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Roadster wars: the Fiat 124 Spider returns

19 November, 2015

Almost 50 years since the original was introduced, an Italian-classic favourite makes a welcome return — albeit in thoroughly modern form. Yes, the Fiat 124 Spider is back! 
Designed at Centro Stile in Turin, Italy, the new 124 Spider takes its inspiration from the 1966 original — including the distinctive twin bonnet ‘power-domes’ from the second-generation Spider – but, under the skin, you’ll find Fiat’s 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo engine. With 104kW being fed to the rear wheels via a quick-shifting six-speed manual transmission, the new car should be able to match the sheer on-road brio of the classic 124 Spider.

Inside, the new 124 Spider’s cockpit is a pleasing mix of classic ingredients and modern materials and ergonomics — not to mention the fact that it’s packed with bags of Italian style!
It has a lightweight body structure, which is achieved through the use of aluminium and high-tensile steel, and a strong backbone frame comprised of robust, straight beams, underpins the overall structure, while a front subframe and rear cross members connect the backbone to the front and rear sections to provide a structure that is light, safe, and extremely rigid. Allied to that, the new Spider’s suspension — a double-wishbone front and multi-link rear arrangement — has us expecting that the new Fiat will provide excellent handling.

Fiat New Zealand are hoping that the all-new Fiat 124 Spider will make its local debut in late 2016 — and we can’t wait to get our hands on one for a test drive.

Taipan – surpassing interest

“It’s merely a passing interest,” insists Selby — despite owning three variants of the classic VW Beetle, including an unusual VW van that was sold as a body kit for a Subaru. In his defence he points to a 1961 Ford Thunderbird, a car that he converted to right-hand drive. However, on the VW side of the ledger, since he opened Allison Autos in Whanganui 27 years ago, Selby has built 15 VW-powered Formula First cars, followed by a beach buggy, restored a derelict Karmann Ghia, and hot-rodded a common or garden Beetle into something that has to be seen to be believed. As speed is not something generally associated with classic VWs, though, Selby is still waiting for this particular modification to catch on amongst the hot rod faithful.

Travelling companion

It’s easy to see why the Morris Minor Traveller was one of the best-loved variants of the Morris Minor. Introduced in 1953, it was equipped with the same independent torsion bar front suspension, drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering as its saloon sibling but, with their foldable rear seat increasing versatility, many Travellers were used as trade vehicles, says Derek Goddard. Derek and Gail Goddard, the owners of this superbly restored example, have run Morris Minors since before they were married in 1974.
“Our honeymoon vehicle was a blue Morris Minor van — it was a rust bucket,” says Derek.