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 for their 25th Anniversary,’ Thomas tells us. ‘I’d met Tony Castle-Miller, the owner, in 2004 and we’d briefly kept in contact over the years.
‘I asked him at the anniversary event whether there were any Fiat 500s or 600s for sale, and he showed me a sad little burgundy Fiat 500 under a shelter. It was perfect for me and the project I had in mind, so later that year it became mine.’
Before buying it, 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 solution for me,’ he explained.
‘I always say that as long as you keep the brain cells rattling around in between your ears and you keep your fingers working hard, you’ll stay younger.’
With many years of experience as a Fiat mechanic behind him, some at Radbourne Racing (the Abarth importers at the time), Thomas was well-equipped for the transformation of his Fiat into a replica Abarth 695. ‘It was a fully running car when I bought it,’ he says.
‘The bodywork was rectified by Sefton Classics, a great little body shop in North Liverpool, but all the subsequent engine and mechanical work of lowering it, putting the disc brakes on, doing the engine up and whatnot has all been done by me.
‘I was quite lucky, as it came with a bigger Fiat 126 650cc engine in it already, which I’ve tuned up quite a lot. One of the locations I work at is a Lamborghini and Ferrari specialist garage, so I was able to ask the upholsterer there to re-pad the seats of the Abarth for me.
‘My son also helped out a lot; he did all the wiring when I fitted an Abarth-style instrument cluster for me, complete with a tachometer and various other gauges. My friend the upholsterer came to my rescue again and covered the instrument cluster in matching burgundy vinyl, so that looks very good.
‘It’s certainly a car that puts a big grin on my face and a smile on everyone else’s!’