It’s more than a little amusing to us that among the four Bburago Fiat 500s that arrived here for review, two were Abarths. Because nobody here can actually agree on how to pronounce “Bburago”. Or “Abarth”.
That doesn’t matter. What really counts is that the funny, double-B name is appearing yet again on low-buck, high-giggle model cars that deliver the shape, stance, and feel of the real thing, for collectors of all ages.
Those real things – the nuova Fiat 500s – offer Italian styling and good value for everyone from entry-level city car consumers to lovers of tweaky little terrors. Quirky, a little odd, and cute as hell, the modern take on the classic 500 of yore features a four-pot “Multiair” engine. Available in standard trim with 101-horsepower, bumped up to a turbo’d 135 horses, or maxed out beneath the hood of the tuner-special Abarth in rev-happy, 160 horse, 170 lb/ft form, the stout little made-in-America mill offers up everything from high-mileage thrift to highly refined thrust. That last iteration turns the small-bore 4 into a riotous runt with a snarling exhaust note. A lowered stance, aggressive wheels and graphics, and added body tweaks convert the friendly-faced 500 into a bad boy pocket rocket that tops a deep, well-planned lineup.
Maisto-owned Bburago has delivered a good cross-section, here, as well. Culled from a broad selection, the four 1:24 cars that arrived for review are all part of the “Italian Design” collection, but the two Abarths seem to be their own subseries, arriving in sleeves marked “Abarth”, whilst the 500C Cabriolet, and a model of the base 500 – called the “Pop” here in the states – ride inside boxes with “Star Collezione” banners. The models inside are all done with decent paint (with a bit of orange peel on the “Pop”) that had been baked onto castings featuring opening doors and hoods, riding above fairly well scaled and executed variations of the Cinquecento wheel and tire combos we’ve seen in Fiat catalogs and web sites. Tamped-on badging and trim was sharp, and the cars looked to be at more or less the correct ride height, give or take an eyelash.
Given the models’ budget price and humble design, precision is not a strong suit. Collectors with somewhat optimistic expectations for the paltry outlay these require will find the wheels a bit wobbly, and though the castings do a great job of replicating the cars’ little humpty-dumpty profiles well (and pull off the more aggressive countenance of the Abarth to a note), the panel gaps are fairly big. The paint, which is smooth, is also thick. That makes the cast-in lines around the bumpers, aero cladding, and molded-shut rear hatch a little clumpy and rounded. The gaps around the plastic bits used for everything from the projector headlights to the rear hatch glazing aren’t consistent, either. And the panels that do open do so on sturdy, play-ready dog leg hinges. That’s especially notable on the hood, where twin stalks rise out of the nicely-detailed and deco’d relief casting used to replicate the 500’s engine. Back in the positives: those fool-you “plate” castings are different for the standard vs. Abarth engines, and the up-market, alley-ooped turbo’d I-4s are decorated with authentic red and silver highlights. Both types lead to a relatively well-rounded chassis, with a chromed/silvered exhaust.
Inexpensive? Yes. Cheap? Well, not really. In fact, for the money these fellows ask – usually less than twenty bucks – the little cars are charming to a high degree. Having recently driven a full-zoot Abarth (and yes, we’re still grinning like idiots), we can state that the moderately detailed interiors are fairly accurate; the trims and schemes on all the models resemble closely the cabins we’ve seen in countless reviews of the reborn classic since its introduction a couple of years ago. And, as is often the case, Bburago’s models are global offerings. As such, these blur the line between the cars seen on these shores and those rolling around the rest of the world. Exhibit A: The “Esseesse” badge on the back of the white Abarth. That’s the “SuperSport” designation the little screamers get on their home turf. We wouldn’t be surprised if those across-the-pond badges become a highly-sought accessory for full-scale stateside Abarth pilots, much in the same way “Fairlady” and “Skyline” scripts add a note of depth to Japanese tuners on US streets.
We also wouldn’t be surprised to see these models appearing on desktops, shelves, and kids’ collections. Bburago’s been around for decades, and they’re arguably responsible for the wholesale success of inexpensive, attractively done larger-scale diecast throughout the world. That history hasn’t helped anyone who’s trying to vocalize the company’s name for the first time. But it has become synonymous with cheap, cheerful model cars. All you need to say is, “fun”.