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Black Cat

An 11-second Fiat 124 that'll never ever roll over and put four stiff legs in the air...

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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This article was first published in October 2000.

We all know cats get nine lives. But judging by how many times this defiant Fiat's been let off the hook, maybe our feline friends and Italian cars are two and the same... Born into this world in 1974, this amazing Fiat - named 124 Sport - first nearly met its maker more than ten years ago after it was completely stripped down to a skeleton and left to rot in a factory. Certainly no way to treat a pedigree. It lay motionless for years gathering dust - until, one marvellous afternoon, Adam Pavirani stumbled across her and had to throw in a lifeline.

And on this day, the sun did shine...

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First off, the little sweetie was painted red and powered up with a conventional single carb Fiat four - and, once again, it was able to slink along its long-forgotten streets. But after about a year, its life took yet another significant turn. The entire body was draped in a new coat of blue and its heart was jump-started with the traditional Italian induction set-up - twin Weber carbs. With some more dash now in its step, the Fiat could now play with the fast, most agile young pussies on the block - that is, until tragedy struck once more. A careless driver struck her down in her prime.

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Tears were shed in the Pavirani family, and they couldn't bring themselves to let their faithful old friend go. They just couldn't. So - once again - this 124's soul was plucked from the grasp of the shadows and was granted its wish to walk the earth once more. Although, this time, the Fiat turned into a real black cat. And in more ways than one...

It was 'Dr' Dominic Rigoli who reconstructed the bloodied corpse and gave it a new coat of custom black/red pearl. It's a unique sheen, to say the least. Next came the job of giving the body life. However, this time, Adam didn't want a tame cat; he wanted a Black Panther. And the answer was staring Adam in the face the whole time - a twincam turbo engine as fitted to Dominic's father (Tony Rigoli's) awesome little 850!

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Accordingly, a donor 2-litre Fiat engine was inserted (complete with an O-ringed block and Wiesco 7.5:1 forged pistons) and the heart's valving was then improved markedly. This was achieved with the adoption of a Lancia Delta Integrale 16 valve DOHCer, which was surgically fitted together with custom intake and exhaust manifolds. And to make sure that new heart was going to pound strongly, a Turbonetics T3/T4 pacemaker (run at up to 24 psi) and a Deltagate were also nestled in. The likelihood of serious fevers was then eliminated by a Mick's Metalcraft aluminium radiator and air-to-air intercooler - which was plumbed in on the way to a Toyota Supra throttle body. These new bodily internals breathe through a cute K&N nose.

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Upstairs, the old grey matter was scraped out and replaced with a Microtech MT8 unit, which has full control over the fuel and ignition nerve systems. Blood is pushed from a Bosch Motorsport fuel pump and Mazda RX-7 Series 5 injectors coupled to a Malpassi regulator. And watch out when this Fiat lifts its tail, coz this thing passes its gasses through a full 3-inch mandrel system. There's a single straight-through rear muffler - but no cat...

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That glorious purr is usually all Adam Pavirani hears when he's out cruising, but when he drops the hammer, the beast lets out a shrill scream - and it goes like someone's poured boiling water on its rump... An officially timed 11.8 second pass at 208 km/h (on slicks) is nothing to turn you nose up at. Especially when you consider it couldn't get off the mark properly - coz the current (stock) brakes simply don't provide a strong enough leash when Adam's stalling it up. Furthermore, when it's allowed indoors, this killer cat puts out a frantic 318 horsepower at its back paws. That is, when it's swallowing the whole 24 psi.

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Working towards those hind legs, a manual valve body Fiat 131 Trimatic (with a Mr Gasket shifter) is used in conjunction with a 3500-rpm converter and a locked Fiat 132 differential. The latter is now lunch after an enthusiastic catfight, so a Commodore LSD is currently in the midst of installation.

Of course, because this Fiat goes like the proverbial cut cat, it's also been made to posses equally as much agility. Lift some fur and you'll see a set of adjustable Konis, lowered Jumbo springs and a full Nolathane walkover. And those massive gold Simmons rims don't look too tabby either - oops, I mean, shabby! (Is this story theme sad or what? - Ed)

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We all know the immense amount of pleasure that comes from owning a cat. That's because most of its love comes from deep inside (ahhhh)... In this case, it's due to its full retrim in tan leather - the doors, the seats, everywhere. Complimenting this are gold checker plates on the floor, a Momo steering wheel and gauges for rpm and trans temp. And - believe us - with all the action that goes on at full throttle, it's hard to keep an eye on these. There's no time for a catnap that's for sure! (Aaarrrghh! - Ed)

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And Adam won't be heading to curl up on the sofa either. He'll inject some more power and traction, which - he hopes - will be enough to have it scratching on the door of 10-second quarters. Now that's not pussyfooting around for a street car! Also to come is some more detailing, which will enable it compete at the local shows. There's a few dogs around the place though, so a top cat like this will have to be careful!

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We hope nothing else tragic happens to this poor Fiat. Although, it does always seem to land on its feet...


Tony Rigoli Performance
+61 2 9726 6662

Mick's Metalcraft
+61 2 9755 7137

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