Rather than through anecdotes or in the form of a monograph, the story of Abarth would best be told by dashing at 200km/h on a track, where the passion for engines, speed and racing grows spontaneously until it becomes so strong it cannot be concealed.
All the History channel images come from the book "Abarth, the man, the machines" by Luciano Greggio, copyright 2002, Giorgio Nada Editore.
The history of Karl Abarth is a string of successes both in competition and in design. Since he started playing with household tools as a child, the most important thing for Abarth was the world of engines: a passion combined with a talent and taste for truly prodigious innovation.
A passion for engines, speed and competition.
Karl Abarth was born in Vienna on 15 November 1908. He had a serene infancy in easy circumstances and he was fascinated by the mechanisms of the widest variety of items.
Karl enjoyed inventing new uses for the tools he found at home and began to focus on the subjects that enabled him to give free rein to his inventiveness. He was very sporty and soon developed a strong, muscular build.
Immediately consumed by bike riding, the young genius began to race in Viennese club competitions, routing his opponents mostly thanks to his sprinting ability.
His first racing bike was a Bastide, a French model that the boy disassembled and put back together effortlessly, and that enabled him to claim his first victories.
At sixteen, after school, he spent all his spare time in high-precision machining; a short time later, he approached the Degan workshop, that manufactured Veritable motorcycle chassis. getting his first taste of the world of i.c. engined vehicles.
The champion Josef Opawsky introduced him as his trusted personal mechanic at the motorcycle manufacturer for which he raced, the Viennese Motor Thun Before turning twenty, he designed and constructed his first motorcycle.
His first victories, his first accident, and the discovery of the side-car.
In April 1928, when the Motor Thun racing team offered twenty-year old Karl an opportunity to run in a race, the Austrian Motorcycle Grand Prix. Unbelievably, Abarth set the fastest lap time. and did even better and set the best lap time for the second time in a row.
This double success with two different motorbikes fuelled the envy of the official drivers and, on the racing day, Karl was stopped by a mechanical failure, of a dubious nature, Wounded in his pride, young Abarth left the Thun stable.
After his break with Motor Thun he was forced to buy a second-hand British Grindlay-Peerless powered by a 250 cc engine. Karl took it down piece by piece, reduced the weight of the various parts and balanced them, getting astounding performances.
His first win in Saltsburg, on 29 July 1928 was a resounding success with a privately owned motorbike and without the assistance of a team of mechanics and tuners.
In 1929, barely twenty years of age, Abarth was hired first by James, a British company, and then by the German DKW.
In 1929, he assembled 'his own' motorcycle, branded Abarth: incredibly light, it had a 250 cc, single-cylinder two-stroke engine, water cooled by two radiators.
The young champion, entered each and every racing event, and very successfully, until the tragic accident of 4 May 1930: during a race in Linz, on the Vienna-Innsbruck road, he was badly injured, suffering from multiple knee fractures and lesions of the meniscus, plus a peremptory injunction not to resume his racing activities.
After the motorbike accident of 1930, Abarth went back to the old Degan workshop and started devoting all his energies to the development of mechanical parts.
During the long hours spent in the workshop he tested out a special muffler and an innovative exhaust system, which, twenty years later, would mark the beginning of a successful career as a manufacturer and an entrepreneur.
But the demon of speed was still alive in him and little by little he became interested in that incredible vehicle that would have enabled him to race without putting too much pressure on his wounded leg: the sidecar.
With the discovery of the side-car, in 1932 Karl decided to return to the track: his popularity was destined to grow, especially thanks to his legendary challenge against the Orient Express in 1934.
His innate talent in dismantling his bike piece by piece, his riding skill and the potential public interest in the event spurred him on to cover the distance faster than the fastest form of locomotion then in existence.
After three seasons of side-car racing with victory after victory, in 1938 Karl Abarth, resident in Vienna, suddenly found himself living under the domination of the third Reich.
During the Second World War, Karl became an Italian citizen and fled to Yugoslavia, trying to avoid territories at risk. But it was in trying to avoid the repercussions of the war that Carlo Abarth had an accident that was to cost him his competitive career and launch him on his future career as an entrepreneur. His first experience was in a little Turin workshop, Cisitalia (Consorzio Industriale Sportivo Italia): a period that for many reasons acted as training for the talented youngster.
Abarth between Italy and Yugoslavia.
Thanks to his father's nationality, Karl became an Italian citizen and began to compete for the Italian tricolour with the name of Carlo Abarth.
During the same year, while running at breakneck speed in a race near Ljubljana, Carlo lost control of his car, careened ruinously off course and remained between life and death for days. This terrifying experience marked his definitive break with the racing fields, persuading him to reconcile himself with the workshop and the engineering field.
31-year old Carlo decided to settle in Yugoslavia. Equipped with his great engine expertise, Abarth tried his luck near Ljubljana and found a job as technical manager of the mechanical shop of Ignaz Vok gaining the affection of the locals and found room for investments and projects.
In 1945 Abarth left Yugoslavia, packed his belongings and set out for Trieste, whence he was hoping to reach Merano. For the third time, at 37 years of age, the genius of engine design was back at the starting line.
First steps towards his future as an entrepreneur.
In 1946 Carlo, then resident in Merano, wrote a letter to professor Ferdinand Porsche, and obtained a written authorisation to 'represent the interests of the Ferdinand Porsche company in Italy'. Abarth immediately developed a project for Porsche and contacted champion Tazio Nuvolari, also anxious to resume racing. Nuvolari in his turn contacted Piero Dusio, who was the financial backer and president of the Juventus soccer club, fond of cars and the main supporter of Cisitalia (Consorzio Industriale Sportivo Italia), a small Turin-based factory that had already produced the celebrated 'D46', derived from the 1100 Fiat.
Having taken a look at the Porsche projects developed by Abarth, Dusio signed a contract for the purchase of different patents, appointed Carlo sports director and entrusted Rudy Hruska , an old friend of Carlo and a former Porsche engineer, with the ambitious project of developing a new revolutionary single-seater.
Cisitalia models were extremely successful: the 'D46' was soon flanked by the 'CMM' and the Spider. The performances of Cisitalia cars exceeded all expectations and their fame reached new heights with the debut of the '202' coupe, crafted by Pinin Farina, sought by the greatest champions, coveted by Hollywood stars of all standings.
In Turin, Carlo was totally absorbed by his tasks at Cisitalia and frequent visits to the drawing rooms of the city, but he could find the time to study ways to enhance the power of the 'D46' and modify the famous 'Spyder Nuvolari'.
In spite of the success of the company, the experience with Cisitalia did not last long. To avoid ending up back at square one, in the winter of 1949 Abarth contacted Guido Scagliarini, a driver who had made a name for himself with the '204', and suggested that they create a small company of their own.
In 1949, the adventure of Abarth & C. grew out of a previous disappointment, the financial collapse of the promising Cisitalia. And yet, that experience of bankruptcy that Abarth lived through as an employee, helped to reveal a new side to Abarth's personality: his great aptitude as an entrepreneur and for the industrial world.
From the company's founding to the first fuel kits.
On 31 March 1949, Carlo Abarth and Guido Scagliarini signed the deed of incorporation of a limited liability company called Abarth & C. On 17 June of the same year, a branch of the company was established in Turin. The symbol they chose to identify the company was the scorpion, Carlo's zodiac sign and an icon that would soon become very popular.
The mission statement of Abarth & C. stated: 'the production of cars and complementary aggregates for sport and racing cars, as well as changes and improvements to sports and racing cars, servicing, manufacture of mass-production tools, agency services and the sale of fuels for race cars'. This range of activities, so ambitious for the time, did not remain on paper.
The new branch in Turin soon began to grow and by the end of 1949 it provided work for 32 . The first initiative undertaken was to take full advantage of their experience with Cisitalia: as severance pay from the company Carlo obtained a 'D46' single-seater, two '204' spiders and two cars still in the making.
Their next step consisted of creating a team of drivers, from the legendary Tazio Nuvolari to Bonetto, Cortese, Duberti and many others and at the sixteenth edition of the Mille Miglia, Abarth & C. lined up four cars, one of which, driven by Scagliarini himself, took second place in its class and fifth place overall.
In its first year of activity, the company obtained many victories: the Abarth team finished first overall in the Italian Championship for Formula 2 and Sports car.
Carlo, at the head of the newly-founded Abarth & C., began to explore the possibility of setting up fuel kits for production cars, designed to improve vehicle performances in terms of top speed and acceleration. Their first attempts was a water pump and a steering-wheel mounted gearlever for the Fiat 500.
At the end of 1949 this was the start of a sector that would give the company world-wide renown and would promote Carlo Abarth to the Olympus of car engines: through handicraft methods at first and then expanding to an industrial scale, they made headway in the market with a modification kit for the gearbox control of the 'Topolino'.
The success of Abarth mufflers.
Carlo Abarth had the brightest idea in his career, the exhaust silencer. A question he had already addressed in 1929, when he had used special exhaust systems ensuring better overall performances. He began by producing a few prototypes, all of them having a central structure equipped with lateral passages in glass wool, then in 1949 he designed a system that could be applied to the exhaust system of any car. The successful results were an improvement in performances, but also a change in engine noise, which was smoother, more agreeable!
The Abarth mufflers became a must not only because of their technical quality but also thanks to a well-orchestrated advertising campaign. Thousands of motorists were persuaded to remove the standard silencer from their car and fit an Abarth muffler.
Later on, to improve car performances even further, for each vehicle model he developed a specific type of muffler. In spite of a high sales price, Abarth was able to create a considerable flow of requests both from motorists and from several car factories, including Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati. From Italy, this boom propagated fast to the international market and soon began to have a major impact on the profit side of the balance sheet the company.
Records and new challenges.
In the space of a few years, the company's finances were positively influenced by the boom in sales of Abarth mufflers, and by the association 'Abarth and victory', as the Abarth racing team reaped stunning wins week after week.
The activity of the racing team became a gigantic means of promotion for the company's industrial production. The range of modification kits grew when the versatile world of spare part retailers began to distribute the dual carburetor intake manifolds and the exhaust manifolds. All this was backed up by an incessant stream of advertising messages boasting a 10% increase in power and an increase in top speed of ca 10 km/h, as well as improved pickup and engine responsiveness.
In 1950, Carlo Abarth began to configure other ambitious goals. He wanted to consolidate the positions acquired during the previous racing seasons and to flank the development of standard kits with the design of special units for racing cars.
The day of the great consecration arrived on 28 March at the Inter-European Cup, at the Monza circuit, where Guido Scagliari took first place with the small Abarth '204 A' sedan in the sports class up to 1100cc.
On 10 April of the same year, Tazio Nuvolari claimed the last thrilling victory in his career at the wheel of the '204 A' spider, in the Palermo-Monte Pellegrino uphill race.
The last competition won by Nuvolari in April 1050 closed a cycle, the era of the great aces of the past. But the display case of Abarth & C. kept filling up with new trophies, and fresh victories were achieved by Franco Cortese, who claimed success on 9 June in the Caracalla-Rome night race.
Still in 1950, fresh victories were achieved by Manlio Duberti, Emilio Romano and Luigi Valenzano. In the course of this brilliant racing season Carlo Abarth talked in an interview about the dream of participating in Formula 2 races, stating that 'the Formula 2 is the best compromise between Formula 1 supercars and Formula 3 cars with too little horsepower'. The same article also described a project by Abarth for a groundbreaking V8 engine, ready to enter the field in 2 litre single-seater racing. This project remained unfinished.
At that year's edition of the Geneva Motor Show, Fiat displayed its first post-war model, the '1400', a medium-sized sedan, with strong American connotations.
At the Turin International Motor Show of 1950 a Lancia model took the limelight: the 'Aurelia', a sedan powered by a 1750 cc V6 engine. Alfa Romeo displayed the prototype of a 4-door sedan and Abarth presented the definitive version of the '204 A'.
The Abarth sign made its first appearance on a stand and 1950 closed with the first exports of Abarth mufflers, and with the 2% of total turnover.
For Abarth, the 1950s saw a constant stream of victories, achievements and new records. In this decade both the company and workforce expanded, and sales of fuel kits hit record levels. A continuous period of growth, and the expansion of the Abarth brand around the world, with exports making up 10% of the company's annual turnover. But Carlo Abarth, by now almost fifty, never rested on his laurels: even in the years after 1955, when his company began quite literally to enter its "legendary stage", he threw himself body and soul into his job.
From the first Abarth road car to new futuristic models.
In the early months of 1951, it was evident that the commitment and the success of Abarth in racing was the real springboard for the extraordinary results achieved in terms of promotion of the brand name. Yet, in 1950 profit level was not sufficient to ensure the capital needed to sustain the racing team during the coming year.
In 1951 Carlo Abarth concentrated his efforts on the most profitable sector, the industrial production of mufflers and other mechanical components and the presentation of a coupe, strictly derived from the '204 A'.
The car made its official debut on 5 April 1951, at the inauguration of the 33rd Turin Motor Show, with the name '205 A' (in the picture). The '205 A' , Abarth's first road car, was met with wide critical acclaim and became very popular winning five of the styling competitions for cars that were so much the fashion at the time.
In 1952 Abarth took a major step: he started working on the design and construction of a chassis for the Fiat 1400; he conceived a metal frame that could withstand the propulsion of a 1500 cc engine. At the same time, he asked the Bertone body builder to prepare a suitable body, bold and futuristic, embodying state-of-the-art knowledge of aerodynamic penetration. Its most visionary designer, Franco Scaglione crafted in record time a masterpiece of creativity.
The two-seater coupe that made its debut at the 1952 Turin Motor Show made a stir on account of its low, streamlined shape. This stylistic vision was going to have a great influence on the U.S. automotive market. Carlo realised that that splendid coupe characterised by a black scorpion on a yellow/red background could be an exceptional advertising tool for his cars in an enormous market for many European automotive manufacturers.
While Carlo Abarth's relations with major automotive manufacturers kept growing, he began to re-establish links with a number of Fiat managers. The Turin based company decided to revamp its entire model line-up and, at the 1953 Geneva Show, Fiat displayed a replacement model for the historical Fiat 1100. Carlo Abarth realised that the new model could be a valuable opportunity to set a milestone in the history of Italian motoring. He began to work and modified the engine; he decided to entrust the design of the body to Ghia, another glorious name in the milieu of the great Turin designers. After the show success, the car ended up in New York, where many people viewed it as a status symbol and an object of marvel and desire.
Successes on the track and new competition models.
Though they had been working for two years on the production of mechanical accessories and the design or production cars, Abarth & C. had not severed its connections with the world of racing, major competitions and new technical trends.
In 1953, Abarth engineers created an extra-light body consisting of removable panels, for a Ferrari 'barchetta'. The design of the car appeared futuristic, because of the modular conception of the various aluminium panels. With this car model, the Guastalla racing team was ready to take to the track to win the Italian championship for this vehicle class.
1953 was yet another year of enormous growth for Abarth & C., Muffler production totaled more than 45 thousand units, confirming Carlo's hunch that mufflers could prove a valid tool to improve the company accounts and invest in special research and testing programs.
In the early months of 1954 Abarth devoted much time to studying the Alfa Romeo '1900 Super' sedan with 2 litre engine to create a top-performing derivative embodying drastic changes to the chassis. The Abarth-Alfa kindled great interest on account of the stylistic solutions introduced and its incredible performance ratings, whereby it could easily speed at over 200km/h.
1954 also marked the beginning of Abarth's collaboration with Lancia. He set out to modify the 2-litre V6 engine of the 'Aurelia B20'. Carlo Abarth was now focusing on exceeding the limits and the Aurelia became one of the most formidable contestants in road and rally races.
The multi-faceted industrial activities of Abarth & C. led Carlo to expand his production and storage facilities and he purchased a new plant.
At the end of 1954, Abarth presented a stunningly crafted racing spider, for which he sought the collaboration of Mario Felice Boano, who had begun his career in Turin with Pinin Farina and Ghia, on prototypes commissioned by the Chrysler Corporation.
These two men of extraordinary talent began to develop the project of the '207 A'. When the extra light-weight Boano body was applied to the Abarth chassis, this car, with an engine size of only 1100cc and a total weight of but 554 kg, revealed its outstanding qualities, running at a top speed of 186km/h.
The '207 A' was unveiled at the Turin Motor Show as a prototype for a small run of cars. It was announced that the car was going be disclosed at the New York Motor Show. One thing they did not mention was Abarth's intention to derive, from the same Fiat 1100 engine, two more intrepid models.
The '207 A' sold for 2.9 million Lire, while the race version carried a much heftier price tag, of 4.6 million. To these truly timeless models we can easily trace the Ford 'Thunderbird', the Chevrolet 'Corvette', the Buick 'Century' and even the Cadillac 'Eldorado'. The '207 A' will be remembered as one of the most elegant racing spiders ever created in Italy in the period immediately following the post-war years.
To everybody's surprise, at the Turin Motor Show IN 1955, visitors witnessed the official debut of a triplet of cars at the Abarth stand: the '207 A' spider racing model (on the left - hand side, in the picture), the '208 A' two-seater spider with a body derived from the former model and the same mechanical parts, and the '209 A' compact sedan featuring a huge panoramic windscreen, with a vertical pillar, and a small-sized, luminous ceiling ending in a big wraparound backlight.
1955-1958: this was perhaps the period in which Abarth reached its maximum popularity. After his success in competition and in the design of racing cars, Abarth turned his attentions to the general public, and came up with the first designs for small cars, which we would today car sub-compact cars. Examples were the 750 GT and the legendary 500 Abarth, for which the phrase was coined that has become part of everyday speech: 'small but wicked'.
The legendary 750 GT, from Turin to America.
1955 marked a turnaround for Abarth & C. After dedicating three years to developing racing cars, Carlo Abarth had a real stroke of genius, converting the brand new Fiat 600 into a small, affordable sports car. Its name earned it a well-deserved place in the half of fame of Scorpion-branded products: the 750 GT.
The vehicle soon became a sort of status symbol for motoring buffs and the upper class, effectively embodying the idea of 'sports car'. Successes and records soon rolled in.
On 17 June 1956 and the next day, during the endurance test on the Monza Track, the 750 Abarth clocked up an incredible result for a 'modest' 750-cc engine covered an amazing 3,743,642 km at an average speed of almost 156 km/h. A real triumph, but this was only the beginning. Once again at Monza, on the terrible raised tracks, during three exhausting days in June 1956, the 750 collected a string of records on the various distances: 5000 km, 5000 miles 10,000 km, 48 and 72 hours. This marked the birth of a legend.
The acme of success was achieved at the 24th edition of the Mille Miglia, on 11 and 12 May 1957. The figures speak for themselves: in the Gran Turismo category 750 cc class, Abarth entered 20 vehicles of which 16 crossed the finishing line in Brescia, including obviously the class winner driven by Alfonso Thiele.
The 750 Abarth was by now famous around the world, reaching even the United States, so much so that in the autumn of 1958, Franklyn Delano Rooseveldt Jr. , son of the legendary American president, rushed to Italy to sign an exclusive agreement for distribution of the car in America.
The 500 Abarth and Fiat's wager
In 1957 one of the myths of the Turin-based company, the new 500 made its debut; a super-compact derived from a project by Dante Giacosa that gave maximum priority to simple construction and low production costs., but a leap forward in quality was achieved with the production in 1958 of the Fiat Abarth '500'.
A magnificent blend of performance and easy handling in the now habitual style of the 'transformations' made by Carlo Abarth. It had a standard body but, as in the case of the 750, it featured revised, refined mechanical solutions, obtaining a substantial increase in power. As was to be expected, the result was excellent, as confirmed by the victories scored by the 500 Abarth at rallies all over the world.
However, Abarth's new creation came out in great style once again at the lucky Monza track. Decorated on the front end with a large central badge dominated by the Scorpion, the Fiat Abarth 500 took front stage for a full week - from 13 to 20 February 1958 - with a real tour de force that unmistakably revealed its extraordinary strength and agility. The small Fiat with a strictly standard body completed an epoch-making marathon, covering a distance of 18,186.440 km during seven days and seven nights at an average speed of 108,252 km/h.
Faced with this extraordinary demonstration of the efficiency of the engine, the Fiat Managers who had flocked to Monza couldn't believe their eyes: suddenly the 500 appeared in a completely new, surprising light.
In the following months, the small, great protagonist of those days was exhibited all over Europe at Fiat Show-rooms to confirm that even a popular, affordable car can deliver top-class sporting performance.
Fiat decided to become more directly involved and Abarth was received in Corso Marconi by Professor Vittorio Valletta in person. Fiat proposed a contract to Abarth according to which for each record or victory achieved all over the world by a Fiat Abarth vehicle, Fiat would pay a more or less conspicuous cash prize according to the importance of the competition. The only condition of the agreement was that the contract was to take into account only winning positions. Obviously, for a born winner such as Carlo Abarth, this was no problem.
This was a golden decade for the Scorpion: the Sixties. A happy period, marked by more victories and records than ever before, in which 'Abarth' became a byword in everyday language for performance, modifications, upgrading and winning spirit. These were the years of the expressions 'What's this? A hare? No, an Abarth rabbit' or 'Make me a coffee with a dash of something strong, an Abarth coffee', and so on.
From the 850 Abarth to the Simca, from Corso Marche to international competition.
1958, an important year for Abarth both in terms of victories and growing prestige and fame, ended with a major logistic change, with relocation of the plants to the new HQ in Corso Marche 38 in Turin.
An address that was to become a piece of history because it was here that the Abarth legend was built: models that were to dominate the world of racing, sportscar racing and even worm their way into the collective imaginary, were to roll out from Corso Marche.
Sporting, competition, challenges and victories are again, today as then, on the first pages of the Abarth primer.
The Scorpion has returned, clinching the Italian Drivers title at the Sanremo rally, with Giandomenico Basso and Mitia Dotta in a Grande Punto Abarth.
However the real boom was to arrive, not long after. In 1961, the Fiat Abarth 850 was presented, the car that was to consecrate the brand on the industrial scene and in advertising, triggering what can only described as a real social phenomenon.
The new vehicle scored its first success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in June 1961.
In the same year, Abarth also won many other races including the elite 500 Km of the Nurbrurging where the Scorpion scorched home to take the first three places in the Turismo category and the first two in the Gran Turismo class: a feat that made an enormous impression, so much so that the model of the 850 TC 'Turismo Competizione' (Racing Tourism) was dubbed 'Nurburging'.
During 1961, the Abarth brand crossed the finishing line in front of all its competitors (in many cases, other Abarth vehicles) in 122 races.
In the years after 1961, the frenetic pace of victories continued unabated, while production of new Abarth upgraded vehicles was enhanced with high prestige partnerships with other international brands such as Simca.
One of the offshoots of this partnership was the Simca 1000, presented amongst general admiration at the Paris Motor Show and which remained in production until 1978, and the Simca 1300, also featuring the by now well-consolidated technique of the 'twin-shaft' 1000cc.
But it is on the track that Abarth continued to build its legend. The cars of the Scorpion didn't just win: they literally outclassed their adversaries, unleashing a power beyond the reach of any other competitor. Bialbero, followed by Walt Hansgen in a twin car, by Moss and then by another two Abarth drivers, Alfonso Thiele and Mauro Bianchi. Four cars in the first five positions.
Electrified by this triumph, Abarth turned up the next day for the start of the 12 Hours, carrying off a clamorous victory in the up to 1150cc Sports category with Alfonso Thiele and Jean Guichet at the wheel of the extraordinary twin shaft.
In the end, it seemed that Abarth was the only competitor in many races. The 12th Circuit of the Garda, also in 1962, following withdrawal of the only rival car, the victory was fought out by only Abarth cars.
A family challenge in which Carlo Abarth recommended that his drivers should demonstrate calm and sportsmanship, inviting them to fight for victory only in the last laps. However, competitive spirit was to prevail: after setting off, all the drivers let loose, crashing into each other's doors and smashing the cars. Abarth threatened to withdraw all the racing cars, subsequently surrendering to the enthusiasm of admiring the unchallenged superiority of his creatures'.
Full-steam ahead, towards ambitious new milestones.
Abarth continued to look forward, constantly on the lookout for new challenges. 1964 saw the launch of the 595 SS , a new version of the Fiat 500, creating a sensation in sporting circles for the maximum power delivered by the engine (32 bhp at 5000 rpm), and the launch of new versions of 850, including in particular the Fiat Abarth 1600 OT, 'Omologata Turismo'. This was basically a racing car dressed up as a production model, and was called 'the monster' in virtue of its exceptionally aggressive mechanical characteristics.
The victories, meanwhile, just kept coming.1964 was lived from Sunday to Sunday, with the Fiat Abarth 1000 always in the lead in the Turing class categories up to 1300 cc, and the Abarth Simca 1300 GT in the 1300cc Grand Touring category: 741 victories, most of them claimed by the Fiat Abarth, by the Abarth Simca, by prototypes and single-seaters.
By now Abarth was a legend round the world. The cars from Turin were famous, from Europe to the United States, from Latin-America to Asia and Africa: the unmistakable sound of the Abarth racing cars was associated with a devastating power that could overwhelm any adversary.
Countless victories, difficult relations with private drivers and adversaries, and Carlo's return to the track.
The second half of the Sixties was a period of economic and social turbulence, but Scorpion continued unperturbed in its single-minded mission: to win, leaving a void in its wake. Despite the increasingly stiff competition put up by other prestigious brands by the end of 1965 the number of victories for the year totalled almost 900.
This assiduous sporting activity created the gradual defection of private drivers due above all to the cost of the cars and the high cost of preparation, tuning and maintenance imposed by a packed race calendar. Just look at the list price of the Fiat Abarth 850 TC Corsa, which in May 1965 stood at 1,525,000 lire, but six months later had increased to 2,340,000 lire following the decision by the company to apply to production models the same changes and technical improvements introduced on the official team cars. This decision was intended to counter the numerous complaints from private owners who felt they were discriminated against in races, compared to official Company drivers, but the effect was also to alienate many participants.
In 1965, perhaps also due to a burst of pride, Carlo Abarth returned to the track. At the age of 57 he came to the Monza circuit to break the acceleration record on the one-quarter mile and the 500 meters behind the wheel of a class G single-seater car.
He had to shed nearly 30 kg to be able to get into the driver's seat. The next day he broke the acceleration record with a class E single-seater car. He was not even subdued by an accident that could have had severe consequences. Abarth came out with a few scratches on his face but the episode says a lot about his undying daredevil nature.
The final phase of the 1960s was still a happy time for the Scorpion brand. The victories came one after another, as usual, in spite of the frequent attempts of the competition organisers and international automobile associations to hamper a Company that by then had become so triumphant as to make its adversaries look ridiculous.
By late 1967 it had 800 wins.
The cars that brought Abarth to the highest step of the podium were models like the 1000 berlina, the Fiat 1300 OT, the Fiat 1000 SP, the Fiat 2000 Sport Spider. They were driven by car racers such as Ab Goedemans (who unfortunately died during a competition), Johannes Ortner, Toine Hezemans, Jonathan Williams (on a Fiat Abarth 1000SP, in the picture) and the young promising Arturo Merzario.
The victorious cars of the period included the Fiat Abarth 1000 saloon driver by Gustav Dieter Edelhof, who won the Touring category up to 1000 cc on 3 September 1967 at the Nurburgring 500 km-race, in Germany.
In 1967, from the SE04 project for the tubular-chassis '1000 SP barchetta', came the Fiat Abarth 2000 Sport Spider: it had a 4-cylinder engine overhanging the rear-train with - for the first time - 4 valve distribution per cylinder (240 bhp at 7800 rpm). On the outside, the large wraparound windscreen was discarded to enable the car to take part in Group 7 races, i.e. races for two-seater racing cars.
In 1969, it was necessary to produce 25 models to be eligible for homologation for Group 4; in the end, a total of more than were produced.
Abarth had by now become an everyday name, and the company's image was a perfect reflection of the personality of Carlo Abarth. Unfortunately, even though the trophies and patents continued to fill the company's trophy cabinets, money began to run short. An 'Abarth-style' company management, which was interested less in profit than it was in achieving success, especially in such an expensive sector as racing and running a team, led Abarth to decide to merger completely with Fiat, with whom he would create his last, historic cars.
A record of success and technical achievements, investment and costs.
In 1970 Abarth & C. could count on an enormous amount of experience and technical conquests by obtaining five World Manufacturing Championships and nearly 5000 victories. However these extraordinary results were detracted from by the company's management situation and its deployment of men and means was of such a magnitude that no other manufacture in the world could have sustained at such an incessant pace: sports, rising overheads, more rigorous safety standards and anti-pollution laws in the United States all contributed to the sizing down its industrial and commercial activity.
But the Scorpion adventure continued well into the 1970s during which the preferred hunting ground became that of rallies. In August of 1971 Abarth was owned by Fiat for all intents and purposes. And it is precisely the Turin manufacturer that invented the single-brand trophies, urging its sports customers and young drivers by the hundreds to take to the roads of the rallies.
Abarth's last cars
Initially, the irrefutable leading player of these competitions was Autobianchi A112 Abarth, which soon became one of the new legends that bore the Scorpion trademark - a veritable queen in its category that would be produced up to 1986. The little car enjoyed a new generation of success, both with the young, and as a second car for more demanding motorists.
In 1979 a new, fully-synchronised 5-speed gearbox, together with a few changes to the interior brought the A 112 Abarth to the market at a price of 5,717,000 lire. In total, 117,531 units of the 70 HP version were produced.
Just as important as the A112 Abarth was the Fiat 124 Abarth Rally, which garnered victories, such as the European championship and second places in the world championships of 1973, '74 and '75. The Portugal 1974 Rally went down in history with three 124 Abarth Rally models which took the first three places!
In 1976 it was the turn of Fiat 131 Rally which won first place at the Elba Island Rally and 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland. An excellent prelude to the two subsequent seasons that would see Fiat assert itself in the Constructors' World Cup ahead of Ford. The 131 Rally would later leave the scene in 1980, with a victory at the Portugal Rally and three world Constructor titles in its showcase.
These were the last triumphs that Carlo Abarth could enjoy. A born winner, accustomed to keeping up with everything and everyone, he had to give up on October 23 1979 when he was overcome by a severe illness. He died under the sign of Scorpion, the same he was born under.
The production of Abarth cars continued throughout the following years, including significant models such as the Fiat Ritmo 125 TC, or the Formula Fiat Abarth (in the picture) training car.
The death of the founder marked the end of an era. However, the legend of Scorpion continued.
The Abarth legend, which lives in the heart of the most passionate motorists, today sees a new chapter written in its history. The Scorpion has returned to the stage with a revitalised logo, new cars and brand-new kits. The Abarth soul remains unchanged and, as per tradition, the future looks good.
A glorious past which lives on, a captivating passion yesterday as today: this was the concept behind the Fiat project to relaunch the Abarth brand. The faithful re-visitation of an entire world of emotions, victories, style, symbols that made the Scorpion brand a real legend, a legend that continues to this day among automobile enthusiasts. The restyling started with the absolute respect for a past which we cannot ignore but choose to project into the future.
The Abarth brand represented a lifestyle, an attitude that connotes all the meanings of the very concept of sports: it was valid in the 1960s, it is still valid today, and it will continue to be valid tomorrow.
An entire new world was about to be born around Abarth, based on the values of innovation in the design, the use of state-of-the-art materials, focus on details and a genuine passion for motor racing including the human and technological assets and professional pride of the thousands of people, technicians, labourers and managers who gave their best throughout their years at the factories, offices and on the circuit itself - and many of whom are today involved in the relaunch project.
The partnership of the Abarth brand with Fiat strongly demonstrated how an industrial collaboration can become a success story, creating a style based on determination, the will to overcome any sort of obstacle and achieve ambitious goals. All of those Fiat cars that were small but, thanks to Abarth, spunky, dynamic and quick off the mark were the concrete demonstration of that style. They were real 'scorpions', who could pique the passion of thousands of motorists with the taste for challenge, speed and style.
Today, that spirit is ready to relive in the new Abarth & C., a company completely re-founded, with it main office in Chivasso (Turin), that intends to re-create the glories of this legendary brand by bringing it into today's reality, and making it ready to take on the challenges of an automotive world that has changed completely. A true rebirth that starts with the return in grand style of the Abarth activities at its historical location at Corso Marche.
A winning logo should not change. At most, it should be modernised. The core element of the Abarth logo, the legendary scorpion, is an essential part of a inestimable legacy, a wealth of victories and passions upon which one of the largest cult phenomena of modern motor racing was born.
Carlo Abarth was born on November 15 under the sign of Scorpio. His temperament really seemed to delineate the typical personality of this zodiac sign. Reserved, determined and stubborn; but also with an immeasurable strength of will, to gradually build a success so immense as to become legendary.
The scorpion is an animal with a poisonous sting which strikes fear in you. If you see one, it is better to stay away from its lethal stinger. There is no better symbol for a leading company in car preparation: besides being 'bad', the scorpion is also small. Abarth's love for things that were 'small but bad' is easily proven by cars such as the 750GT or the Fiat 500 Abarth.
The restyling of the Abarth logo has created a logo that appears more modern and aggressive while fully respecting its original identity.
The scorpion has been stylised and made more aggressive; the broken lines used to compose it allude to a more technological and design-oriented world than the previous one, a faster world.
In the background of the shield is still the yellow and red motif, but the lettering of the name 'Abarth' has become more evolved and immediately comprehensible. In addition, right below the word Abarth there is the Italian flag, which proclaims its Italian character.