Speed tuning in Europe is going at a fairly furious pace, and one of the oldest and best names in the game, Abarth, is still at it. When I had Fiats as a qualifiedly young-ish man (back in the 1970s—yes, I know how “bad” Fiats were), I bought Abarth exhaust systems, suspension parts, and so forth as the cheapest and best way to bolt on Italian performance. And Carlo Abarth was king of the tuners.
His company is now making big noises, along with Fiat itself, about the Abarth 500C to be shown at Geneva. The car gets a 140-hp turbo, an Abarth-modified six-speed, hot-shoe paint and big wheels, a better suspension and, Happy New Year!, an average 36 mpg fuel economy. These are more than cute boy/girl racer cars; they are designed to wring the last bit of performance out of what is basically a small economy model.