A Squirrel on meth!

Squirrels. They look adorable. It’s fun seeing them chew on things and run around rapidly, looking all over in bewilderment. I like squirrels; and hate them. The sheer destruction they cause to the spaces they occupy — and beyond — makes steam of anger emanate from inside of you. It’s love-hate. It’s bittersweet. 

Been a while but I remember chasing squirrels. It was immense fun and cheerfully exhausting. I was little, and foolish. Imagine doing that now — it’d be painfully exhausting and embarrassing. I’m middle-aged, and still foolish. So I’d do it in a heartbeat!

That’s why it wasn’t a surprise when a friend asked me “How is it?” and I replied “Exciting but painful.” This was a few years ago but I remember the experience very vividly. I’d had the 595 Abarth Competizione for a few weeks. A car of such diminutive proportions and cutesy styling catches people’s eye and curiosity. Its arse-blast wasn’t like anything they’d heard in such a tiny car. 

I used to make excuses — random, stupid ones — just so I could take it out for a spin for no real reason. I simply enjoyed driving it. Every single time. And it enjoyed rupturing my spine. Every single time. 

The guy who brought the car to me had a flourishing food-pouch so I had to completely alter the seating position. The seat-back adjuster was so stupidly placed that reaching it meant either heat-treating my arm or opening the door. I decided to go with the door option as melting my arm for something so trivial seemed a bit excessive. Done and settled, and then — oh bugger. It was chastisement of the bottom — the seats were torture thrones.

But at least this tiny tool of abuse promised to be good fun to drive. Yeah, on that…  

To be fair, it did drive rather pleasantly. I didn’t quite understand the need for the ‘Sport’ button though. It was unnecessary. This thing was always busy, always curious — the entire car was a bloody ‘Sport’ button. 

The 595 employed trick suspension with frequency selective damping, and torque vectoring. While the strut was a nerd’s wet dream, the springs were set very stiff — there was barely any give. It was all about controlling the body movement without compromising on naughtiness. You’d feel your teeth chattering every time you went over even mildly deformed road surfaces. In my case, a couple of implants fell out. 

The lungs of its 1.4-litre engine were force-fed with a turbo to make in excess of 160 horsepower but the stupid AMT transmission was lost in translation. An unforgivable pity. Three pedals and a stick to work — this car deserved a manual gearbox. There was one, just that we didn’t get it in India. What the… 

The best bit of the 595, other than its cute looks, was the way it sounded. The exhaust note defined the personality of the car. If there was such a thing as aural porn, the 595 Abarth would be its custodian in the micro-car segment.

It might have been flawed in more ways than you could forgive it for, but when driving its valves off, it made the face look funny with a massive grin plastered on it. This was one of those cars which was good fun mainly because it was so flawed. It was like a mad squirrel that was high on meth — utterly pointless, but great entertainment!

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