I knew what I was thinking when I typed it but obviously my brain was working faster than my fingers can type (I sort of had things in balance for a while but either my brain is working faster or my hands are slowing down)...
And I never went to church bar 4 or 5 occasions so the odds of me remembering such things is pretty remote
Abarth may have spent the entirety of its reincarnation tuning Fiats (Grande Punto and the new 500) but they are actually set up as an independent division with an aim towards low volume production rather than simply tuning existing models - far closer to what they were before Fiat shut them down all those years ago.
The tuning of Fiat models is primarily done by Fiat Powertrain Technologies, not Abarth - they just cherry pick which bits of technology they are going to use and then feedback what the problems are to FPT. The work done by Abarth is fabrication and preparation with a significant focus on competition models such as the GP S2000 which has done so well in the international rallies over the last 2 years.
Yes they still have bean counters telling them what they can or cannot do but they are not the slaves to Fiat that seems to have become the general public perception. Fiat do have some influence over their work and sadly there is no escape from that but the upside is that they are being promoted as a manufacturer in their own right. The GP Abarth and 500 Abarth might be the initial stepping stones and will likely keep the Abarth production facilities busy for some time to come but the Abarth sportscar - be it front engined and rear wheel drive or mid-engined - will be their own car not a conversion of another Fiat group model.
The arguments amongst the various Fiat companies at the moment is that Abarth should be supporting their own developments or at least sharing in the cost of the development rather than doing their own thing. Lancia and Alfa Romeo are the ones do the complaining and trying to force Abarth to use the front engined option while Fiat are pushing back saying if Abarth want to go mid-engined then it is their choice. The current governing board are very much in the pocket of Sergio Marchionne who is guiding both Fiat and Alfa Romeo and there it gets all rather complicated politically. Alfa are trying to resist his intervention but ultimately they either follow his lead or lose whatever profits they are making. Luca De Meo, running Abarth, is one of his trump cards. The general trend is away from the ultra conservative, suicidal management that has nearly killed the entire Fiat group in the previous decade but that conservatism still persists desite SM getting rid of the worst offenders. SM has been successful so far having brought Ferrari and Fiat back from the edge and back into black ink at the accountants. Alfa is the current target with Lancia languishing behind but ultimately they too will get the full SM treatment.
78 X1/9 TNB racer (1.4 turbo)
99 600m prototype ***sold***
98 Seicento Sporting Abarth 600m (m for mental - 150bhp in a 750kg road car)
97 Ford Explorer (all round tank and tow car and now 30mpg - figure that one out :D)
00 Ford Explorer (the missus liked mine so much I had to buy her one of her own)