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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Fiat 124 Spider sweeps France off its feet

Fiat 124 Spider through the French landscapes
  • A journey from Paris to Deauville, along the banks of the Seine, on board a timeless icon: the Fiat 124 Spider.
  • Two special series, two trim levels,  one engine and two transmissions: automatic and manual, both with six speed gear.
  • The new limited edition Fiat 124 Spider Europa led the way.


From the heart of the "ville lumière"  to the tiny pearl of the Côte Fleurie. The two destinations are connected by the "Road of the Impressionists", so-called because it passes through some of the locations that inspired the works of Van Gogh, Renoir, Pissarro and Monet. And this was the route travelled by a group of Fiat 124 Spiders, in a bid to appreciate the pleasure of driving "en plein air" through enchanted scenery and striking locations.
The expedition was made by no less than 15 examples of the vehicle. These Spiders were  launched in 2016, and  introduced the Fiat brand to the segment of open-top vehicles and rear traction. This group  is only a small, but representative sample of the full range which, depending on the market, offers: two trim levels (124 Spider and Lusso), two special series celebrating the great past of the 124 (America and Europa), one engine (1.4 turbo MultiAir 140 HP) and two transmissions (automatic and manual, both with 6-gears).
Theh car that drew the most attention from the public encountered along the French route was indeed the latest addition to the family, the Fiat 124 Spider Europa. Presented at the last Geneva Motor Show, the 124 Spider Europa is a limited edition special series sporting a  range of equipment designed to celebrate the version bearing the same name that Pininfarina exhibited, again at the Geneva Motor Show, some 36 years ago.


From the heart of Paris to La Roche-Guyon, one of the most beautiful towns in France

Watched by the curious eyes of passers-by, the cavalcade of Fiat 124 Spiders departed from the Rond-Point des Champs Elysées Motor Village, the elegant flagship of the French sales network located in the heart of the capital and currently the location of a showroom for the FCA brands, as well as a meeting place for exhibitions and cultural events designed to promote Italian taste in all its forms. The same elegance as that expressed by the Fiat spider, which boasts a beautiful classic perfectly proportioned side, a low centre of gravity, retracted cockpit and the stretched bonnet of a real sports car.
Having escaped from the French metropolis by nipping deftly through the daily traffic, the Fiat 124 Spiders headed towards La Roche-Guyon, one of the most beautiful towns in France, and home to a medieval castle - currently an exclusive resort - which towers over this little oasis, near the Coteaux nature reserve. Here, history and nature have been playmates for centuries, providing the perfect set for a vehicle whose design pays tribute to the past, while projecting it into the here and now. Examples of its vintage appeal include the classic "humps" on the bonnet and the ostentatious horizontal rear lights. Similarly, the upper hexagonal grille was inspired by the form of the front air intakes on the vintage model and recalls the honeycomb structure of the sporty grille on the legendary 124 Spider.


The "Road of the Impressionists": a striking route to be whizzed along with the roof down

The expedition continues along the "Road of the Impressionists" with background music provided by the springtime breeze, which slides over the soft design of the charming vehicle. A highlight of the route is the municipality of Giverny, where Claude Monet's garden and house are located, declared a national monument back in 1976. Here the famous Impressionist painter drew his inspiration for his collection of approximately 250 paintings entitled "The Water Lilies". The breathtaking landscape of this area, fully enjoyed with the roof down, are complete when admired to the sound of music from the perfect sound system inside the car. Everything is controlled by the infotainment system which, depending on the versions, is equipped with a 3.0" display or 7" touchscreen, both with six speakers to ensure an engaging sound experience. Additionally, some of the Fiat 124 Spiders used on this tour feature the premium Bose Hi-Fi system with 9 speakers, including a double speaker set in the headrest of both seats, and a powerful subwoofer to enhance the low frequency sounds.
The journey of the Fiat 124 Spiders continues along the Seine to Les Andelys, before taking the motorway to reach Honfleur, a famous town in Normandy. The route has provided   the Fiat 124 Spiders with a fun series of curves and straight roads, highlighting its grand dynamism,  its rear traction, an extremely well-balanced weight distribution and low centre of gravity. The teams also appreciated the extremely pleasant driving experience and the total control over the vehicle, also thanks to the lightweight, reactive steering wheel, and sophisticated suspension system (quadrilateral at the front and multilink at the rear).
This took the tour to Honfleur, famous for its picturesque marina, characterised by houses with façades covered in slate tiles and captured by the paintbrush of countless artists including Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet and Johan Jongkind, the leaders of the school of Honfleur, the group that helped to develop and consolidate the Impressionist movement. Moreover, the church of St Catherine, with its bell tower built separately from the main building, is the largest wooden church in France. Its roof resembles the upturned hull of a ship, in memory of the vocation for sailing intrinsic to the area. Here, where the hands of time seem to have stopped, the Fiat 124 Spiders were welcomed by the residents, who were particularly enraptured by the charm of the 124 Spider Europa. This is a limited edition special series which features a range of innovative equipment, a celebratory, numbered plaque inside and the 124 logo on the front grille.


The refined, cosmopolitan town of Deauville offers the Fiat 124 Spider a star's welcome

Having departed from the splendid town of Honfleur, the expedition continues towards Deauville, the elegant  beach town of the Côte Fleurie, a favourite with nobles and intellectuals until the second half of the 1800s. The teams were accompanied by the sound of the engine which strikes up loud and mellow from the bonnet: it is the reliable "4-cylinder" 1.4 litre MultiAir turbo, which provides 140 HP and 240 NM of maximum torque, instantly available, at 2,250 rpm/min.
And so, having travelled 235 kilometres and developed a nose and an eye for the scents and sights of this splendid part of France, the Fiat 124 Spiders reach their destination: Deauville. With its exclusive boutiques, its casino frequented by celebrities and the American Film Festival which attracts hordes of cinema buffs from all over Europe every year in early September. The chic French town is located in the département of Calvados, in Lower Normandy and is also famous for the starring role it played in Marcel Proust's novel "In Search of Lost Time".
Here, in the pearl of the Côte Fleurie, in 1913, the famous designer Coco Chanel opened a studio between the Gran Casinò and the most luxurious hotel of the location, Hotel Normandie, where the celebrities of that era would stay. Legend has it that it was precisely here in Deauville, inspired by the sailors at work, that Chanel reinterpreted their clothing, creating sweaters with the same neck. The Fiat 124 Spider also flaunts a style that recalls the glory of days gone by: the shape of the rear mudguards, the top of which flows into the boot gives the back of the car its characteristic swallow-tail silhouette.
The true diva of open-top vehicles, the Fiat 124 Spider was photographed near the beach of the small French town, one of the most beautiful in Normandy, with its multi-coloured sun umbrellas and its famous "Promenade des Planches", a promenade made of boards and covered in cabins dedicated to the stars of American cinema. And it was Deauville that provided the setting back in 1966 for the film "A Man and a Woman" by Claude Lelouch, winner of the Palme d'Or at the 19th edition of the Cannes Film Festival and the year after, an Oscar in the United States as Best Foreign Language Film.
The expedition of the Fiat 124 Spiders comes to an end not far from Deauville, and more precisely at the castle of Breuil, one of the most stunning examples of the architectural heritage offered by the area. Recognised as a monument of historical interest, it stands proudly in the centre of a park of trees which have been there for hundreds of years. Today it hosts one of the most famous distilleries of Calvados, a characteristic local apple brandy. Founded in 1954, today it produces approximately 400,000 bottles, distributed in more than 50 countries. This is the last stop in this trip on French soil on board the charming 124 Spider, with its evolved design that fully embodies the traditional beauty of its 1966 predecessor, without ever betraying its essence.



26 April 2017

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