Ransom PowerDork
2/27/17 3:38 p.m.

I've found remarkably little discussion beyond the initial "Will the base 500 tip over?" kerfuffle.

I'd love to know how the Abarth actually is to autocross.

What class are you running? What works, what bugs you, what have you changed? Competitive? How does it compare with other cars you've autocrossed?

I haven't autocrossed a FWD car since my Mk1 GTI 20-something years ago... Since then it's been all 2002 and E30 (and dry, dry stretches of nothing at all...)

KyAllroad UberDork
2/27/17 5:07 p.m.

Factory tires aren't great. I haven't driven it but a couple friend(s) of mine co-drive one locally. G-Street, good power, needs as much of an alignment as you can get. Fairly benign handling, they have fun and the car works as well as their skills allow.

wearymicrobe UltraDork
2/27/17 6:04 p.m.

They need sway bars and springs to be even close to optimal. I have heard of Abarth's on race rubber but not slicks getting up on two wheels at autocross speeds.

Never seen it myself.

Wall-e MegaDork
2/27/17 6:08 p.m.

Paging Jerry to the white courtesy phone. Jerry to the white courtesy phone.

NickD SuperDork
2/28/17 5:29 a.m.

The head of our chapter autocrosses an Abarth when he isn't running a shifter kart. Only change he's made was a set of 16" Dunlop ZII Star Specs. Placed 1st overall a number of events and won the season with it. It was G/Street last year, but it got moved to H/Street this year, so it's PAX got even better. His biggest complaint, besides atrocious reliability, was that it has a large turning radius. But I have never once seen the thing go up on two wheels or even get close to it.

KyAllroad UberDork
2/28/17 7:41 a.m.
wearymicrobe wrote: They need sway bars and springs to be even close to optimal. I have heard of Abarth's on race rubber but not slicks getting up on two wheels at autocross speeds. Never seen it myself.

Springs would bump you out of street class. It's FWD so the usual wisdom is to get a bigger rear bar (you can change one in street).

FiSTs will get bicycly but I haven't seen it out of the Abarths.

Ransom PowerDork
2/28/17 2:39 p.m.

In reply to KyAllroad:

Wait, does FiST refer to the Fiesta ST?

In reply to NickD:

1st overall after PAX, I assume? :) I have to ask about the reliability mention...

NickD SuperDork
2/28/17 3:14 p.m.

In reply to Ransom:

1st overall in PAX, yes. But he also took FTD a couple of times on some of the tight courses. As for reliability: his has had a lot of transmission issues. The shifter is all sorts of screwed up currently (doesn't self-center in neutral) and he keeps getting told by Fiat that it's normal. It gets towed into the dealership once a month because it gets stuck in gear, then he gets told that there is nothing wrong with it and it couldn't be duplicated. Recently it stranded him when it erased both keys from the system (even though it uses physical keys) and he had to shell out $400 for 2 keys (And they only sell keys in sets of 2), plus another $100 in programming (keys are one use, once programmed if they ever drop from the system they are junk, apparently) and another $1500 for a BCM and $500 to have that programmed (determined to be the reason it lost the keys). There have been other issues, but I can't remember them. The dealership parts chain is also horrendous, with everything either being 3-5 days away or a week a way. And, it depreciates faster than he can pay it off, meaning he is stuck with it, or has to take a bath on it. Currently, after it's latest rash of failures and continuing fear of the transmission exploding, he is leaning towards hucking it and taking the loss.

I took it for a few hot laps last season, and I wanted to like it, I really did. First thing, weird seating position, I've sat in trucks with a lower seating position. Clutch is very light, does not feel like the pedal is attached to anything. I botched my first run's launch and left at 2500rpm and it's a doooooog out of boost, and it took until halfway through the course to get into boost. Once the turbo is online it hauled the main though. My big complaint was I had no clue what the car was doing or what it wanted me to do. The steering weights up very weird and it just comes off as floppy and incommunicative. It is important to note that I run a modded-up '90 Miata, so I tend to be more at home in "analog" cars, so maybe it was just me, but I also drove a '15 WRX that day and enjoyed that.

Ransom PowerDork
2/28/17 3:54 p.m.

In reply to NickD:


I'm also much more familiar with more normal/analog/etc cars... I'm kinda hoping to use one as a test mule for figuring out how to swap that engine, but it'd be nice to use it as an autocrosser. Two birds, one stone and all that.

There's so much to figure out that I don't have answers for yet; the '12 WRX and my current '16 Mini both have their throttle response or apparent lag eccentricities; I get the impression that a lot of this isn't intrinsic to the hardware, that more linear and instant throttle response and rapid build of boost are possibly in the realm of software. The Mini, for example, feels laggy unless it's in Sport mode, which feels much more eager. Unfortunately, along with the responsiveness is a throttle map that has a very aggressive initial ramp, then the latter part of throttle travel doesn't do much. I wish I could get that quick response and ready boost without the excessive rate.

Similarly, I'm left to wonder whether the Abarth is doomed to getting caught off-boost, or whether a tune can help with that. The Mini can start pulling pretty firmly from super-low revs, but does goofy things like giving you less if you move the throttle too quickly...

I'm obviously trying to figure out two separate things here:

1: Is it worth figuring out how to liberate that engine

2: Will it be any fun in wrapper it comes in?

It'll obviously be much easier to figure how what bits it needs and how to get around stuff with a working example. Your description of the driving dynamics don't make it sound awesome... I suppose I need to go at least take a test drive in one.

Still, enjoying the input. Thanks, everyone! And where is Jerry?

ProDarwin PowerDork
2/28/17 4:02 p.m.
Ransom wrote: In reply to KyAllroad: Wait, does FiST refer to the Fiesta ST?

Yes. They have been getting up on 2 wheels on street tires.

An Abarth would scare me. They may be perfectly stable, but they don't feel that way to me. A buddy of mine has one. Engine feels like a blast from the passenger seat, but even lowered 2 inches, the seat feels 2+ inches higher than my car.

Ransom PowerDork
2/28/17 4:09 p.m.

I imprinted on a relatively high and upright seating position in the 2002, though I do get the impression that the Abarth is substantially more pronounced. Again, guess I'd better go interact with one...

AClockworkGarage Reader
2/28/17 7:41 p.m.

I've never driven one but I did a ride along in one during a my novice school this year. The seats felt like office chairs and it felt very tippy, even though it didn't have a lot of noticeable body roll. It may have been psychological.

gearheadE30 HalfDork
3/1/17 6:01 a.m.

The seats were supposedly updated in 2014 ish so that you could get a lower seating position and not feel like you were sitting on a milk crate. I drove one of the pre-updated seats ones and it did feel a little tippy. I did like the engine and the way it sounded, but the driving experience was pretty disconnected. Much more so than the 2016 Mini I drove about a month ago.

chaparral Dork
3/1/17 8:16 a.m.

The shift cables last around 30,000 miles, which is the source of all of the shifting issues.

Mine went back to FCA before the lease and warranty ended with a long list of serious problems, including a knackered engine.

NickD SuperDork
3/1/17 8:23 a.m.
gearheadE30 wrote: I did like the engine and the way it sounded, but the driving experience was pretty disconnected.

About how I felt. The exhaust note is a major plus. It is one of the best sounding cars on the market currently. When I kept hearing the press toss around "mini Ferrari" I thought they were overexaggerating. Then I heard my first one driven in anger, and it's all burbles and screams and pops and snaps.

STM317 Dork
3/1/17 8:40 a.m.
NickD wrote: Then I heard my first one driven in anger, and it's all burbles and screams and pops and snaps.

Are you sure that was all exhaust, and not the car crumbling beneath you?

Jerry UltraDork
3/1/17 9:37 a.m.
Wall-e wrote: Paging Jerry to the white courtesy phone. Jerry to the white courtesy phone.

Hello? If I wasn't at work I'd link a photo or two. This will be my 3rd year of half-ass autocross attempts. But full-ass fun has been had!

EDIT: forget the FixItAgainTony jokes, it'll be 3 years exactly on Saturday with this car, about 48k miles. 3 track days, multiple AX's and two trips to the Dragon.

EDIT2: I went with Eibach springs early in, drops it about an inch and looks normal. Which put me in STC, which became STS, then moved to STX, all in the 3 years. Something called a Go Pedal can adjust throttle response and takes care of most of the boost lag issue, the rest can be dealt with with experience. I have photos of being on 3 wheels, never 2. And I don't get the seating position complaints, doesn't bother me a bit.

Ransom PowerDork
3/1/17 11:08 a.m.


I think I'm going to go test drive one this weekend. They virtually all seem to be on lots here, but the upside is that I feel better about taking up their time when I'm still so tentative.

Ransom PowerDork
3/1/17 2:20 p.m.

Wish the Go Pedal folks had more of a "how it works" up... Given that it's between the pedal and ECU, it would seem that it could only remap X pedal position to Y pedal position, but that wouldn't seem to be able to provide any temporal change to responsiveness or boost control... But maybe it's able to do more with what's being communicated.

Jerry UltraDork
3/1/17 7:23 p.m.

Ransom PowerDork
3/1/17 11:09 p.m.

Dang, but that is a fine looking automobile...

Jerry UltraDork
3/2/17 6:47 a.m.

Thank you. Here's a friend passing me at Putnam Park in IN.

ProDarwin PowerDork
3/3/17 9:02 p.m.

I just helped my buddy change the oil on a 500 Turbo. Wow that oil filter location is horrible.

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