ABARTH Fiat Uno Turbo Club of South Africa

Our History

Where it all started, and where we are today.

Every dream starts small, usually with one man’s idea. The story of the Abarth Fiat Uno Turbo Club of South Africa is no different. From a casual conversation one dark night in December 2000, the Abarth club now has branches in three (almost four) provinces, a total official membership of just over a hundred, and an even larger core group of enthusiasts that regularly attend club events.

The Big Idea

In the beginning, there was nothing. Before the Abarth club, the only way for Uno Turbo enthusiasts to meet up was at one of the Cape Town illegal drag racing hotspots. Now not everyone is into drag racing, and hanging around at a petrol station next to the N2 in the middle of the night just to be able to talk about your car is not everyone’s idea of fun.

Enter David Carr and Ian van den Heuvel. Both Uno Turbo owners, they saw the need for an organised way for owners and enthusiasts to interact, socialise and generally just share their passion for this Italian car. David knew some more Uno Turbo guys, and so did Ian. At the first meeting in David’s living room in February 2001 a total of 10 people showed up.

In principle, they decided to form a club and agreed on a name for “the idea”. They chose the name Abarth in honour of Carlo Abarth, the man who made small Fiats fly in the sixties, with the scorpion in the Uno Turbo wheel caps as logo.

In the first year, the club quickly grew and the “Abarth club” became a well-recognised name in the Cape Town area. New members continued to join, immediately realising the benefits of such a club.

Gaining momentum

Not long after founding the club, David got married, sold his car and left the club. This left Ian to keep the ball rolling and continue expanding the club.

In this time, the club’s official logo sporting the distinctive red scorpion was designed. The first T-shirts and stickers, soon followed by caps, mugs and other regalia sporting the club’s logo, helped to grow the club “brand” on the automotive scene in Cape Town. Meetings soon became too big for members’ houses and the club found its first home base at the Killarney Club House.

The club activities started to expand from attending organised racing events at Killarney to social events – breakfast runs, ten-pin bowling, pool challenges, and the like. But in the back of his mind, Ian still dreamt of a national club. The call came from Rudi Balzer (the then owner of RSB Performance in Pretoria) in 2003 to ask Ian to take over the running of the small Uno Drivers club he had been running in Gauteng. But Ian knew he needed a local guy in Gauteng to run the club for him. So for the time being, the idea to expand the Abarth club to Gauteng remained just that.

New blood

Ishmael Jattiem took over the reigns from Ian in 2003. In his two-year stint as Chairman, Ishmael led the club to even greater heights. There were many club events in this period, among them a very successful dyno day in March 2003.

In 2005, Ishmael handed over the leadership to Dennis Hussey to focus on his drag racing activities. Dennis Hussey, a senior executive at Shell, helped cement our relationship with this global oil brand as a sponsor. The Shell club house at the Killarney race track became the club’s new home base.

Meanwhile Ian, still an active member of the club, had not given up on the idea of expanding the club to Gauteng. In mid-2004, Gerrie Engelbrecht contacted Ian by e-mail. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Gauteng, Gerrie and Phakisa

With the right mix of leadership, diplomacy and a healthy dose of passion for the Uno Turbo, Gerrie quickly got things going in Gauteng. The founding meeting of the Gauteng club was held in October 2004 at Jacksons Roadhouse in Randburg. A large group of Uno Turbo owners from all over Gauteng, many of whom had been active on the forum, attended.

Not long after this big breakthrough meeting, the club held its first breakfast run. It was an immense success, with a huge turnout. The Gauteng branch really got into full swing in 2005.

They initiated a phenomenal event – the first of what has now become an annual institution in the club. Uno Turbo owners from all across the country get together for a weekend of Uno Turbo and social activities.

The first Uno Turbo Weekend (UTW) at the Phakisa Freeway in Welkom was a truly memorable occasion. Uno Turbo owners from five provinces joined us in the middle of the Free State for an awesome weekend where we had the entire race track to ourselves, thanks to a major sponsorshop from Fiat SA.

New frontiers

David Venter became chairman of the Cape Town branch in 2006. This dynamic young entrepreneur led the club with fire, enthusiasm and passion, helping to re-ignite the initial passion in the club which had waned somewhat. David offered to take over the hosting of the club’s website and forum, for free. This sponsorship continues to this day, enabling the Cape Town branch to use its funds for club activities rather than running costs. Thank you, David!

Other club highlights of the past couple of years include another successful Uno Turbo Weekend, this time in Gauteng, with members from Gauteng, Cape Town and KwaZulu Natal attending.

Two sisters from Port Elizabeth, Chantelle & Michelle, have started up a new branch of the club in the Eastern Cape, and there’s also a move afoot to start a branch in KwaZulu Natal. Due to continued growth and the sheer geographic size of their membership area, the Gauteng branch has now sub-divided into three regions.

We are all eagerly looking forward to the club’s next milestone – the Uno Turbo Weekend 2007 in Port Elizabeth.