped some big news on the Viper in a very recent interview. After going back and forth for the past 18 months on what to do with Viper, Chrysler has decided that production of the current Viper will end in July 2010. But before that happens, 500 final cars will be built that will apparently be the most special Vipers ever. Gilles stated that the company wanted to preserve the value of existing Vipers by not simply continuing the current generation indefinitely. He talked it up but didn’t give any real details on what would make the final 500 cars so special.

However, Viper fans don’t need to go into mourning just yet. Gilles also revealed that an all-new sports car is being developed with a launch targeted sometime in 2012. It gets better, the replacement Viper will be getting some help from Chrysler’s new Italian brothers Fiat. This may mean that Ferrari could be involved in development of this mysterious new model. Muscle car fans everywhere will be hoping Chrysler retains the Viper’s raw nature in the new generation.

Chrysler to only sell Jeep outside U.S

November 5th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Chrysler Jeep

Fresh details about the international future of Chrysler brands has recently come to light. According to reports Chrysler will withdraw all but the Jeep brand from markets outside North America.

Apparently Jeep will remain an international brand because of its iconic status and global name recognition, while Chrysler, Dodge and the new Ram brand will be restricted to the North American markets.

This news may disappoint some American car fans but it makes sense for Chrysler because in recent years the North American market has accounted for around 90 percent of Chrysler’s sales.

The new plan is also expected to see the introduction of new fuel-efficient models to the US, using Fiat-developed technology. The Chrysler brand is expected to share and get most of its platforms from Lancia, which Fiat also owns.

Fiat will also take over development of the rear-wheel-drive platform scheduled to underpin the next generation 300C, replacing its own existing rear-wheel-drive project in Europe.

Alfa Romeo is also set to benefit by adding a new SUV to its future line-up, using platforms drawn from Chrysler.

Chrysler, Fiat joint-developing electric car

October 15th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Dodge Circuit EV fq

In a few weeks time, Chrysler big boss Sergio Marchionne will reveal his 5-year plan for the automaker. According to information leaked out early, at least one electric car will be part of the plan. Apparently the once presumed-dead electric car program is back in progress and being worked on by Chrysler and Fiat together.

Chrysler, through its ENVI in-house electric propulsion division, currently has four electric vehicles: the Dodge Circuit EV (pictured), Jeep Patriot EV, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EV, and Chrysler Town & Country EV. The ENVI website claims that you’ll be able to own at least one electric model by 2010, and there will be “at least three more models available by 2013.”

Those claims may be outdated, but come November 4 Marchionne will reveal all.

Fiat drops covers on rally-spec Abarth 500 R3T

October 1st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Fiat Abarth 500 R3T fq

Abarth is at it again, securing whatever models it can from the growing Fiat network and pushing them to the extreme. The performance division was designated to handle Fiat’s rally activities, and took the IRC title in its formative year with the Punto Abarth S2000. Then they turned around and put their hot Punto on the road with the 155 horsepower Punto Abarth and 180 hp Punto Abarth EsseEsse.

More recently the scorpion badge has got its hands on the Fiat 500, and have churned out more performance variants than Porsche. The 500 Abarth debuted with 133 hp, then the 500 got an EsseEsse version of its own with 160hp. The track-bound 500 Abarth Assetto Corse followed with 200 horsepower, and at the recent Frankfurt show they unveiled the 695 Tributo Ferrari (read news item). More versions are predicted, and even more are apparently on the way — but not before the rally team has had a chance to debut the new Abarth 500 R3T.

Built to Group R3T specifications, a rally formula for turbocharged cars up to 1.6-litres in engine displacement, the rally-prepped 500 packs a 1.4-litre four cylinder engine with a Garret GT 1446 fixed-geometry turbocharger, good for 180 horsepower that’s channeled through a six-speed sequential transmission with twin-plate clutch and a locking differential. 17-inch OZ alloys are mounted to an adjustable suspension set-up and Brembo disc brakes are supplemented by a hydraulic handbrake. Inside, the 500 R3T has been fitted with a full roll cage and FIA-spec racing buckets with six-point harnesses, while dry weight comes in at just 1080kg (2380 lbs), the minimum for the category.

The vehicle was introduced last weekend at the Sanremo rally, where Abarth has won two of the past three years running, and it will be used in special promotional events as part of the Assetto Corse program.

RIP: Elio Zagato 1921-2009

September 17th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Elio Zagato 1

Dr. Elio Zagato passed away on Tuesday at the age of 88.

Son of Ugo Zagato, founder of the famous Milanese Atelier, renowned in the whole world since 1919 for its custom made car bodies- Elio was a figure of great importance in the history of global automotive design and in the Gran Turismo race scene of the post-war era.

Entrepreneur, racer and gentleman driver, he competed for the first time in Piacenza in 1947, driving a Fiat which had just been re-bodied as a graduation gift from his father. From that point onwards he never stopped developing his beloved Gran Turismos, working on them during the week and then testing them during the weekends. He was amongst the founders of the Milanese Scuderia Sant Ambroeus. He embodied with perfection the style, elegance, and competitive spirit of the Italian gentleman driver of the ‘Dolce Vita’ era.

In the early 1950s he started developing the world’s most desired berlinette GTs. Amongst all of them we fondly remember the Fiat 8V Zagato, which he claimed to be his favourite, the Alfa Romeo 1900 SSZ which was often his rival in various races, the legendary Ferrari 250 GTZs, Maserati A6G, Aston Martin DB4 GTZ and many more. He took part in the golden age of competitions raced with vests and helmets with famous characters such as Ascari, Fangio, Galluzzi, Nuvolari, Stagnoli, and others. Enzo Ferrari called him “Zagatino.”

Together with his friend Ercole Spada he developed the legendary Alfa Romeo SZ, TZ and TZ2s followed by the elegant Lancia Sports based on Appia, Flavia, Flaminia, and Fulvia chassis. A constant innovator, together with his father Ugo he invented the celebrated double bubble, signature mark of the Milanese brand, the ‘Coda Tronca’, windows made out of plexiglas and countless other solutions still used on modern vehicles today.

Elio participated in 150 automotive races, winning 82 of them and becoming champion of the GT series a remarkable 5 times. He was victorious in the Targa Florio, eight Coppa Intereuropas, won three first places in the Golden Cup of the Dolomites, and came in first at the Avus circuit in Berlin in 1955.

Promoter of the Milanese concept of minimalism oriented towards functionalist design, Elio defined his Zagatos first and foremost as ‘original.’ Whoever asked him to synthesize the design spirit of his car bodies, he would reply to them “You see that car? Is it different from all the others? Then it’s a Zagato.”

Andrea and Marella Zagato, today, in the year of Zagato’s 90th anniversary, keep the spirit of the Atelier coachwork alive, a trade that Elio learned from Ugo and promoted throughout his career.

Fiat prepares Abarth 695 ‘Tributo Ferrari’ for Frankfurt

September 10th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Abarth 695 Ferrari fq

Fiat’s Abarth performance division has announced that it will premiere the special edition Fiat 500 Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari at this year’s Frankfurt Auto Show.

The special 500 Abarth is powered by the company’s 1.4 Turbo T-Jet 16v engine that has been juiced up to produce over 180 hp. It’s equipped with MTA (Manual Transmission Automated) electromechanical gearbox with steering wheel paddles and a Record Monza variable back-pressure dual mode exhaust system. 17-inch alloy wheels pack out the guards and Brembo 284 mm multi-section brake discs with fixed four-piston calipers provide ample stopping power.

The most attention-getting detail, of course, is the paint scheme, decked out in Scuderia Red with Racing Grey stripes to mimick the outgoing 430 Scuderia. Fashion house Jaeger has been commissioned to make the special instruments for the interior and Sabelt provides the bucket seats

The Fiat 500 Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari price will be announced in the following weeks.

Next Dodge Viper could use Ferrari derived V10

August 13th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Dodge Viper V10 eng

Back in 1987, Chrysler purchased a troubled Lamborghini, and within two years had Lambo hard at work developing a V10 engine program that would ultimately lead to both the Dodge Viper and the Lamborghini Gallardo. Ironically now, two decades later, it’s Chrysler that’s in trouble with an Italian carmaker coming to the rescue. Fresh reports are now suggesting that the replacement for the Viper’s V10 could infact be derived from Ferrari’s next-generation engine program.

Chrysler’s original plan was to sell of the Viper business, but no serious money was put on the table for it. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has become keen on taking advantage of the sportscar’s standing as the company’s halo vehicle. But with Chrysler unable to pay the heavy costs of developing the next-generation Viper, the engine program could be borrowed from the same basic powerplant that will propel upcoming Ferraris and Maseratis.

Ferrari has essentially only had four engine designs in its history: the Colombo design was in use from the company’s beginnings all the way through the ’90s. The Lampredi engine was used on a handful of vehicles in the 50’s before being phased out. The Dino engine had V6, V8 and V12 versions and was used until just a few years ago, while the current Ferrari/Maserati engine powers all vehicles in both companies’ current ranges as well as the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. Its 90-degree replacement will most likely come in various configurations including a flat-plane crank V8 for Ferrari, a cross-plane crank for Maserati and a pushrod V10 for the Viper.