Auto VisieApril 12 1997

by Jeroen Jongeneel

When the first pictures of the car which was to be christened 'Barchetta' came in, expectations were high. And without implying that the serie-Fiat with that name would be a dull little boat, one can't deny the 131 bhp two-seater a certain degree of modesty. The 'Tipo' Stola Dedica delivers exactly twice as much power as the standard Barchetta and is a whole lot more expressive.

We were allowed to make a few circuits of the Assen track. Quite a unique experience as the Stola Dedica (displayed in AutoVisie's 'Dream Garage') is only one built to date. Although on the identification tags, which are placed on the dashboard and even under the bonnet, optimistically report that this mintgreen thing is the first of a series of 999 cars, but it will require some weird goings-on before any start to roll off the production line in Turin. The Stola Dedica is a concept, the technical basis of which was dreamt up by Stola and a few other outsiders (Maggiora figuring amongst them). But under pressure of Fiat marketeers, the result didn't have the agressive and highly het up appearance some people were quietly hoping to get. Too wild and too expensive also means too low sales.

After sometime Stola couldn't resist, he took a barchetta and gave it his own interpretation. Not alone, but with help of the 71 year old, pensioned from Pininfarina, Aldo Brovarone. Apparently still young of mind he created the more striking skin of the Dedica. The Stola Dedica didn't keep much of the sheetmetal of the barchetta. Actually only the doors, front and rear lights and the bonnet can be identified. And that last item is hammered and shaped in an impressive way. The wings weren't left undisturbed either. They stick out some 5 centimeters on both sides and house sturdy 8.5J x 17 inch big Tecnomagnesio wheels. Fitted with Goodyear Eagles sized 245/35 VR 17 tyres. Right next to the low windscreen, the original rearview mirrors stick out, heavily chromed. Front and rear bumpers are made using a new 'plastic spray cast' process. They are more sturdy than the originals, making the twoseater look more heavy. And of course the inside has been modified. Much chrome, sporty pedals, a steering wheel with a flat bottom and a slim gearknob accents the cars overall design. Everything on the Stola Dedica breaths the racetrack-spirit. From the agressive nose, through the (again chromed) fire extinguisher to the 'bump' just behind the driver on the lid of the small luggage compartiment. Moreover the finish is such that the onlooker hardly thinks of a prototype. The lacquer is brilliant, the shapedwings look flawless and the bodyparts fit seamlessly together.

The Stola Dedica, also called by it's creator 'Barchetta Speciale', has frontwheel drive, like the car that was it's example and guideline. But instead of the 131 bhp that drive the front wheels of the 'regular' Fiat barchetta, the Dedica has twice as much power. Thus exit the 1747 cm³ 16valve engine. A well known engine has taken it's place. Due to a lack of centimeters Stola couldn't opt for the new five cylinder twolitre (turbo-) engine with four valves per cylinder that is currently used in various Fiats. So the old four cylinder 16v engine with turbocompressor and a displacement of 1995&bnsp;cm³ had to be stowed in. The normally 190 bhp delivering four cylinder had undergone special treatment, where not only lighter pistons and different camshafts were fitted, but also the total motormanagement had been subject to a closer examination. The maximum pressure of the Garrett T3 turbo has been boosted from 1.0 bar to 1.2 bar. Altogether this results in a maximum power of 2 x 131 = 262 bhp at 6500 rpm and a torque of more than 300 Nm (there is no exact value). The weight of the car was stripped by 40 kg from the interior, giving the Dedica a weight of 1020 kg. Stola emphasizes that the whole structure of the original barchetta has been left intact, giving it the same safetyness. Although there is no airbag in the small Momo steeringwheel of course... And the (claimed) topspeed of 270 km/h is something different from the almost measly 200 that Fiat notes for the production barchetta. And, for good meassure, the acceleration of the Dedica is gigantic. The creation speeds to 100 km/h in 5.8 seconds according to Alfredo Stola, nibbling 3 seconds off the original time.

Brave! That's the thought one has when climbing behind the small wheel of the Stola Dedica for one or more rounds on the Assen track. It's cold, but after ignition you instantly get hot because of the four cylinder turbo engine. The powersource rolls quietly and supple, no irregular idling, no rattle or rasp. Relaxing, the driver looks to his instruments. Three clocks, two big ones and a smaller one in between grin back. To the right another two dials (turbopressure and oilpressure/oiltemperature) nod politely to the chauffeur. But the centrally placed tachometer right in front of your hooter is the most important. It has a red area from the figure 7 to the figure 9, corresponding with 7000 to 9000 rpm. We have to keep an eye on that. Carefully the throttle is applied. First gear is engaged with a short dry click and the party begins. The clutch is not heavy and the throttle goes smoothly, we are on the roll. When switching into second gear, one might think that the party is over. With a hard hissing sound the turbo waste-gate lets us know that built up compressor pressure is finito. This is the heart of the 'Dedica experience'. Every time one changes gears or lifts the throttle, something happens under the bonnet that resembles the spitting of an Iceland geyser. One that had years to build up it's super pressure. "Done on purpose", I mumble to myself. Everyone along the track will be made aware of the slightest cowardness. Will he lift the throttle before the corner? Or has he a spine and a belly full of guts. The Stola Dedica will let the audience know without any form of pity.

We start carefully. The Dedica steers heavy and has a far more direct gearing (only 1.6 turns lock-to-lock) than a regular barchetta. Besides it's not a car to make quick turns. The big wheels are restricted in their movement within the narrow wings, so a 180° turn means a three or four point turn. After warming up, the fivespeed gearbox shifts smoothly. In the first round, we don't get beyond third gear, but graduately courage grows and the Stola gets a fiesty boot of the throttle — only to immediately react with a wrestle of the steeringwheel. As standard, there is a visco-coupling in the gear drive, to get the high power as clean as possible on the road. But this demands that you keep your fists tightly on the steeringwheel. Driving reactions in the steering? Well, you bet, with 262 bhp on the frontwheels — they are there! Whoever's afraid of that, should stick with their average middle class car. Understeer? It's there too, but oooh, you'll have to wait a longtime for it and you have to be going very fast before the nose of the Dedica goes to the outside of the corner. But we have space. The tracks braking traps and ditchs look far away. On the fast rear part of the track, with a few slight right-left-right curves next to each other, one goes full throttle. The beefed up barchetta rushes forward, but keeps the Goodyears firmly on the ground. Hooooo, the tempting looking, but tight left turn, towards the chicane is already coming up fast. Those who edge of the throttle at high speed, can expect a big surprise. Especially when the rear right wheel accidentally takes a bit of grass. But the Stola Dedica (and it's driver) get through it unhurt. Fiercely braking for the aforementioned chicane and on the throttle in the corner. The turbo hesitates a fraction of a second, but blows from 3500 rpm to higher grounds. On the straight we can breath again.

In the well know list of names of designers and coachbuilders, the name of 'Stola' is seldom seen. The company has been established since 1919 and is controlled by the 36 year old vice-president Alfredo Stola, cousin of the president. Yet Stola isn't a 'small' company by all means. Some thousand people work at the company and besides working on ready-made concept cars (like the 'Dedica'), they also research and develop various instruments, such as welding systems for industrial use. There is only one area the company isn't involved with: car design. Stola thinks one should be totally neutral, as following a certain style will lessen the chance of getting assignments from many different makes. Besides deliverance of technical know-how, the company do complete projects for third parties. Production of many well known showcars has been done at Stola, although no examples were given. Rumour has that both the Mercedes F200 and the beautiful Alfa Romeo Nuvola were built in the halls of the Rivoli based company. Apart from Fiat, Saab, BMW, Ford and Porsche are rumoured to be Stola's costumers. Alfredo Stola says the Japanese use Stola's services regularly aswell.

Driving the Stoda Dedica is an experience. At least when you are sober enough to keep track of your own limits. Because it's oh so easy to cock up with the Italian spider. Of course the under carriage has been adapted in many ways. Special gas-filled shock absorbers, a slightly lower coachwork and much wider tyres are just a few examples of the precautionary measures taken. By doing so, the behaviour of the car is better in long and short corners, but he who over estimates himself and spurs the Dedica a bit too enthusiasticly, will be in for a few surprises. The Stola Dedica goes like lightning, but the speed margins are small, so before you know it you've not only damaged the Dedica's nose but your pride as well. Which would be a shame as the Dedica is priceless. It's a unique prototype, which it will probably stay. It's a finger exercise of the Stola Group, by which the concern goes out of it's anonymity. And that's striking. Because 'anonymity' to the outside world is just what Alfredo Stola cherish. On a exhibition (except for the Turin show) one would not find their marquees. Low profile, confidential, secretly, staying in the background, their all qualifications that fit Stola perfectly. The word 'limelight' is hard to find in his vocabulary. That's why the Dedica is unique. It's not just a nice variation on a well known theme, an impressive tearaway which keeps good company.