Autocar has learned that Fiat’s reborn Abarth division has struck a secret deal with Lotus to use the next Elise to underpin its first stand-alone sports car in more than 30 years, sources have revealed.
The project has been planned to hit European streets in 2011 and will give Abarth a light-weight two-seater to give a halo model to its existing Grande Punto- and Cinquecento-based sports models.
Besides having unique styling, it will also differ from the English sports cars by using the Fiat Group’s new-generation of turbo-charged, direct-injection, air-valve four-cylinder engines, which promise high torque, high power and low emissions.
While Fiat executives have been coy on the stand-alone Abarth model, sources insist the project is already deep in development between Hethel’s engineering division and Torino.
Understood to use the highest power output version of Fiat’s revolutionary new air-head engines, the mid-engined, aluminium Abarth flyer will have more than 240 horsepower from its turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder engine. And all in a package weighing around 900kg.
At the recent Cinquecento Abarth launch, Abarth CEO Luca de Meo admitted he dreamed of a stand-alone Abarth but denied there were firm plans to produce one.
“Maybe one day we can develop a model that is just an Abarth for Abarth,” he said. “We might have this one day, but we don’t have the in-house resources to do that today.”
But sources insist Abarth has short-cutted its lack of in-house resources by enlisting Lotus Engineering’s help to short cut the cost, time and complexity of developing a new chassis. It will use an almost-identical version of the Elise’s chassis.
Slightly wider and longer than the existing Elise chassis, the new architecture will arrive in the Elise first in 2010, then in the Abarth less than a year later.
Lotus previously flirted with the idea of using the Elise’s chassis to underpin another bespoke sportscar, the Pininfarina Enjoy, but no partner could be found to bring it to market.