For normal people, a household would likely consist of two vehicles in the garage: one being a sensible and light city-trotting thingamobile, and the other one being a bit bigger and higher up so they can fit in a few more bags and get up a kerb when going away for a weekend.
Normal petrolheads aren’t that different, are they?
The formula tends to stay the same, but a third vehicle usually gets added to the equation. This is the supposed “weekend car.” You know, the one you have a hard time convincing your other half of?
This car can take one of many forms, but usually ends up in one of two categories: classic car or sports car. For this exercise, I will ignore those folk who choose to drive classic or hardcore sports cars as daily drivers, as they have a hard enough time as it is just getting to work and back.
As the name suggests, the “weekend car” is not driven all the time, thus every encounter should offer something different to the weekly commute, something exceptional. Nobody buys a 1.6 Polo for a Sunday morning blast.
Classic cars are the tried and tested favourite for this. Because of their age and how quickly motoring has evolved and continues to evolve, they provide a brilliant throwback to almost forgotten eras. Some of the engineering features in these cars were ground-breaking at the time, but never became popular, leading to a Sunday novelty factor. This appeal is the same reason why vinyl players are popular again – they need to be appreciated for what they are and never forgotten.
But, classics are not for everyone. Many a garage includes a modern sports car that may or may not disturb your hairline, depending on personal tastes. Unfortunately, many of them have gotten rather boring.
Before you come running at me with pitchforks, let me explain. Yes, they are usually very fast and nice to look at, but they need something more. They need to be stupid.
This brings me to the Fiat Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari. The most stupid car I have ever driven.
A bunch of Fiat guys decided to send a new Fiat 500 to Abarth and told them to make it faster. So, Abarth gave us the Abarth 500, which is fun, but not stupid. Presumably, stupidity was pursued at a nondescript Italian bar, where Abarth and Ferrari engineers used a few beers as an excuse for some mad science…
“If you have an extra Abarth lying around, send one over for us to have some fun with it.”
…Ferrari then gave the world a 1,100kg gift – a Fiat 500 pushing 132kw through the front wheels via a flappy-paddle ‘box, with very big brakes and a stiff suspension. This all sounds very exciting, in the same way that fitting a go-kart engine to a top-loader washing machine with shopping trolley wheels is exciting.
Being on the verge of tipping over adds to the stupidity and makes the car an absolute hoon to drive. Corners are a balancing act thanks to the high seating position. Straight lines are a struggle thanks to a hefty amount of torque steer. The automatic ‘box snaps your neck at every shift.
Parking at the chiropractor is also a nightmare. The Devil’s invention itself, the single clutch automatic gearbox, ensures you either never move or you hit everything around you at 20km/h while attempting to crawl into a parking space. It’s a good thing the car is so small and light, because you are better off putting it in neutral and pushing it into a space yourself.
You know what’s coming next, right? None of these issues matter. The factory fitted Monza exhaust ensures that people hear you coming up the road long before they see you. Their surprise at the sight of a little Fiat making all that noise, painted in Ferrari red, makes pushing the car out of the driveway worth the effort every time.
I’ve driven many cars after the paperweight Ferrari, but few have managed to leave their mark on my heart quite like it. It is only afterwards that I realised that it is the imperfections of a car that stick with you the longest. Ask any Alfa Romeo driver – they know what I’m talking about.
In a motoring industry that so zealously creates the most efficient and capable machines, it sometimes takes one stupid car to remind ourselves that a good laugh every once in a while is not such a bad thing. We need more of them.