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The History Of Abarth

The Abarth Logo

Over 10,000 individual race victories, 10 world records and 133 international titles are part of the rich racing heritage behind the acclaimed Abarth marque. In fact, success in competition has always been one of the cornerstones of the Abarth story, and it is no less important now than when Karl Abarth founded 'Abarth & C' over 65 years ago in 1949. Abarth & C. S.p.A. is a racing car and road car maker founded by Carlo Abarth (Karl Albert Abarth) in 1949. The logo is a shield with a stylized scorpion on a red and yellow background with the small stripe of the Italian tri-color. Abarth & C. S.p.a. is a fully owned subsidiary of FCA Italy S.p.A. (formerly Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A.), the subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (formerly of Fiat S.p.A.) controlling its European automotive production activities.

Karl Abarth, born on November 15, 1908, in Vienna, had racing in his blood and was a five-time European motorcycle champion by his mid-20s. This was a feat made even more astonishing when considering that he achieved this success using his own hand-built motorcycles and with no official factory support. Success came at a price, however. In 1939, Abarth suffered a near-fatal accident during a race in Yugoslavia.

The very first Abarth - hand build
The crash left Abarth hospitalized for almost a year and effectively ended his motorcycle racing career. Undeterred, he remained in Yugoslavia during the war, opting to further hone his mechanical skills and step away from driving temporarily. Working as a technical manager in a workshop in Ljubljana, Abarth indulged his entrepreneurial flair by taking on small engineering projects as well as researching how to run internal combustion engines on kerosene.

Shortly after the end of the war, Abarth returned to Italy, prompting him to re-establish old ties with the Porsche family. Stints working in Porsche‟s design department and Italian sports-car manufacturer Cisitalia quickly followed, until March 31, 1949, when he founded the 'Abarth & C' company with Armando Scagliarini, producing aftermarket products for production cars.

Abarth Performance Exhaust Systems
To supplement the cost of producing tuning kits, Abarth branched out into developing performance exhaust systems. Using his extensive experience with motorcycle exhausts, Abarth developed a new range of car exhaust systems.

Soon, Abarth had developed an array of exhausts tuned to specific vehicles and launched an eye-catching campaign to sell them. The exhausts were presented in a matte black finish with chrome-plated tips. Despite their high price (starting at 5,950 lire as opposed to 2,000 lire for a standard silencer), motorists chose to fit them in the thousands, and Abarth‟s company grew from the strength of these sales.

By the end of 1950, Abarth employed more than 40 people and had sold over 4,500 exhaust systems. By 1962, global sales would reach nearly 260,000 units. At the same time, Abarth had once again forged ahead in racing – this time on four wheels. The iconic Fiat Abarth 750 helped Abarth win its place in the record books by smashing time and distance records.

The combined success of the exhaust systems and motorsport achievements attracted attention from major manufacturers, and in 1958, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., son of the American president, travelled to Italy to sign an agreement to distribute Abarth products and vehicles in America.

Fiat 500 Abarth at Monza, 1958
Abarth and the Original Fiat 500
1958 proved to be a landmark year for Abarth for another reason. Fiat released a new car: the 500. Measuring just 10 feet (3 m) long and weighing a mere 1,100 pounds (499 kg), the Fiat 500 was one of the very first, true city cars and was the perfect answer to post-war market demand for inexpensive and practical motoring.

Karl Abarth saw other uses for the Fiat 500. Initially releasing the vehicle under the designation 595 (later switching to 695), Abarth took a standard Fiat 500 and gave it the full Abarth treatment. This included raising the compression ratios on the small 479 cc engine, fitting a Weber 26 IMB carburetor, optimizing the fuel and intake systems and adding a full Abarth sports exhaust system.

The combined result dramatically improved the handling and doubled the horsepower from 13 to 26. The car‟s exterior remained largely unchanged, apart from having wider wheels and tires, some discrete Abarth branding and a machined ABARTH plaque between the trunk lid and bumper for extra cooling for the rear-mounted engine.

Breaking six international records in its first year of production, the Abarth 595 went on to claim nearly 900 individual race victories by 1965. In fact, the 1960s as a whole proved to be a golden age for Abarth. The famous Scorpion badge (used because Abarth‟s astrological sign is Scorpio) quickly became a symbol of power and performance – so much so that Abarth entered everyday language in its native Italy. Customers in cafés and restaurants would not ask for a strong coffee, or a coffee with a shot of alcohol, but instead ask for an “Abarth coffee.”

Fiat-Abarth 750 Zagato Monza
Fiat Abarth 750
Abarth offered their 750 cc derivative of the Fiat 600 both with the original ("Berlina") bodywork and with more slippery bodywork from others. Most famous is the aerodynamic Zagato-bodied range of Abarth 750 cars.

As a footnote, failing Fiat modifiers Siata were owned by Abarth from 1959 until 1961. Siata's own 600-based "Amica"-design and 735 cc engine conversion was thus marketed as the Siata-Abarth 750 during those years, but there was little to no actual Abarth involvement with these cars.

Abarth 1500 Biposto 
Abarth 1500 Biposto
The Abarth 1500 Biposto was an experimental coupe designed by Franco Scaglione, who worked for Bertone at the time. It was displayed at the 1952 Turin Motor Show. Following the Turin Show, it was purchased by Packard and brought to Detroit, where it was used for design inspiration.

The Biposto was given to motoring journalist Dick Smith in mid-1953 as his prize for suggesting a new Packard advertising slogan. Smith sparingly drove the car for two decades, before putting it into storage. It did not reappear until put up for auction in 2003.

It features a futuristic design consisting of a central headlight, similar to the earlier Tucker Torpedo, and fins in the rear. The design is believed to have paved the way for the Alfa Romeo BAT series of concept cars.

It won the prestigious Gran Turismo Trophy at the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and is featured in Gran Turismo 6. 

Abarth Simca 2000
The Abarth Simca 2000 was an Italian high-performance automobile produced in the 1960s as a collaborative project of the Simca and Abarth companies in Turin, Italy.

Abarth Simca 2000
The A-S 2000 was a coupé powered by a four-cylinder Abarth engine of 1946.27 cc, rated at 202 PS (149 kW). Its maximum speed was listed as 168 mph (270 km/h). Its overall length was 11.84 ft (3.609 m), overall width was 4.85 ft (1.48 m), height was 3.93 ft (1.199 m), its wheelbase was 6.86 ft (2.090 m), its front track was 4.167 ft (1.27 m), and its rear track was 4.27 ft (1.300 m). Its fuel tank held 6.6 imperial gallons, although optional tanks of 12.1, 18.7 and 24.2 imperial gallons were also available. Its empty weight was 1518 lb (689 kg).

The car's radiator-cooling inlet was a low-set oval in a forward-thrusting nose; there was no obvious forward bumper. The two headlights were set under transparent fairings. The bonnet was long and markedly sloped. Its windshield was more highly sloped than most contemporary vehicles. An upturned air deflector was mounted atop the rear trunk.

The gasoline tank was filled through a lid-covered cap located at the upper-right hand corner of the nearly-flat rear window.

Fiat Abarth 850
The Fiat 850 is a small longitudinal-rear-engined rear-wheel drive car which was produced by Fiat of Italy between 1964 and 1973.

Fiat Abarth 850
Its technical design was an evolution of the very successful Fiat 600. The internal name for the Fiat 600 development project was "Project 100" and consequently, the internal Fiat codename for the 850 project was 100G (G was a follow on of model designations for the 600 which ran from A to F). The engine of the 850 was based on that of the Fiat 600, but had its capacity increased to 843 cc. The 850 came in two versions: "normale" (standard) with 34 hp (25 kW) and "super" with 37 hp (28 kW). The maximum speed was approximately 125 km/h (78 mph). While it was not a large step forward in technical development, it possessed a certain charm with its large rolling eyes and its short tail, in which the engine sat.

Fiat Abarth OT 2000
Fiat Abarth OT2000
Introduced in February 1966, it was based on the 850 Coupé but powered by a two-litre engine. It differed visually from the 850 Coupé in having a barred grill between the headlights, a split front bumper flanking a spare wheel which projected forward below the grille, widened front and rear tracks and wings, and a vented front bonnet. The 1,946 cc twin cam four-cylinder produced 185 PS (136 kW; 182 bhp) and could propel the car to 240 km/h (149 mph).

The Monomille also has the pushrod 982 cc motor and was sold alongside the twin-cam Bialbero as a lower-priced, less complicated alternative. Bodywork was in the style of Zagato's, although it was executed by Abarth themselves. The cars carry a "Carrozzeria Abarth" badge.

Abarth Scorpione 
1969 Abarth 1300 Scorpione
In 1970 Abarth showed the considerably more powerful "Abarth 1300 Scorpione", what was to be Abarth's last independently developed car. Equipped with a version of the Fiat 124s 1.2 litre engine, bored out by 2.5 mm for a total of 1280 cc, this model has 75 PS (55 kW) and only moderately more weight, ranging from 680 to 750 kg (1,500 to 1,650 lb) depending on the source. 

In a 1970 road test by Auto, Motor und Sport, the Scorpione reached 175.6 km/h (109.1 mph), close to the claimed 180 km/h (112 mph). There is also mention of a 982 cc Abarth 1000 OT-engined version of the Scorpione. The Scorpione had a special Abarth-made bell housing, to allow matching the 124 engine to the four-speed 850 gearbox.

Fiat Abarth 124 Rally
Fiat Abarth 124
The Fiat Abarth 124 Rally was a sport version of the 124 Spider, introduced in November 1972. Its main purpose was to receive FIA homologation in the special grand touring cars (Group 4) racing class, and replace the 1.6-litre Fiat Sport Spider rally car which were presently being campaigned. At the time 124 had already won the 1972 European Rally Championship at the hands of Raffaele Pinto and Gino Macaluso. The 124 Rally was added to the Sport Spider range, which included the 1600 and 1800 models; the first 500 examples produced were earmarked for the domestic Italian market.

Rebirth of Abarth & C. S.p.a

On 1 February 2007 Abarth was re-established as an independent unit with the launch of the current company, Abarth & C. S.p.a., controlled 100% by Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A., the subsidiary of Fiat S.p.A. dealing with the production and selling of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. The first model launched was the Abarth Grande Punto and the Abarth Grande Punto S2000. The brand is based in the Officine 83, part of the old Mirafiori engineering plant. The CEO is Harald Wester.

In 2015 Abarth's parent company was renamed FCA Italy S.p.A., reflecting the incorporation of Fiat S.p.A. into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles that took place in the previous months.

Abarth Grand Punto

Abarth Grand Punto
The first car from the newly created (2007) Fiat-owned Abarth & C. S.p.A, the Abarth Grande Punto differs significantly from its donor car.

Initially the Abarth Grande Punto was released with a 150 PS (155 PS when using 97 RON fuel) 1.4 turbo engine, but from 2008 there was available an Essesse kit, which could be installed at official Abarth service centres rather than in the factory. Amongst various refinements included uprated brakes and suspension, the Essesse kit provided an uprated power output of 180 hp.

Abarth 500
The Abarth 500 is a performance model of the Fiat 500 made by Abarth & C. It was unveiled at the 78th Geneva Motor Show, a year after the rebirth of Abarth brand and company. All models use a turbocharged and intercooled version of the 1.4 L Fire I4 petrol engine.

Abarth 500
The Abarth 500's 1.4 L engine is equipped with a IHI RHF3-P turbocharger, and is rated at 135 PS (99 kW; 133 hp) at 5500 rpm and 180 N·m (130 lb·ft) (206 N·m (152 lb·ft) in sport mode) torque at 3000 rpm. It includes a five-speed C510 transmission, low ride suspension, dualdrive electric power steering with SPORT setting, 6.5 x 16” aluminium alloy rim with 195/45 R16 tyres, four-wheel disc brakes (front ventilated).

Interior includes turbo pressure gauge, gear shift Indicator, aluminum foot pedals, Blue&Me MAP with Telemetry monitoring and GPS system. The car costs £13,600 in the UK. A 5-speed MTA, with an output of 140 PS. At the same time Abarth 500C was also launched which was a cabriolet version.

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