FCA Heritage stars at “Automotoretrò 2019”
FCA Heritage – the Group department dedicated to safeguarding and promoting the historic legacy of the Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Abarth brands – exhibits at the 37th edition of “Automotoretrò”, staged at Lingotto Fiere, Turin from 31 January to 3 February together with the tenth edition of “Automotoracing”. This prestige event opens the programme of celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the Abarth brand, which FCA Heritage intends to mark by exhibiting fine classic cars originating from the Scorpion’s partnership with the other Italian brands now belonging to the FCA Group.
Visitors will be able to admire three wonderful cars, built in limited editions or even as one-offs: Alfa Romeo 750 Competizione (1955), Lancia Rally 037 (1982) and Fiat Nuova 500 with Abarth “Record” tuning (1958). Also on show is the Abarth 1000 Monoposto Record Classe G – specially restored for the occasion – in which Karl Abarth himself set the one hundredth record of the brand which bears his name, as a further tribute to this driver and entrepreneur of genius. The array on show at the Turin event is completed by a Pininfarina Spidereuropa which has undergone major restoration and is now offered for sale complete with Authenticity Certification within the “Reloaded by Creators” project. Next to these priceless rarities, the new Abarth 595 and Abarth 124 GT “70th anniversary”, celebrating this important milestone and also confirming the unbreakable bond between the cars of the past and those of the present. The enthusiasm for Abarth is as strong as ever, as demonstrated by the nearly 23,500 cars sold in Europe in 2018, with sales up by 36.5% with respect to 2017.
Seventy years of Abarth
The selection of cars exhibited by FCA Heritage thus celebrates the major Abarth anniversary by telling the thrilling story of the Scorpion’s synergies with the FCA’s other Italian brands: a long series of successful joint projects, which consolidated Abarth’s legendary status as a top name in international motorsports. It all began in the post-war years, when the longing for a fresh start and the increasing availability of industrial technologies found fertile ground for new experimentation in the automotive industry. It was against this backdrop, in 1949, that Karl Abarth founded the racing team that carried his name, with his sign of the zodiac in its logo. A business that focused exclusively on building cars with a racing soul, and later also mechanical components for tuning models built by other constructors. As early as the Fifties, Abarth was already getting to work on Fiat cars, creating the legendary tuned versions capable of breaking every kind of record on the circuits. During the same years, he developed conversion kits for standard production cars for Alfa Romeo, and turned his attention to extreme experimentation, building one-off prototypes. His permanent association with Lancia consolidated in the late Seventies and led to fifteen years of extraordinary racing successes in the world rally and endurance championships.
Fiat Nuova 500 with Abarth “Record” tuning (1958)
In 1957, Karl Abarth decided to boost the image of the Fiat Nuova 500, a small car with performance ratings that were a far cry from those of a racing car. Its tiny two-cylinder engine was considered too small and not powerful enough to achieve worthwhile racing results. Abarth decided to demonstrate the car’s quality by transforming it into a record-breaker. His tuned 500, with an engine producing 26 HP, generating a top speed of 118 km, ran for 168 consecutive hours on the Monza circuit and collected 6 international records. Important achievements like these were crucial in reasserting the success of the Nuova 500, making it one of the most famous cars ever produced.
The car on display – the very one used at Monza – is also the first ever Fiat 500 tuned by Abarth, and has been restored to its original configuration after meticulous restoration work. This car has inestimable history value and is a genuine milestone in the history of the Abarth brand and of motoring itself.
Abarth 1000 Monoposto Record Classe G (1965)
The FIA had introduced new records over very short distances in 1964 and many years after his last race as a driver, at 57 years of age Karl Abarth decided to attempt to break the Class G standing-start quarter-mile record on the Monza circuit.
The temptation to make a personal contribution to the history of the Brand which bears his name by setting the one hundredth record in person was irresistible, so Abarth put himself on a strict diet (it is said he only ate apples) and lost the 30 kg he needed to get into the cockpit and race without weighing down the car too much.
In October 1965, the Abarth 1000 Monoposto Record Classe G, powered by the one-litre twin cam engine, broke the standing start quarter-mile and 500 metre records, beating its powerful rivals BMW and Porsche.
The single-seater which the constructor-driver drove for this feat was derived from the Formula 2 car built the previous year, with improvements to its aerodynamics (front and windscreen) and powerplant: the Classe G had a 982 cc engine, tuned with two Weber 40 carburettors, and two overhead camshafts.
Alfa Romeo 750 Competizione (1955)
The story of the partnership between Karl Abarth and Alfa Romeo for the creation of the 750 Competizione – its code name derives from the name of the Giulietta project – was kept secret for a long time. The project originated with the aim of coming up with a Sport category car based on the Giulietta, to be used by Alfa Romeo to return to racing after its retirement following its 1951 championship victory.
Karl Abarth, who had always admired Alfa Romeo engines, had already supplied the Arese firm with tuning kits for some production cars, and was eager to become involved in the project. He therefore accepted the challenge with enthusiasm, and built a chassis similar to that of the 207/A, while entrusting the bodywork to the style and skilful craftsmanship of Mario Boano.
The car he created had a light alloy twin cam 4-cylinder engine with displacement boosted to 1488 cc and “twin spark”.
Although the car was successfully tested and revealed good dynamic qualities, the project was abandoned because Alfa decided against a return to racing. The 750 Competizione on display is therefore a one-off, with a very different look from the other Alfa Romeo cars of the period.
The partnership between Abarth and Lancia – previously limited to the production of a few aftermarket accessories to boost the engine and suspensions of the Aurelia B20, created by Abarth in the mid Fifties – was consolidated after Fiat acquired the Scorpion brand and Abarth became part of the company’s racing department, at the service of all the Group’s brands. It was thanks to this partnership, reflected by the Abarth SE037 product code, that the Eighties saw the start of the magnificent story of the Lancia Rally.
With its perfect combination of bodywork styled by Pininfarina and mechanicals developed by Abarth, the car was conceived to replace the famous but ageing Fiat 131 Abarth Rally in international rallying. Based on the central cell of the Lancia Beta Montecarlo and equipped with a Fiat 2 litre, 16 valve twin cam engine, the 037 street-legal version (the car displayed is one of the 200 made to obtain Group B type approval) produced 205 HP. It had a top speed in excess of 220 km/h and went from 0 to 100 km/h in less than seven seconds.
The racing version debuted at the Costa Smeralda Rally in April in 1982 and competed officially in the 1983 season, dominating the world championship from the very first race (the Monte Carlo Rally won by Walter Röhrl). That year, in spite of the fierce competition from the new four-wheel drive Audi Quattro, the Lancia Rally Gr. B won the World, European and Italian Championships driven by the then twenty-five-year-old Miki Biasion.
Pininfarina Spidereuropa (1982)
The 124 Sport Spider was one of the longest-lived of the Fiat cars built in the last century. Styled by Pininfarina in 1966, it enjoyed a dual career of unflagging success in Europe and America until 1985. Twenty years in which the curvy, compact Spider, was modified in response to the mechanical upgrading of various Fiat models, remaining in production for the States alone from 1975 onwards. In 1982, its ceaseless success and demand from the European market led Pininfarina to reintroduce the car on this side of the Atlantic. It was appropriately reworked and called the “Spidereuropa” to distinguish it from the version for the US market.
The Pininfarina Spidereuropa was equipped with a two-litre four-cylinder engine which developed 105 HP and was equipped with injection and electronic ignition. Being particularly light (it weighed just over 1000 kilograms), the agile two-seater spider easily exceeded a top speed of 180 km/h.
The body, mechanics and interiors of the car on show were carefully restored. Certified by the FCA Heritage team of experts, it is being put up for sale as part of the “Reloaded by Creators” programme.