Fiat Abarth 750 Bertone – First of the record-breakers

In our continuing series for Throwback Thursday, this week we roll back to the 1950’s when Karl Abarth brought the world the Fiat Abarth 750 – The first in the line of Abarth record-breakers…

In 1956 Karl Abarth took the plunge and decided to focus on the challenge that was to be central to his worldwide fame: breaking international speed and endurance records.

The record-breakingFiat Abarth 750 was first seen at the Turin Motor Show in April 1956. The aerodynamic design was the work of Franco Scaglione for Bertone. The single-seater was created to stun visitors to the event and above all to set new world speed and endurance records in the H class, open to cars with displacement from 500 to 750 cc.

The car was fitted with the Fiat 600 engine “derived from the Abarth 750”, and many of its components, including the steering and suspensions, were taken from the Fiat 600, although the main aim was to achieve the lightest possible weight. It tipped the scales at just 385 kg. It only had brakes on the front axle and the gearbox had three speeds with a particularly high axle ratio, ideal for holding a constant top speed, at over 190 km/h.

As well as the mechanics and drivers, Karl Abarth and Nuccio Bertone were also present at the record-breaking attempt at the Monza circuit on 17 June 1956.

The first attempt on the 24-hour endurance record was made on the Monza high-speed track on 17 and 18 June 1956: Remo Cattini, Umberto Maglioli, Mario Poltronieri and Alfonso Thiele completed 3,743.642 km at an average speed of 155.985 km/h. It was the first of the 133 international records Abarth was to go on to set.

Since the prominence given to the event did not satisfy Karl Abarth, he decided to organise a second attempt the following week, inviting internationally famous specialist journalists to participate as drivers. The idea proved successful: Belgian Paul Frère, Swiss Walter Honegger, Frenchman Bernard Cahier, Englishman Gordon Wilkins, German Hans Wieselmann and Italian Giovannino Lurani were delighted to take part and proved an excellent means of telling the whole world about the Scorpion Brand’s exploits.

The journalists took turns at the wheel for the first six hours and the loyal Abarth test drivers continued the record attempts for the rest of the three days scheduled. As well as shattering the 500 km, 500 mile, 1,000 km and 48 and 72 hour marks, the incredible Fiat Abarth 750 Bertone, rechristened the “Record”, amazed for its efficiency and low fuel consumption: just 6 litres per 100 km, meaning 16.6 km per litre of petrol at a speed of 150 km/h.

A striking example of the successful approach adopted by Karl Abarth when building his cars: weight reduction, combined with carefully styled aerodynamics, enable even small-displacement cars to turn in record-breaking performances.

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