Apologies to both Arthur C. Clarke and George Lucas for the title of this post.
In July of 2010, the FIAT-Lancia Unlimited car club held its annual Fiat FreakOut convention in Asheville, NC. It was going to be the usual collection of old Spiders, X1/9s and Alfas, or so I thought. What I didn't know at the time is that I'd be buying a car that weekend.
FIAT had come back to North America earlier that year to seize an opportunity. The Chrysler Corporation was in serious financial jeopardy, having taken some huge bailouts from the federal government. The company was ripe for the picking and FIAT Global CEO Sergio Marchionne decided the time was right to come back to the continent. They picked up Chrysler's tab and they are now one large company called FIAT Chrysler Automobiles, or FCA for short.
At FIAT FreakOut, the company's new American CEO arrived and brought two European-spec FIAT 500s with her. We all got to see the new car, if only from a distance, but it was enough to wet our appetites.
During the banquet of that event, FIAT USA CEO Laura Soave announced that they were in fact returning to the market. The cars would be assembled in Mexico with engines and parts produced in the US and Canada. We were all very excited, and then she dropped the biggest bombshell of all when she told us we could step outside after the banquet and pre-order the very first 2012 FIAT 500 Sports from their car show experience kiosk.
I followed the mad rush out the door that evening and watched as people stepped up to make a purchase. The first 500 of those cars were going to be special editions, badged as "Prima Edizione" and they would be numbered 1 through 500. They were only being offered to the club members at that point. It seemed like a dream!
As I walked past one of the terminals on their display, a staffer stepped over and asked if I was interested in one. I said I was thinking about it, and then he hooked me when he said "each purchaser can pick the serial number they want, and right now the lowest number we have left is thirteen".
So five minutes and $500 later, I had pre-ordered Prima Edizione #13.