∙Very rare 2.4-litre hot hatch ∙Prodrive chassis upgrades ∙Factory leather interior ∙Recently MOT’d and ready to enjoy
The are certain go-to models in the hot hatch oeuvre which will always be popular; in the early- to mid-2000s, we’re talking about such cars as the Renaultsport Clio, the MINI Cooper S, the Ford Focus ST – icons that sold in big numbers, fully representing the age-old hot hatch ideal of eager performance and playful handling with handy everyday practicality.
But what if you’re after something a little different from the usual mainstream choices? Something seldom seen on the street, with strong sporting credentials; something recognisable yet at the same time obscure? What you’ll be wanting, we’d suggest, is a Fiat Stilo Schumacher.
Some of you will be scratching your heads at this point, and that’s perfectly understandable – only 200 of these limited-run models were supplied to the UK market, so it’s perfectly possible that you mightn’t ever have seen one. The basic formula was to take the sturdy underpinnings of the cooking Stilo hatchback and apply a little stardust thanks to the use of multiple F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher’s name. The upgrades were comprehensive, with the three-door receiving a hot 2.4-litre 5-cylinder engine which was tuned by Abarth to provide 170bhp, along with a distinctive bodykit, alloy pedals, Schumacher logos, and a numbered plaque on the dash. Furthermore, what sixty canny buyers did was to level-up to GP spec, as with the car we have here: handing an extra £2,600 to the Fiat dealer saw them sending the Stilo Schumacher down to respected motorsport outfit Prodrive, whereupon the car was festooned with 18” OZ Superturismo multi-spoke alloys, Bilstein dampers, Eibach springs, and a stainless steel rear silencer with twin pipes. It’s got all the hot hatch ingredients, plus that desirable quality of rarity and obscurity.
We can see from the history file that this is a car which has been enthusiast-maintained; it may have covered a few miles, but it’s always been treated to the things it needs. Indeed, with 140k on the clock it’s clearly been a faithful and enjoyable companion to its former keepers. The current owner is keen to point out just how much fun it is to drive. So why sell? Well, quite simply that he’s a collector with a large number of cars, and with various projects taking up his time and money this one is now surplus to requirements.
There’s a decent sheaf of paperwork accompanying this car. As well as all the original manuals, the V5 is present showing that the car was first registered on January 27th 2006. A receipt from February 2021 shows that a new clutch master cylinder has recently been fitted, and there’s a whole host of other receipts which will make interesting reading for the next owner. We can see, for example, that it received a new genuine leather steering wheel in 2018, engine mount and rear brake calipers in 2017, and much more besides. The service book has stamps from 2006-2011; presumably it’s been home-serviced since.
One of the perks of owning a Schumacher is that you get a lovely set of seats – they’re trimmed in tasteful cream leather and have nice chunky bolsters to hold you in the twisties. Aside from a little wear on the driver-side bolster (not unexpected with a car of this age) and a few marks on the rear bench, it’s all tidy and complete.
Fiat fans will make no bones about the quality of interior plastics used by the brand in this era, and there are a few scuffs here and there on the lower portions of the dash, but everything that should be here is in place and as far as we can tell everything is working correctly (the heater is excellent!). Job one would be to peel off the spurious Abarth sticker that someone’s gummed to the steering wheel centre - don’t worry, it’ll only take you a second. There are no warning lights on the dash; you can see a couple illuminated in the photos but that’s only because the ignition’s on without the engine running, which is perfectly normal. On top of the dash is the correct plaque bearing the car’s UK build number – this is no.121. Inside the boot we find the original jack and tools, as well as the factory-fit subwoofer mounted on the left.
All of the right Schumacher GP-specific parts are present and correct here. The car’s ready to jump in and enjoy, although a perfectionist may find themselves drawing up a short to-do list to get everything tip-top. Again, you’ll be wanting to peel those Abarth stickers off, and there’s a few patches of lacquer peel on the paint across the bonnet, bootlid and offside rear quarter, plus a few stone chips to the nose. The roof rails are a little tarnished, there’s a scuff on the edge of the nearside rear wheel arch, and the front bumper has been repainted a little inexpertly with overspray evident on the mesh grilles. There’s also some manner of corrosion beneath the boot badge, and a few scratches to the rear bumper. The correct 18” OZ Superturismo wheels are fitted – they could do with a refurb to get them to their best, but this would be a relatively inexpensive thing to achieve, and they really are desirable and sought-after wheels these days. On the whole it’s a striking and attractive machine, and a little love and elbow grease will get it fulfilling its true potential.
A 2.4-litre 5-pot is an impressively substantial hulk of engine to shoehorn into a hatchback, and its character suits the up-and-at-’em Stilo surprisingly well. It’s a revvy and willing motor which happily fires into life, idles evenly, and pulls as strongly as you’d hope with no troubling noises. The 5-speed gearbox slots cleanly and doesn’t graunch. Crucially, the correct Prodrive bits are evident when we peer underneath the car – we can see that it’s running the proper Bilstein shocks and what we assume are Eibach springs (the markings aren’t visible); the latter are a little corroded, but the car sits well and handles eagerly. The owner reports that the Stilo is a reliable and fun thing to drive, with no evident mechanical issues to worry about.
Sure, you can walk the trodden path. You can play safe and buy a Clio or a MINI and tick the hot hatch box. But surely life is just too short to do what everyone else is doing? There’s a massive appeal to going your own way and doing something offbeat, and this is the perfect car with which to achieve that. It boasts all of the elements you’d desire from a hot hatch – the rorty motor, the motorsport-tweaked handling, the in-your-face aesthetic. But it’s also a car which most people will be completely stumped by when they see it, with just a few select enthusiasts spotting that you’re evidently a connoisseur of the genre. Any Stilo Schumacher is 1-of-200 – and within that, the ultra-rare GP upgrade makes this one a 1-of-60. It’s an early-2000s hidden gem.
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