A car inspired by a motorcycle may not be typical, but at SEMA, “typical” is a four-letter word, and the FIAT 500 Abarth Cafe Racer sat proudly amongst the unexpected at this year’s show.
The term “cafe racer” originated in Britain in the 1960s, when riders who wanted little more than an exhilarating, no-frills way to get from Point A to Point B (or from café to café) stripped their bikes to the bare essentials, dropping weight to add speed. This usually meant sacrificing comfort, but the performance payoff was worth it, and soon became a trend on the continent.
Cut to 2012, and the FIAT 500 Abarth proved to be ideal for the bare-bones, speed-oriented feel of a classic cafe racer.
“It was a really great car to modify in this hot rod sort of way,” said exterior designer Nick Malachowski. “We took it down to the very essence of what you need to drive a car.”
Indeed, the audience at SEMA may have been a little surprised to see a FIAT minus most of its typical interior splash, but the Cafe Racer made its own strong impression with simplified bomber-style bucket seats designed to keep a low profile.
That low profile continued outside with the Cafe Racer’s shaved exterior, complete with sleek, polished-aluminum frame and chopped roof.
Of course, every FIAT needs a little Italian flair, which in the Cafe Racer’s case included a cold-air intake fascia, side-draft exhaust, special side graphics and a custom spoiler, although all stayed true to the simple vintage spirit of the project.
“It just captures the imagination, which I think is perfect for the FIAT brand,” said Malachowski. “It’s more than just driving a car – it’s a total experience.”