As the club continues to grow. It’s always a real interest from within the club staff when a new member gets added to the group. It’s that excitement to see what Abarth will be added to the rank of some great cars within the series. Not only that, but we also look forward to meeting those behind the wheel.
My guest today joined at the late end of 2019 and since then has went ‘all in’ with everything the club has to offer.
Today, I got the chance to catch up with Eduardo Benito and I found out his passion for Italian cars, his plans for his car and what he is looking forward to most within 2020.
So what made you choose an Abarth?
I've wanted one since the Abarth 500 first came out in 2007, to be honest, but I mostly had to keep my feet on the ground and drive sensible diesel hatchbacks (aka Dad Taxis) whilst the kids were still growing up.
However, time moves on and the youngest has just turned 17 so I was finally able to make my dream happen and bought mine in August. I genuinely think they look as fresh and exciting as when they first launched. They're pretty cheap to buy, on paper at least, but I knew that as soon as I had one then I would be modifying it and that can cost a pretty penny!
Have you always had a link with Italian cars or is this your first?
I've never had an Alfa, though that is on my bucket list - the Spider specifically - but I've had many FIAT's. 4 Punto's, 2 Cinquecento's, a Panda and a 500S - loved them all and found them to be cheap, reliable and just so much fun. One of the Cinquecento's was a Sporting in metallic blue. Hilariously small, I could have taken the driver's seat out, sat in the back and still reached the steering wheel and pedals.
In 1997 I took it to tuning company Van Aaken Developments for a complete upgrade and came back to collect it a week later. The 1.1 54 bhp engine had been treated to a turbo conversion, uprated fuel pump/injectors, blow off valve, lowered springs, anti roll bar and sports exhaust. Now 110 bhp, with a much more aggressive sound and stance, it was utterly addictive to drive. It was timed at 0-60 in 8.1 seconds, which was respectable in '97 and as quick as the Golf Gti in those days.
Needless to say, it surprised many other cars, especially as it weighed only 730kg's so it was very rapid from a standing start. You don't see many around and forget how tiny they are - 8 inches narrower and over a foot shorter than an Abarth 500, so it really was a go kart. Unfortunately, a Peugeot 306 ploughed into it after only 6 brief months of owning it and it was an utter write off - but such good memories.
Since joining the club, I’ve noticed you commute from Harrogate and have already attended a couple of events at the start of this year so fair play for doing so! – Is there anything you’re looking forward to club wise this year in particular?
So much to look forward to! I think I joined just after the 2019 season ended and the first meet I went to was the BTG Performance open day in November last year, so it'll be great to eventually go to a meet that isn't grey and cold! To be honest, the distance isn't an issue as I just love driving it and it means even the "local" meets are a big day out for me. I'm aiming to get to pretty much everything, but we'll see how we go. Some are right on my doorstep - like Newby Hall and Castle Howard - which are both fantastic venues.
I'm hoping, fingers crossed, to be making the Abarth Owners UK trip to the Nurburgring at the end of August and represent the club - but if not, I'll be more than happy to be going to Supercar Fest at Shelsley Walsh. Hats off to everyone involved for organising such a varied and packed season schedule, I know it must be a lot of work.
What plans have you got for your Abarth?
I've done the basics but I have a long list that will take me a couple of years to complete. I'm really happy with the wheels and suspension, now that I have coilovers fitted. I had the standard 16 inch alloys changed from grey to iridescent bronze matt which has a subtle colour change in different lights and angles - not many people do much with these wheels, so it's nice to be a bit different and I'm very pleased with how they turned out. I have some other 17 inch alloys of unknown origin that need a complete refurb, but are not like any others that I've seen - they were a bargain from ebay and date back to 2006 - but I think that'll be for next year along with Brembo's.
I consciously went for the bog standard 595 and the IHI turbo will be more than enough power for me - I'll leave the Garrett's and TD04's to the boys and girls with braver hearts than mine! So far it's had a mild map and Ramair filter, but I've got a Toyosport 200 cell sport cat that needs fitting and (when they're back in stock) I'll be after an MS Racing exhaust. Once that's all in, it'll be off to BTG for a remap. Hopefully that will get me a lot of lovely noises, without being too loud, and it should feel decently quick with the little IHI spinning up eagerly. I'd also like some vinyl detailing - but hard to find an idea I like that's original. That's about it for this now - next year will all be about the interior and the audio and the year after that I'd like to modify the bodywork.
That's the plan, anyway, but I struggle to not buy pretty much anything that's put in front of me so who knows? Lastly, I want to do some videos of the car and start a Youtube channel.
You’ve followed the Abarth slogan of Going All In with the club since joining by purchasing a lot of club merchandise and more, which is brilliant to see. How have you found your short time being with the club so far?
It's absolutely superb and definitely adds so much to my experience of owning an Abarth. I think the move to a paid membership is excellent value - it's easily paid for itself for me already, with discounts at club sponsors and on the club merchandise - and of course other people can still get involved with the club even if they don't want to take the paid membership.
The quality of the merchandise has been such good quality too and I'm looking forward to getting my hoodie. The support from the club has been brilliant - before now, I've not done anything more technical than check my tyre pressures in the past, but with help and advice from club members I put my Ramair filter on and swapped my black front lip for a red one which involves taking the front bumper off. I know this is still pretty basic stuff, but it's really satisfying to me.
I haven't spoken to everyone yet, but those that I've chatted to in person or online have been friendly, interesting and so helpful. The group chat has given me some genuine LOL moments, too. It's just such a positive group, I'm looking forward to meeting everyone eventually.
Can you see yourself getting another model after your current one… or are you planning to keep it long term?
I want to keep it long term as it ticks all the boxes for me. Also, the more I have done to it and the longer I own it, I just love it more. I have had cars before that were pretty luxurious or had lots of technology, but at the end of the day they didn't have a soul and I didn't have that personal connection with the car - they were just reliable transport to me, I didn't even bother to wash them. If I had the money and the space, I would buy a second car - probably an Alfa - but if that never happens I will still be happy.
Tell me an interesting fact about yourself that not many people know.
I'm a pretty open person, but appreciate some people are possibly more sensitive than I am, so I'll just give you the headlines to two completely true experiences I've had and if you want to know more just ask me the next time we're at a meet. I once had a gun held to my head and another time I nearly died due to a botched surgery. Both events just make me appreciate every day since then even more!
A great read I’m sure you’ll agree. If you wish to follow in Eduardo’s footsteps within the club. You can check out the club membership, merchandise and more on our website - www.abarthclubnortheast.com