Name: Thomas Montagu
The classic: Replica Abarth 695
‘I wanted something to occupy me as a retirement project. I always say that as long as you keep the brain cells rattling and you keep your fingers working hard, you’ll stay younger! It’s been a labour of love, and it’s quite popular at car shows too.
‘It makes people share memories of their own classics; kids like to sit inside, and people even take photos of it. It ain’t big, it ain’t fast – but it makes people smile!’
Thomas is the proud owner of a replica Abarth 695, a speedy classic which used to be a 1972 Fiat 500. ‘I bought it in 2012 at Middle Barton Garage after visiting them for their 25th Anniversary “bash”,’ Thomas tells us.
‘I had met Tony Castle-Miller, the owner, in 2004 and we’d kept in contact over the years. I asked him at the anniversary event whether he had any Fiat 500s or 600s for sale, and he showed me a sad little burgundy 500 under a shelter. It was perfect for the project I had in mind, and later in the year it became mine.’
Before buying the car, Thomas had decided that he wanted to ‘retire from retirement,’ as he laughingly put it. ‘I was working a couple of days per week, but I needed another project to focus on, so this seemed like the perfect solution for me,’ he explained.
‘I have always say that as long as you keep the brain cells rattling around in between your ears and your fingers working, you’ll stay younger.’
With many years of experience as a Fiat mechanic, including some at Radbourne Racing (the Abarth agents and importers for the UK at the time), Tom was well-equipped for the transformation of his Fiat into a replica Abarth 695, ‘although it was a fully running car when I bought it,’ he says.
The bodywork was finally rectified by Sefton Classics, a great little body shop in North Liverpool, but all the subsequent mechanical work (lowering the suspension, fitting front disc brakes, and tuning the engine) has been done by Tom.
Tom was very lucky in that the car came with a bigger Fiat 126 650cc engine already fitted, which he has enhanced quite a lot. One of the places that Tom works at is a Lamborghini and Ferrari specialist garage, so he was able to ask the upholsterer there to re-pad the front seats.
‘My son has also helped me out a lot; he was able to sort out all the wiring when I fitted an “Abarth style” instrument cluster complete with tachometer, electronic speedo and various other gauges, and again, the upholsterer came to my rescue and covered the instrument cluster binnacle in matching burgundy vinyl, so that looks very good.’