If you have a 30-year-old and rather rare Italian supermini that's not really worth any money, a crash leaves you with two options. I went with the more expensive one. That was the right thing to do.
Last time you heard about our officially awesome long-term test car, things were looking very bright.
After having some minor issues abroad and a pretty fun summer, the car became almost bulletproof. It started every time, I could drive it with all the confidence in the world and the only thing I had to worry about during autumn was the upcoming winter and its effect on my Autobianchi's rust-free body.
Fortunately, winter was mild with no snow whatsoever, so as far as oxidization went, we were out of the danger zone. Then came 16th February, a Sunday on which I went to the suburbs to my girlfriend's parents to consume one too many french fries. It was one of those days.
Crashing your car is justifiable if you do it while pushing it hard and having some fun. Unfortunately, I can't say that I orloved my ride. In fact, I crashed it in the stupidest possible way, and it was entirely my fault.
Looking to the left first instead of the right while doing 10 mph just before an intersection can result in hitting a Toyota Yaris and rotating it by about 90 degrees in an unwanted direction. Chances are slim, but I managed.
Believe it or not, the current Yaris is 793 pounds heavier than a 1985 Autobianchi A112, meaning that while my car's damage might look minor in the picture, my mood got much worse once we looked into it.
While the engine or the suspension did not sustain any damage, the whole front of the car moved a bit to the left while my front right fender and headlamp, the bonnet, the bumper with the indicator, the grill and all the plastic framing were goners, shattered to tiny pieces.
I was worried about the plastics. Finding parts for a brand that ceased to exist in 1989 can be problematic. When it came to the metalwork, the guys at Alfarium were scratching their heads because while everything seemed to be savable, the labor costs would have gone off the roof that way.
So, instead of bankrupting me, they scrolled through their contact lists, picked up the phone and got me a complete front for $357 with the headlamp, plastics, bonnet, bumper and everything we needed. It was time to cut some steel.
The engine had to come out first of course. No big deal.
Fast-forward a few weeks, and my car was getting very close to hitting the streets again with new control arms installed and a fresh paint job on its front. Let me tell you, polishing the old paint to make it look even left PINK DUST EVERYWHERE.
This whole experience cost me around $1,563 with some serious discounts involved.
As painful as that was, I started to spend more almost immediately. You see, I mainly bought this car because it was an original in very good condition. With a big chunk of that factory welding and paint now gone out of the window, I was liberated to go further and make it a bit faster.
That meant replacing the super soft stock parts with custom shock absorbers tuned for road/race use, and putting aside the steelies for a set of 13 inch Speedline Abarths wrapped in 175/50 rubber. Thanks to additional spacers, I got a track increase of about 3 inches.
Still 48 horsepower, but it can corner now while remaining just as useable as the stock setup. I entered it into a classic hillclimb straight away, because the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
I had to have trust. She was doing fine before I, the imbecile, crashed her. She was taken apart. Put back together. Filled up with petrol. We went to the store to get some milk, and everything has worked.
Next stop? 120 miles to the east, known to be rally land, my hometown. 4,000 rpm for long hours, then up the mountain on race day and more revolutions per minute from that old 964 cc engine.
Everything was perfect. She was flying.
For insurance reasons, the race itself was not about speed but rather setting consistent times. Which meant I went flat out all the time because that's the most consistent thing I could think of. There was no need for stopwatches on my side.
I never revved the A112 up to the redline before. It's no Abarth yet, and I usually behave myself on the street.
It was quite an experience. Above 6,000, the engine develops a whole new kind of induction noise. I guess that's when that single Weber reaches its flow rate, but it sounds fantastic.
I didn't win anything. I wasn't the most consistent, nor the fastest, although I was the second fastest in my class (cars under 1,000 cc).
The lemon award went to these poor kids, who fortunately climbed out in one piece after hitting a stone fence and rolling their Trabant to complete annihilation. Handbrake turns can be a menace...
And yes, the A112 took us back to Budapest. In fact, she is standing in front of my flat right now, looking at me every morning with the same expression, asking for some action. Summer is here, we will get some for sure.
What better way to finish this update than giving you some photos from that hillclimb? An event where some went further than wearing their cars on their tees and where the organizers managed to make me believe they drive a diesel. Oh no, not by a long shot...
Photo credit: Peter Orosz and Máté Petrány/Jalopnik