Every few months we feature owner experiences. It's become something of a tradition to "capture" the experiences of the well-traveled, the adventurous, the passionate. and the inspired. Sometimes the owners find themselves inspired enough to start businesses and, in doing so, inspire other drivers. Sometimes the owners find themselves inspired enough to seek adventures beyond their daily driving experience. This blog entry is meant to pack all of these FIAT life experiences in one tidy holiday package... just for you.
I recently spent some e-time with FIAT500USA regular, Robert Nixon. Robert Nixon (RN). Nixon, among many other things, is a fellow blogger. He and Brian Nixon publish Nixon Motor Sports, a blog they use to share their burning passion for petrol-driven competition.
Team Nixon Motor Sports
RN: I ordered by FIAT 500 Abarth in 2012, and took delivery in September of that year. This is a 2013 model.
CC5C: How are you involved with your local and/or the greater FIAT/ABARTH community?
RN: My main involvement with FIAT is as a moderator on the FIAT500USA forum. I like to attend car shows, local Cars and Coffee events, and try to keep up with the auto industry a little bit.
CC5C: Why FIAT/ABARTH? What is the primary use of your car?
RN: My Abarth is my daily driver, so I’ve been very happy with it for over 59,000 miles so far. I was attracted to the Italian heritage of the company, and figured that I couldn’t afford a new Ferrari or Maserati, so the return of FIAT to the US got my attention! After test driving the regular 500 and the Abarth, I voted with my gas pedal foot and went for the Abarth.
CC5C: How long have you tracked your FIAT/ABARTH? What competitions do you take part in?
RN: With the Abarth I started to autocross in 2013, and it’s been a great way to have fun, meet more car fans, and also learn a lot more about my car in general. Thanks to my job I’ve had to move a few times, so I’ve competed at events sponsored by various Sports Car Club of America and other clubs in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Earlier this year I drove the Abarth on track at a two-day National Auto Sport Association (NASA) event with an instructor, and that was really fun.
Proof Positive Daily Drivers Can Be Fun
CC5C: Wow! So, you actually track your daily driver?! I think that's an important point for people interested in the brand(s) but uncertain about reliability. Can you speak to that?
RN: The beefier stock suspension on the Abarth enables it to hold up fine on a track day. It’s not going to be a NASCAR or Indy car experience, but it is a ton of fun to drive non-competitive track events. Other great car experiences I’ve had in the FIAT are charity events where you can get on track for a short stint just by donating a toy or money to a charity. Not a race or anything, but I’ve enjoyed at least a few laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Darlington, Martinsville, and Virginia International Raceway (VIR) and always had fun doing it for a good cause.
CC5C: And is tracking a daily driver common? Do you see that a lot? Is there anything else you'd like to add to this point?
RN: I’d estimate that tracking your daily driver is common, but that at some point if you really get into track events with SCCA, NASA, or other groups that you’ll want a dedicated track car. To go with all the racing required safety gear (seat, harness, roll cage, etc.) is a big step up from just doing a high performance driver event with just a helmet and regular seat belts.
CC5C: How have you placed? How has your FIAT/ABARTH held up under the intensity of competition?
RN: At the local event level I think the Abarth is competitive in the SCCA H Street class this year, but it’s not seen much at the big national level events. With fewer drivers at local events I’ve won my class for the past three years, but the main thing for me is having fun driving! The Abarth has held up in great condition to a regular diet of autocross, and like any other car if you compete with it you’ll want to have better tires. I’ve got a second set of wheels and tires for autocross events. Other than regular maintenance of oil changes, spark plugs, and checking fluid levels, I replaced the brake pads this year so that I’d have plenty of pad for the track event. Even then, after four years of autocross, the stock brake pads were performing fine, although the fronts were due to be changed, the rear pads had plenty of life left. In other words, the stock Abarth can take whatever you throw at it!
Stickers Add 10hp to Every Abarth
CC5C: The last bit of your answer brings a new question to mind. How much of your ABARTH 500 is still stock?
RN: Most of the car is stock, I’ve only upgraded the brake pads (still using original rotors), wheels and tires, new slightly larger rear bar, and replaced the stock air filter with a K&N. I have some Koni yellow sport shocks to install for next year, and I might also add lowering springs to lower the center of gravity too.
CC5C: And what kinds of reactions have you received/witnessed from drivers of other makes?
RN: I think most other drivers love seeing the Abarth, as well as hearing it! The exhaust is designed with no muffler so it was designed by FIAT to have a nice sound! To me the sound makes me feel like I’m a 16-year-old all over again, even though I’m way past that age!
CC5C: 'Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
RN: There are all kinds of driving opportunities out there, so I recommend checking out the race track websites, and find out what your local car club is doing, whether it’s FIAT, Porsche, BMW, Corvette, Mustang, etc.
All Weather + All Wicked
I want to thank Nixon Motor Sports and Robert Nixon for sharing their FIAT-ABARTH life experience via the CC5C blog. This entry serves as my final e-publication for a while. It's been an honor serving the global FIAT and ABARTH community, in this way, since mid-2013. Be sure to check out the Nixon Motor Sports blog to read their exploits and inspire adventures of your own!