Fiat has an unenviable reputation in the U.S.. The Abarth name here is less well known, but is revered among the enlightened. Put them together and you get something like today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Ritmo. É buono?
Aside from defining the economic and political direction of the European Union, the Germans have failed miserably in all previous attempts at World domination. And while sad Hans is sad about that fact, it didn't stop the Teutonic tide from dominating yesterday's voting, giving the 1979 450 SLC 5.0 a healthy 79% Nice Price win, and letting it show off its swoonerific aluminum muscles.
That Benz demonstrates the crafty Germans well-earned reputation for world-class automotive engineering. Unrelated, they also have a reputation for heavy opera; hamburgers in a can; and freaky Scheißepornographie, the less about which you know, the better. Their neighbors to the South however, are more interested in pinching the gentler sex's derrieres than what comes out of them. Those latin lovers are also pretty good at making cars go fast - granted perhaps not for long periods of time - but in short bursts, very fast indeed.
Today's 1982 Fiat Ritmo Abarth 125TC has a name longer than the amount of time the base model was available in the U.S.. That car was called the Strada here, and its 128-based platform never felt the Scorpion's sting in America. In Italy, and its former Axis partner however, the 125TC tore it up with a GTI-besting 123-bhp 1,995 cc twin cam out of the 131 Mirafiori. That, along with the close ratio ZF five speed transaxle, gave the car an excellent for the era 8.7-second zero to sixty time. Other Abarth mods include the wider alloy wheels, rubber ducky hatch spoiler, sport steering wheel and foglamp-equipped front valance. A special bit of historical relevance is that the Ritmo 125TC and its 130TC follow up were the last cars to ever roll off of the Abarth production lines, and their end completes Fiat's absorption of that legendary tuner begun with their initial purchase back in 1971.
This car is presently making cross-border incursions from Canada after having been in deep storage for the better part of 16 years. The seller has owned it longer, and says he used it to cruise around the continent until socking it away like it was Ted Williams' head, only without the deep freeze. It being 28 years old and a Fiat, there's naturally some things that have already been replaced, and a few more that need to be. The seller claims that out of the 82K on the clock, only 2500 are on the new steering rack, and fewer than 500 on the Falken tires. The battery and ignition system have also see some love, and the car is apparently brought to life by a switch added to the center console, the key having been lost some time ago. Best not to park this beauty in a bad neighborhood.
Still needing attention are the cracked windshield - the replacement of which would likely mean the lose of that sweet OILIIIOFIIIAIT sticker - an unraveling front seat squab, and a headliner that's making its own curtain call. Other than that there's some rust. . . wait, what's that? Of course there's rust, it's a Fiat afterall, and that's just part of the charm. Italian cars aren't built with the same kind of expected longevity as Italian artwork or architecture after all. Additionally, the front facia, which is a single piece of molded plastic, currently carries the patina of a corpulent zombie, possibly indicative of its having been stored all those years ass-back.
In addition to the factory ABARTH 2000 rocker stripes, this Ritmo sports advertisements for Agip and Koni, although that could be rectified with a hair dryer and razor blade. The hood appears un-marred by such stickers, but has been repainted, or is perhaps off a Strada. It is reasonably close to the body color not to matter, either way. Down below, it's hard to tell if the paint on the wheels is flaking, or if they've just been the recipients of a poor attempt to clean off the brake dust. The black-painted window trim however, is showing the wear of age, and could stand a baptism at the alter of the cult of the rattle can. Other than that, and the stuff already noted in the ad, the car looks reasonably good- the dash surviving the decades without becoming crackosaurus rex, and still having the nice canted tri-gauge add-on. The electrical ass-hattery resulting from the attempt to bypass the ignition switch has resulted in the heater motor going tits up, as well as things like the hazard lights and a couple of the gauges going on strike, but hey, how fun would it be to dive into that challenge?
Before you could make that jump, you'd need to make this car too legit to quit, and unlike trying to get a mail order bride into the country, a quick trip to city hall ain't gonna' do it here. The seller says that his attempt at smuggling the car into the U.S. - coyote-like - was met with insurmountable resistance by the border patrol. Because of that he's had it tearing up the roads in the Great White North, or Vancouver at the very least.
An Abarth like this would be a sweet ride and I guaran-big-titty-wet-tee you that you wont see another one passing you on the street, parking next to you at the Waffle House parking lot, or stealing attention away from you at the Fiat Concours. And yes, they have those. But there's two hurdles to overcome before that can happen; there's the aforementioned issue with getting it into the States (you Canadians and the rest of you living outside of the land of the free and the home of the Atlanta Braves should just sit on your hands for that part) and then there's the issue of cost, as to make this Ritmo your bitch, you'll have to come up with $5,500 American. Now, non-Abarth Stradas - if you can find one not being used by crackers for target practice- will go for about 100% less than that, but this is a rare car everywhere else, and here in the States it's like the last sane cell in Mel Gibson's body, the only one of its kind. And while usually urging anyone to buy a Fiat Ritmo is tantamount to suggesting Gibson perform your baby's bris milôh, that Abarth scorpion acts like meth to a car addict, and in this case we'll just have to make an exception. But what about that price, is $5,500 exceptional enough to make you want to start practicing the Ritmo method? Or, for that much, is this a Strada that should be passato?
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