Fiat’s go fast department is celebrating its 70th aniversay.
Abarth & C was founded by Carlo Abarth and racing driver Guido Scagliarini on March 31, 1949 in Bologna, Northern Italy.
Abarth’s astrological sign, Scorpio, was chosen as the new company logo and the legend of the scorpion was born.
Carlo Abarth’s career started with motorcycles.
At the age of 20, he racked up his first wins as a rider on a Motor Thun. The following year he built his first customised motorbike under the Abarth brand.
Unfortunately, during a competition at Linz, an accident forced him to abandon motorbikes. He continued competing with sidecars, a vehicle that he made famous in stunts such as his race against the famous train, the Orient Express.
A second accident in 1939 forced Abarth to abandon racing completely and this marked the beginning of a new chapter in his career.
In 1949, he produced his first vehicle, the 204 A Roadster, based on the Fiat 1100, which won the 1100 Sport Italian championship and the Formula 2 racing title.
Abarth decided to supplement his racing activities with the production of now famous tuning kits for mass-production cars to increase power, speed and acceleration.
Exhaust parts were built and supplied to a number of manufacturers including Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, BMW, Ford, Volvo and Jaguar.
With the Fiat Abarth 750 designed by Bertone in 1956, the brand broke the endurance and speed record.
On the Monza racetrack, the car broke the 24-hour record covering 3743km at an average speed of 155km/h.
In 1958, Abarth completed a true work of art when he completely transformed the new Fiat 500.
In the same year, the Fiat and Abarth forged a stronger relationship, with Fiat promising to reward Abarth financially based on the number of victories and records that the team managed to achieve.
It resulted in 10 world records, 133 international records and more than 10,000 victories on track.
The 1960s was a golden decade for Abarth.
In Italy the name “Abarth” became a byword for speed, courage, performance and development.
The list of cars which displayed the name of Abarth in the history of motor racing is a long one: from the 850 TC, which was victorious on international circuits including the Nürburgring, to the Fiat Abarth “1000 Berlina” and the 2300 S that racked up an extraordinary series of records on the Monza track — despite the harsh weather conditions.
In 1971, Fiat bought out the company and the last vehicle in which Abarth actively participated in designing was the A112 Abarth.
During the 1980s, the story continued with famous cars, such as the Fiat 131 Abarth, world rally champion, and the Ritmo Abarth.
Sadly, Carlo Abarth died on October 24, 1979.
At the time of his death, he had overseen the production of 219 models all of which carried the Scorpion badge.
The Abarth badge appeared on a small number of Fiat special editions in the 1980s and 1990s including the Strada and Stilo.
In 2008 the brand was relaunched with a new line-up created for motorsports enthusiasts with the Abarth Grande Punto (2007), Abarth 500 (2008) and tuning kits for each car, as well as racing versions of the Abarth Grande Punto Rally Super 2000 and the Abarth 500 Assetto Corse.
Since then, new editions have been launched: the Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari (2010), the Abarth 595 Yamaha Factory Racing (2015), the Abarth 695 Biposto Record (2015) and the Abarth 695 Rivale (2017).
In 2016 the Abarth 124 spider and the Abarth 124 rally joined the model lineup, followed by the Abarth 124 GT (2018) with its carbon fibre hard top.
In the late 1970’s Abarth became Fiat’s racing department which lead to such rally classics as the 124 and 131.
The iconic Fiat Abarth 124 rally won the 1972 and 1975 (group 4) World Rally Championship with driver Raffaelle Pinto and co-driver Gino Macaluso.
The 124 rally was successful over a number of years until it was replaced by the 131.
The Fiat 131 Abarth was a successful group 4 rally car which won the manufacturers world championship three times in 1977, 78 and 80, instantly recognisable to rally fans worldwide in its distinctive shape and livery.
The racing department then turned its attention to Lancia which set the rallying world alight with commanding performance of the sport, winning a total of 11 championships over the years.
The Abarth 124 rally returned in 2016, when it was unveiled as a surprise at the Geneva motor show as part of the dual announcement of the Abarth 124 spider.
In only in its second season in the R-GT Championship, the Abarth established itself as the king of the R-GT class for 2018, recording more than 40 class victories in 12 national championships.
Using the experience gained in the first two racing seasons, the 124 rally has been further refined with one goal in mind, make the Abarth the car to beat in the R-GT class.
To acknowledge its anniversary, all Abarth 595s produced from April 2019 will be identified by a “70th Anniversary” special badge.
The 595 Competizione standard seats will also be embroidered with a ‘70th Anniversary’ logo, making this specification one for Abarth fans to own.
Making its return in 2019 is the Abarth 595 esseesse which made its debut at Geneva.