When Germany and Italy got together in the late 1930s, it didn't quite work out for them or the rest of us. However, today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Fiat/VW proves that; if at first you don't succeed...
Mussolini and Hitler - fascism's bad boys - didn't really get along all that well when they decided to double-team the neighbors, and that's part of the reason their partnership was fated to failure. Our candidate today hails originally from Benito's Italy, but - much like the rest of Europe did - it has taken it in the butt from Adolph's Germany.
In an attempt to boost the economies of our vanquished foes, the Marshall Plan, named for Secretary of State, George Marshall, was established to help the nations of post-war Europe recover their industrial capabilities through economic investment. Part of that effort was putting the continent back on the road, and that meant a ton of tiny, little cars.
One of those was the Fiat 600, a natural progression of the precedent 500, which provided economical, albeit slow transportation for a family of four. In Germany, a similar facility was delivered by the Volkswagen Type 1, aka the Beetle. While neither car was initially intended as anything other than being the automotive equivalent of the cheap seats, it was only a matter of time before they started getting tweaked and tuned and showing a little foam at the edges of their mouths.
Abarth, the venerated Italian tuner has over the years made a name for the 600, as well as other Fiats, in being terrors of the race track, as well as the right lane of the Autostrada. On a similar timeline, the VW flat four has been massaged, strengthened, and enlarged to the point that it's able to rack up impressive output along with its staccato exhaust note. Bring these two together and you get a Fiat 600 with some Abarth touches, and that's powered by a turbo 1,914-cc VW boxer with a claimed 185-bhp. Achtung and Mama Mia! Fiat/VW pairings are nothing new, and in fact they have plied the drag circuit for decades. But they're fewer and farther between these days, and this one seems particularly well sorted.
The original engine in the back of this Fiat was a water-cooled four of less than half the VW's displacement, and only about 11% of the turbo's punch. The RayJay Turbo (do they even make those anymore?) feeds 10-lbs of boost to the built motor, while breathing through a single Dellorto. Backing up the motor is not the 3-synchro Fiat box, which is made out of semi-soft cheese, but a VW IRS row-your-own. All that should give the around 1,100-lb Fiat the kind of shove usually reserved for Italians with some sort of animal on the hood.
The seller describes the 600 as an Abarth, however, aside from the Gauge housing, steering wheel, and the gnarly Campagnolos under flared rear fenders, there's nothing particularly Abarthian about it. Where you might expect a radically large scoop down-low in front, there's only the stock bumper. Out back, the engine cover even fully closes over the VW mill. In some ways that's good as the Abarth modifications can call attention to a car like this in the same way that driving it naked and on fire will.
Inside the car there's more latin to love as well as German to respect and not make eye contact with. The shifter looks straight out of an EMPI catalog, and there's more VDO gauges than you can shake a schnitzel at. The rest is vintage 600, including the snazzy suicide doors.
All this isn't the half-finished project of some backyard wrencher, this car has been around the block, even appearing in VolksWorld magazine (remember those?) back in 2001. In addition to the Island of Dr. Moreau heart transplant, the suspension has seen upgrades including a reverse-eye front spring and PBS spindles.
Whatever the reason behind this mating of German storm trooper and Italian mistress, it's got to be better than the last time these two got together. It's also probably a hoot to drive, and parts would be easy to procure. What might not be so easy is that $25,000 price tag set by the seller. That's a lot of (German) Beer and Pizza for something that's kind of a Chimera. But there is a charm to the car, and for some reason Fiat 600s are a hot commodity these days - something that will likely increase when the new 500 is introduced here in the U.S. later this year.
So, would you drop twenty five gees for a Fiat with a rabid VW motor dropped in it? Or, for that price, are you willing to let the Allies win yet again?
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