Small engined Fiats on the Gerlos Alpenstrasse

DSC_0113Sitting at the base of the Gerlos Alpenstrasse in the Austrian Alps lies the small village of Hainzenberg. As alpine villages go it is largely unremarkable, which given the stunning beauty of this part of the world is no slight against it. It is just another breathtaking little town full of guest houses and quaint little shops, but it isn’t a destination in itself so unless you’re in need of a coffee break or a place to rest your head you typically keep meandering on through. After all, the best roads in Europe are found right here in Austria and one of its crown jewels, the Gerlos Alpenstrasse, is just a few minutes away. Better to spend your time driving than shopping for knick-knacks.

DSC_0140Of course, there’s always an exception to any rule and a chance encounter with a branch of an Italian Fiat 500 Club is as good an exception as any. These are the cutest cars in the world and the passion the Italian’s have for the Cinquecento is almost beyond belief.

DSC_0101In fact, the passion the Italians have for anything automotive is almost beyond belief. Whilst the Formula One liveried 500’s were what first caught my eye as I rode past on my Vespa, it was something a great deal rarer that caused me to stop.

DSC_0105When was the last time you saw a Lombardi Grand Prix on the road? I must confess that this little bus had me completely stumped – I had no idea what it was and it took an email to some friends in the Fiat club back home in Australia to identify the car. The owners, and in fact everyone on this run, were warm and friendly toward me but unfortunately their enthusiasm didn’t translate into a single word of English. My Italian ran only to ordering uno espresso, so sadly despite my best efforts I wasn’t able to learn anything at the time about the sleek little sports car. Continue reading

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Bathurst 12hr 2014

B12hrSat_Sun 1115It’s easy to become complacent but our very own Mount Panorama circuit, just two hour’s drive from Sydney, is firmly up there in the small handful of the world’s truly great circuits. The only problem is that if you’re not a dedicated V8 Supercar fan, there isn’t really a lot of other top-class racing that happens there to attract your attention. Outside of the main game it’s mostly a calendar of club racing and corporate drive days.

B12hrSat_Sun 1100That was, however, until the arrival of the Liqui-Molly Bathurst 12hr and its rapidly growing momentum. Finally The Mountain is now graced with a sports car event exploiting the most of its undulating, twisting, climbing and dropping 6.2km of smooth, freshly laid tarmac. An event/circuit combo that attracted 13 top level international teams, building a bumper field of 44 cars.

a_B12hrSat 1204There have been endurance races for production cars at Bathurst before (notably the 12hr events of the early 90’s and a pair of excellent 24hr races in the early 00’s), but those races never really managed to gain the traction the current 12hr has. That’s probably because of a few factors, the primary of which being that we now have a solid international GT3 class which enables these cars to be raced all over the world under the same rules. That’s a big deal for manufacturers, because the likes of Nismo Japan can build an R35 GTR for Le Mans and also get race mileage (ie promotional value & return on investment) from it in other smaller events. Continue reading

Any Given Reason Burger Meet 3

BurgerMeet3 627The concept of Burger Meet is simple – a car park meet to get as many readers of Any Given Reason and their cars in the same place as possible. The emphasis is on diversity and informality, and the vague idea of standing around a car park eating burgers is about as far as the planning goes.

BurgerMeet3 525On the evening of Saturday 28th December, the readers of Any Given Reason descended on the Hagen Arms Hotel at Echunga in the Adelaide Hills to watch the sun set with burgers, beers, and of course, cars. And what a spectacular array of cars it was – but more on that later.

BurgerMeet3 518The thing that makes organising Burger Meet such an exciting, rewarding and completely terrifying experience is that I have absolutely no idea who actually reads and follows this blog. I get traffic statistics but they’re just abstract numbers and graphs, so when I put the word out that Burger Meet 3 was happening I had exactly zero idea who and how many people would actually come. I guessed about 80 cars and thought it would be pretty cool if we could fill the car park, but when streams of cars started pouring in and it wasn’t even the 6pm start-time yet, I started to get a little nervous/overjoyed. Continue reading

Driven: Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari

DSC_0415A few months ago Any Given Reason took a closer look at the Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari. Without the ability to take one for a drive at the time we were left to arrive at our conclusion based on looks and assumptions alone, which was that it seems like a cool, fun little car, but its eye wateringly expensive price made it not very good value.

DSC_0365So when the chance arose to take one for a spin through the hills, I jumped at it. I was keen to answer two questions: how does it drive in comparison to the regular Abarth 500, and is it worth the money? For this story I’ll avoid re-hashing the minute details of the Tributo (you can read that here), and will instead look to answer these questions.

DSC_0428The first thing you notice as soon as you climb into the Tributo are the seats and how fantastic they are. Made in Italy by racing specialist Sabelt, they bear hug you in the corners yet remain comfortable in the commute. They’re easily the most similar to fixed back race seats I’ve found in any road car, however they are juxtaposed against the upright city-commuter driving position which shines through from the 500’s origins. It feels slightly odd for the first few kilometers, but the driving position is actually pretty good once you get used to it.  Continue reading

Driven – Fiat 500 TwinAir

In the world today, Green is the new buzzword and nowhere more so than in the automotive industry. Given that the green revolution has only properly existed for the past decade, the rate at which some car companies are downsizing and building cars that consume and pollute less is quite astounding, leaving many automotive enthusiasts in despair that the sports cars we know and love may one day be the outlawed dinosaurs of decades past.

But don’t fear, because a dawn is slowing rising on a new automotive era, and the future isn’t necessarily bleak for us petrol heads. I know this because I’ve just had a ball driving the new Fiat 500 TwinAir, a car that satisfies even the most vicious environmentalist with but two cylinders and a total capacity of 875cc.

Say what? Anyone who’s ever been unfortunate enough to drive a similarly endowed Diahatsu Mira of the early 90’s will instantly object, but the key to this puzzle lies in the twenty years of technological development that’s taken place since we gladly voted the two cylinder micro-car out of our country. Believe it or not, but the 500 TwinAir is arguably more technologically advanced than many of its bigger brothers from nearby Modena and Maranello. For starters the tiny twin utilizes an advanced turbocharger which boosts low down torque, and combines it with Fiat Powertrain’s 15-years-in-development MultiAir technology, which is a new electro-hydraulic valve management system that reduces fuel consumption by controlling air directly via the inlet valves without using the throttle. The inlet valves are not actuated by a camshaft, but rather by solenoids which can individually open and close each valve, which in conjunction with the fuel injection systems optimizes the mixture to obtain the perfect burn. Not only that, but special low friction coatings on all internal components means the TwinAir rates as the best engine in the world as far as friction losses are concerned.  Continue reading

Track time – Abarth 500 esseesse

I’ve gotta admit, I was a little apprehensive when I first heard the news that Fiat were building a new 500. The old 500 is an icon of motoring, an icon of Italy and an icon of all things fun and lighthearted. In this day of crash safety regulation, emission regulation, mass production and the growing size of cars, how could Fiat possibly do the badge justice? The news worsened when Fiat announced that the new 500 would have an engine mounted at the front, driving the front wheels.

Like the rest of the motoring world, I was genuinely surprised when I saw the first pictures of the new 500. It was a thoughrougly contemporary design, it was small, it was light and it was affordable. It was unmistakeably a Fiat 500. And from the first test drives, word came through that it was also genuinely good fun to drive. It gave the driver a feeling of ‘con brio’, just like the original did. What we had here wasn’t a retro modern car, it was the new Fiat 500. Continue reading