Abarth - the man and the company  

 

On November 15th 1908 on Karl Abarth jr. was born in Vienna. His parents were loyal subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Mother - Dora Taussig was an Austrian national from Viennese pettit bourgeoisie. Father, an Italian from Merrano was a lieutenant in the Imperial Austro-Hungarian army. 

 

Initial childhood interest of Karl was bicycles and - as he grew - motorcycles. He always exhibited a passion for motor sports and ingenuity to modify whatever bike motorbike or car he had. Over a lifetime these childhood passions filled his entire adult life as well.

ABARTH FIRST LOVE - MOTORCYCLES  

 

His initial mechanical education took place at Italian chassis factory Carozzeria & C , and its  partner - Dagan garage in Vienna, where he worked in his teens and where he learned basics of precision engineering. His interest and abilities caught the eye of Joseph Opawsky, a motorcycle champion. Opawsky introduced him to the racing division of Motor Thun factory in Traischkirchen, which built "MT" motorcycles. Karl joined Tun as a mechanic. Abarth  became a MT  team race driver by sheer chance. One of the MT factory drivers got ill and Karl was offered to race in his place. On a practice training session Karl set the best lap time beating the rest of the factory drivers. Some racers thought Karl cheated and watched him closely on the second run. Karl set a new lap record again. This was a source of great annoyance among the rest of the team, who raced the MT bikes for years and were beaten by this "kid" racing the bike for the first time. For actual race Karl was given back-up service bike which broke down during the race. Karl accused the jealous drivers of sabotage. Having not received support from the management on his complaint Karl got furious and quit the TUN factory in protest.

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After the affair Karl was subject to ostracism by all major factory teams. Ambitious Karl was very upset but decided to get even and show the world how good he really is. He bought a used British Grindlay-Peerless 250cc. He striped it to pieces, modified it to make it lighter and better fit to track racing and started winning. In 1929 Karl beat all factory teams winning the Austrian Grand Prix on a 250cc motorbike he build. This bike was a 250 cc two stroke water-cooled by two radiators – the first motorcycle with Abarth brand. Sweet taste of revenge.

Karl continued to race his motorcycles with tremendous success, but finally his luck ran out. In in 1930 had a serious accident in Lintz, after which he vowed not to race again. But the longer he was our of racing the more he wanted to race again. It was his life and his passion. As it turned out nothing could keep him away from racing for more then a short time. 

Despite long rehabilitation after Lintz's accident to regain full physical fitness and performing all possible tricks on tyhe book to regain his motorcycle license, Karl was permanently disqualified from motorcycle racing. Karl's injured knee was simply too weak to race on a motorcycle. Such minor technicality couldn't stop him from racing. Karl found that his weak knee was only a problem if the bike had two wheels. Neither the doctors nor the sports representatives expected Karl to apply for a license to race a three-wheeled motorcycle: racing a motorcycle with a sidecar. Knowing they would never get rid of Karl, otherwise they gave him a license. Karl's perseverance paid off again. Soon after, Karl became the most popular sidecar biker of his time. While working again in Dougan's garage, Karl had the idea of ​​The Orient Express Challenge. The event was to prove that Karl could ride a motorcycle prepared by Dougan with a sidecar from Vienna to Ostend (distance 1,370 km) faster than the famous Orient Express. Karl convinced the management of Dougan's workshop to finance this promotional event for the workshop and representatives of the Orient Express accepted the challenge as a promotion of the Orient Express itself. In fact, it was a display of Abarth's self-promotion skills.

Karl drove a motorbike with a sidecar of his own construction. Press journalists accompanied Karl in cars all the way from start to finish. On the first run Karl's  motorcycle suffered an electrical malfunction and he arrived at Ostend railway station 15 minutes after the Orient Express. On a back run Karl beat the train by 20 minutes becoming an instant international celebrity. The European press had Karl's face, the bike and the race with Orient Express on the front pages of all European newspapers.

Sidecar racing gave Karl another opportunity to show of his technical ingenuity again. He designed a flexible car. Under his design the third wheel – mounted on the sidecar - could be tilted. The swing axle of the wheel he called  "Schwingachs". It tilted by lever changing the wheel angle to the track on a curve. This produced better grip and allowed for much higher speed on curves without loosing traction and stability of the bike. This system allowed him to win most side car races he participated in between 1937 and 1939.

WAR TURNS KARL INTO CARLO  

Karl raced under Austrian colors, but after Nazi Anschluss of Austria in 1938 he was presented with an alternative to racing under Swastika. An Italian delegation offered him a handsome budget in return for support of Italian motor sport in Nazi Germany. Being half Italian Karl accepted the offer and decided to race under Italian colors. To do so he had to obtain an Italian driver's license and use his Italian name. Karl moved to Merrano and became Carlo Abarth.

 

One of the last races of the 1939 season was Lubljana  - the capital of Slovenia region of Yugoslavia. Despite Nazi attack on Poland in September 1939 effectively starting WWII the event was not called off.  During the race Carlo had another serious accident. Recovery took a long time. By that time he could travel back to Merrano the war changed Italy completely. 31 year old Carlo was faced with a prospect of being forced to serve in either he Fascict Italy or the Nazi German armed forces. Carlo was not about to accept either and thus was in no rush to recover from this accident injuries too quickly. Carlo obtained a medical certificate of permanent physical disability, disqualifying him from military service. His father – himself a retired military man - knew that when defeat looks in the eyes of the leaders they turn to people with "paper" disabilities to fill in the trenches. He advised Carlo to stay in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Carlo became a manager of Ignaz Vok mechanical factory in Lubljana. 

He worked on converting gasoline combustion engines to gasogene engines. The technology was based on gasification of carbonaceous material (as kerosene or charcoal) into carbon monoxide and hydrogen by treating the raw material with high temperature steam. Resulting was syngas, which is a fuel itself. The technology was originally developed in Germany in 1881. It was used in both WWI and WWII to overcome chronic scarcity of petrol for civilian use.

 
 

In 1941 Slovenia was conquered by the Italians only to be occupied by Nazi Germany in 1943. Carlo – still an Austrian and thus German Third Reich citizen or at least an Italian ally, had to maneuver to avoid being forced into the army or being executed for avoiding military service. In 1945 when the Nazis withdrew and the communist dominated partisans took control of Yugoslavia territory. Weather he would be as Austrian, German or Italian he faced a prospect of execution as a Nazi. Carlo had to flee leaving all his possessions. With some adventures and difficulty he managed to reach his Italian home in Marrano. His father arranged issue of an Italian identity card in the name of Carlo Abarth. In few years his Italian citizenship was formally confirmed.

 

With no cash in his name Carlo had to support himself by taking whatever work he could. He took up selling carpets and bicycles, but longed to return to racing. Carlo tried  to re-establish all of his racing contacts he could. In 1945 Europe no auto or motor sports existed, but this was about to change.

ABARTH, PORSCHE, STALIN AND THE 'FRENCH VW' 

It should be noted that not only Abarth's professional life was all around the motor industry. Practically all of his friends, and even wife were connected to motorcar industry. In 1934 Karl married secretary of Alfred Piëch, who was a husband of a Ferdinand Porsche's daughter. By this Karl became close to the Porsche family. "Ferry" Porsche - son of the famous professor Ferdinand Porsche was one of his close lifetime friends. He also made lot of friends among top Porsche engineers and designers.

In 1945 Carlo teamed up with Rudolf Hruschka (1) a former Porsche engineer, who came to Italy on his way to Stuttgart. But getting into Bavaria was not easy these days. He could enter occupied Germany because of restrictions imposed by US Occupation Forces. Hruschka decided to wait in Merano for the first opportunity to travel. Carlo and Rudolf sharing the same automotive passions became friends. After long hours of conversations they concluded that the Italian automotive industry, which suffered much less war damage than the German motor industry will recover much quicker. This was an opportunity both for them as well as for Porsche.

 

Carlo wrote about it to "Ferry" Porsche, but the news he got in response was terrifying: Ferry and all male members of the Porsche family including Anton Alfred Piëch - the brother-in-law of "Ferry" Porsche were arrested by the French as war criminals.

 

In 1946 Ferry Porsche was released French prison after the Porsche family paid huge ransom. "Ferry", who was forbidden to travel outside of Austria invited Carlo and Rudolf to meet him in the Porsche family retreat in Zell-am-See. Carlo and Rudolph decided to travel, but this required a special permission from the American Occupation authorities. Finally at the end of 1946 the American authorities gave them a written pass to travel and visit Porsche.

 

In Zoll-un See Carl found out what happened to the Porsche.

 

Most of the wartime period Ferdinand Porsche and his family spent in Stuttgart and Wolfsburg. As the allies started carpet bombing of Nazi Germany industrial sites Porsche firm headquarters were moved to Gmund in Austria. The family farm in Zell-am-See was their retreat and since early 1945 Porsche family lived in Zell-am-See. After the war ended they remained in Zell-am-See which became the location the allies decided to keep Porsche family under what really amounted to house arrest. 

 

Professor was interrogated by the Americans several times, but always released. Allied investigative commission later decided not to file charges against Porsche.

 

In November 1945 at the initiative of the French Industry Minister Marcel Paul Professor Porsche was invited to the French Occupation Zone Headquarters in Baden-Baden. In a meeting that followed professor Porsche was offered to redesign the Volkswagen to be "more French". The deal involved moving tools and equipment from the Wolfsburg VW  factory (to be claimed by the French as war reparations) to France where the new - French small popular car was to be built. The French also took professor Porsche, his son Ferry Porsche and Anton Piëch to Paris to visit potential production site and familiarize themselves with development work on Renault 4CV.

 

Such offer was no novelty to Ferdinand Porsche. Similar deal was offered to him by Joseph Stalin. In 1932, a delegation from Moscow visited Porsche in Stuttgart. Soon after Stalin invited Professor Porsche to the Soviet Union for a visit. Porsche visited Soviet aircraft and automobile factories. Before departure back to Germany, Stalin made him an offer to become general director of the development of the Soviet auto industry, complete with generous compensation, a villa, and the transfer of his entire Stuttgart staff. Porsche was promised unlimited development funds to build a small car. Prof. Porsche refused claiming that he could not imagine working in a country without speaking the language. 

 

When the French made a similar offer in 1945 it was clear the French government was up to something big. The idea to engage the Porsche design team and ship the whole Wolfsburg car factory to France to make KdF's - Ranault seemed interesting, but was unrealistic from the very beginning. Wolfsburg was in the British Occupation Zone (and some British already toyed with the idea or re-lunching production of the VW). Expecting the British to give up Wolfsburg factory to the French was a pipe dream.  

 

In the light of the French government arresting Louis Renault as a Nazi collaborator and nationalization of his factory the idea of employing Ferdinand Porsche as designer and producer of French KdF's raised fury among French auto producers. They tried to subvert this idea in any way they could. Key role in this was paid by Jean Pierre Peugeot and his allies in the French government, especially French Justice Minister Pierre-Henri Teitgen.

 

After Nazi Germany conquered France in 1941 Peugeot became part of the Porsche industrial operation producing weapons for the Nazis. Resistance operating in the factory sabotaged Peugeot production several times and Gestapo responded by arresting Jean Pierre Peugeot.

 

Jean Pierre Peugeot was leading the effort to prevent Porsche building cars in France. He formally accused professor Ferdinand Porsche, his son "Ferry" Porsche and Anton Piëch of being Nazis, responsible for using slave labor, sending top Peugeot managers to concentration (death) camps, deportation of French Peugeot workers to  KL Neuengamme "Arbeitsdorf in Fallersleben"  (a concentration camp) to build KdF's and weapons.  Peugeot also accused him of being responsible for dismantling and relocation of Peugeot factory machinery and tools to Wolfsburg, when the Nazis were pulling out of France. Accusation by Jean Pierre Peugeot was very credible and powerful statement. In fact accusations he made against Ferdinand Porsche were well founded, however what Jean Pierre Peugeot probably did not know that he owed his life to Ferdinand Porsche. When Peugeot was arrested Professor Porsche intervened with Gestapo and managed to get him released.

The opponents of "befrenching" Porsche were determined to derailed this idea. They convinced French Justice Minister Pierre-Henri Teitgen to issue arrest warrant against processor Porsche, his son and Anton Piëch.

 

On December 15, 1945 Professor Porsche along with Ferry Porsche and Anton Piëch were invited to the French Occupation Zone Headquarters in Baden-Baden. When they arrived the French arrested them and accused of war crimes. The bail was declared at 500.000 French Francs each.

 

Ferry was released when his family paid the 500.000 French Francs ransom. But they had no more money to pay same ransoms for processor Porsche and Dr. Piëch to gain their release. The Porsche family was broke and desperate for cash to pay off the French.  

CISITSALIA PROJECT -  FAILURE, SOURCE  OF  SUCCESS 

 

Rudolf Hruschka and Carl Abarth presented Ferry with an idea. Porsche design studio in Stuttgart would design a high performance racing car and the Italians would build it. Ferry Porsche liked the idea of working with old friends and prospect of generating cash he needed for release of his father from French prison.

 

After the war Porsche did not have any operational production facilities, while such production facilities existed in Italy. Ferry Porsche recruited Professor Robert Eberan Von Eberhost to supervise the project to be based in Torino. Ferry knew Von Eberhost fro the time father had worked with him in the Auto Union company, where both worked to develop the Auto Union D type.

 

Key person in this undertaking was Piero Dusio. Carl was introduced to him by the famous Italian race driver Tazio Nuvolari. Piero Dusio was an Italian industrialist, owner of the Juventus football club and a race cars fan. Dusio made his money on textiles, banking, hotels and bicycle production. During WWII he made fortune supplying boots to the Italian army. He was an owner of "Compagna Industriale Sportive Italiana" (Cisitalia). The company already produced sports cars: successful D46 single seater as well as 202 and 204 models. These cars were designed by Dante Giacosa and Giovanni Savonuzzi and powered by FIAT 1100 engine.

 

Ferry, Rudolph and Carlo convinced Dusio to bankroll building Porsche designed sports racer at Cisitalia. The result was the Cisitalia Type 360, a 1.5-liter supercharged 300 hp four-wheel drive, mid mounted engine race car. The car was truly revolutionary, but also it extremely complex mechanically.  

 

The fees Porsche earned for its design of Type 360 bought the release of Professor Porsche and Anton Piëch. They were freed August 1,1947.  Ultimately the French court did not find grounds to charge them with war crimes, but the 1.5 milion French Franks of bail paid to the French government was never returned.

 

The huge advance Ferry Porsche received from Cisitalia for the design of Type 360 as well as technical difficulties of building this very technically complicated car drained the finances of Piero Dusio and Cisitalia went bankrupt in 1949.

 
 
 

Dusio escaped to Argentina taking the only Cisitalia Type 360 prototype with him. What remained of the car was recovered by Ferry Porsche from Argentina at the end of the 50. Currently, fully restored Porsche designed Cistitalia Type 360 is on display in the Porsche museum.

ENTER ABARTH & Co

 

The Cisitalia project fell through and the only pay Carlo was able to recover for his work were few Cisitalia 204 Sports cars and a few boxes of parts. Incidentally among the parts Carlo recovered from Cisitalia was an exhaust developed by Giovanni Savonuzzi under inspiration of silencers designed for guns. The 204's later became the first Abarth racing cars and the muffler became a star product of Abarth &Co.

 

Carlo Abarth post war engagement in auto industry under his own name consisted of two separate but connected operations - the Abarth manufacturing Company ("Abarth & C.") and Abarth racing team. "Squadra Carlo Abarth".

 

"Abarth & C. S.r.l " was founded by Carlo Abarth on the 31st March 1949 his new business partner , famous Italian race driver Guido Scagliarini. The company was based at via Don Minzoni # 9 in Bologna. Scorpion – Carlo's zodiac sign became "Abarth & C." emblem.  It was to design and produce sport cars. The best sports car engineers from Cisitalia were quickly hired by Abarth and  in 1949 Abarth built its very first car – Abarth version of Cisitalia 204.   

 

Carlo's business philosophy was that to boost sales you need to win races. Thus on 15th April 1949, Carlo established "Squadra Carlo Abarth" - Carlo's own racing team.

 

The Abarth racing team employed also the best Cisitalia race drivers: Tazio Nuvolari, Felice Bonetto, Franco Corteseand Manlio Duberti. The team's racing stable consisted of all the Cisitalia 204's Carlo owned. Soon after Squadra started racing them and winning. The Cisitalia Abarth 204 A Spyder Sport was the first ever car in "Squadra Carlo Abarth" colors to win a sports race. Abarth team won the Mille Miglia 1950 in 1100 cc class. On April 10, 1950 Tazio Nuvolari behind the wheel of a Cisitalia Abarth 204 A Spyder Sport secured a spectacular victory in 1100cc class of the "10th Palermo-Montepellegrino" hillclimb.

 
 
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Supporting low volume manufacturing of sport cars and running the Squadra prooved be an expensive and financially risky undertaking. Abarth had to develop a side business to support his auto making operations and racing. In fact the original company stature provided not only for "the production of cars, but also production of auto parts and accessories, tooling for mass production cars, tuning and servicing of sports and racing cars as well as selling fuels for race cars. The auto accessories and tuning parts soon turned into very much a key part of the business.

 

Abarth was selling performance car parts to make the small Italian cars go faster, accelerate better and sound louder. The first Abarth product was a gearbox conversion kit for Topolino - the original Fiat 500.  Other key product was Abarth exhaust system. Inspired by the exhaust developed by Giovanni Savonuzzi acquired form Cisitalia at bankruptcy Carlo has developed his own sport exhaust systems for street cars. The Abarth exhaust gave beautifully laud, sporty sound and increased cars performance. It was painted flat black, had the colorful Abarth logo and chrome tailpipes.

The Italian young drivers loved the Abarth exhaust and it quickly became most fashionable element to have on your car. Despite price tag double the factory standard the Abarth exhaust sold like hot cakes. In 1950 Abarth sold 4500 silencers . In 1952 Ferrari started to install Abarth exhaust giving its name brand name a stamp of quality approval. The sales sky rocketed.

 

At the end of 1956 Abarth muffler sales exceeded one hundred thousand. In 1962 Abarth sold 260 000 silencer units worldwide. The Abarth mufflers are still produced and still sound like nothing else.

Later the core Abarth product which made him really as famous as the Abarth recing records were the so called "Abarth conversion boxes" (cassetta di trasformazione). The kits were expensive (often as much as 30 % of a brand new car) but included everything necessary to turn a small street car into a true sporty beast (packed in a wooden cerate): redesigned crankcase, stronger crankshaft, lighter and stronger pistons, rings rods, different profile camshaft, racing valves, performance carburetors, rugged water pumps and large flow manifold, Abarth exhaust system plus all the gaskets, filters, pipework, belts, tools, oil, chrome badges and instructions. to complete the kit's installation. Abarth also produced stiffer suspension springs, front disc brakes and Abarth accesories such as the famous Abarth steering wheels.

Cassetta di trensformazione  tradition is part of present Abarth marketing.

Despite initial attempts tuning and sport modification of Porsches, Porsche never became a strong Abarth business partner. One example of Porsche-Abarth cooperation was Abarth Porsche 356 B Carrera GTL. This car successfully raced in 1966 on Nurburgring and Le Mans 24h races.
 

ABARTH & FIAT 

The real Abarth opportunity was with Fiat. Carlo saw it very early on and to facilitate this he moved Abarth & C to the Fiat City in 1951. Abarth & C headquarters were moved to 10 via Trecate in Torino. Natural proximity to Fiat manufacturing as well as its engineers and managers gave Carlo the access he sought. From this point on the Abarth relationship with Fiat grew ever stronger. In 1957 Abarth & C moved to a new location bigger location at Corso Marche 38, in Turin.

 
 
 

The 600

 

The unpretentious small city car of the 50's – the Fiat 600 was used by Abarth as launch pad for a series of projects geared to producing real rear engine sports beasts. Abarth quickly turned the 600 into a 750. These cars secured great sport victories in 50-s and 60's.

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In 1956  Abarth put its 750 engine into a new body designed by Zagato. At the 24th Mille Miglia in 1957, there were 20 cars representing Abarth in the 750 class - 16 of them finished the race, with Abarth models covering first, second and third places.
Franklyn Delano Roosevelt Jr – son the legendary US president - was so impressed he soon secured exclusive distribution of Abarth products in the US. Roosevelt.
FOTO; Mr Rosevelt  Jr at the Abarth factory, (on the right ) negotiating the purchase of the latest Fiat Abarth Record Monzas.
Roosevelt Automobile Company Inc. even had its own all Abarth Roosevelt Racing team. The team successfully raced  in Sports Car Club of America speedway events.
In 1961 also the Fiat 600  D in its own chassis was also modified by Abarth and became  850 TC,

Fiat Abarth 850 TC visually differed very little from civilian Fiat 600D. It became a real sales hit.

 

On the track, the 850 TC enjoyed countless victories - it came first-in-class in its inaugural 24 Hour race at Le Mans in June 1961, collected titles for the European Touring Car Challenge in '65, '66, and '67, and six successive Manufacturer's Championship titles. When the 55 bhp 850 TC won the gruelling 500 km Nurburgring race in 1963 - with a multitude of Abarths in all the top places - the victories made such an impression that the German track's name was added to the engine cover in recognition of the car's achievement.  This car made the Abarth name synonymous with "sporty". Abarth became a fashion statement and a brand name everybody wanted to have on their cars.

The next step was 1000 TC Berlina.
The little 600D with a 1000cc engine looked pretty innocent but was a real  vicious sporting machine.   It should be however remembered that Abarth made both street cars ("stradale") and their race track versions ("corsa"). The "corsa" 1000 TC looked quite different than his  "stradale" brother. Same differentiation applied to all models that Scuredia Carlo Abarth raced.
In 1958 Abarth presented its 750 Record Monza Zagato - a model to celebrate over 700 races worldwide won by  Abarths. As preactically all Abarth models at the time it was also eqipped with 850cc and 1000 cc engines.
 

The 500

 

1957 brought the famous masterpiece of Abarth 500 (new version of pre war Topolino). By 1958 Carlo increased the standard fiat 479 cc engine compression from 6:55 :1 to 10,5 :1, installed a Weber 26 IMB carburetor, modified exhaust and fuel system thus doubling  its standard power from 13 hp to 26 hp. Abarth 500  won many events and established many international records. It also gave the post war Italy youth the taste of real sports and real fun for little money. The Abarth 500 is one of the most recognized and loved Abarths around the world. 

Tested at Monza for seven days and seven nights, the Fiat 500 Abarth performed a marathon that went down in history: covering a distance of 18,186 km at an average speed of 108 km/h, the 500 Abarth broke six international records, nearly one every day.
 

Abarth 500 Coupé Zagato version is still one of the most sought cars by the car collectors.

In 1963, launched the Abarth 595. With a larger, 595 cc capacity engine, a new Solex C28 PBJ carburettor and a tuned fuel system, power increased to 27 bhp and the car's top speed passed the 120 km/h mark. The Abarth 595 SS, released the following year, increased power still further to 32 bhp and a 130 km/h top speed.

Impressed by this success and publicity this brought to the "500: Fiat managing Director Vittorio Valletta offered to pay Abarth for all of race victories and records set by Abarth-modified Fiats. Given the low cost of the cars, Abarth and entered his Squadra Fiat Abarths in any race he could and achieved an incredible string of victories.

This contract between Abarth and FIAT proved to have profound consequences. It ultimately led to FIAT taking over Abarth, creation of legendary Fiat 124 and 131 Abarth Rally and FIAT winning title of World Rally Championship title, becoming a WRC legend.       

 

SIMCA ABARTH A SHORT LOVE AFFAIR 

 

Abarth also took advantage of his former associate Rudolf Hruschka work for Simca on development of Simca 1000 and designed its Abarth version SIMCA ABARTH 1000 and SIMCA ABARTH 1150.

The top of the line of Simca Abarths was the  ABARTH SIMCA 1300  featuring Abarth's potent 1,300 cc twin-cam four-cylinder engine, pumping out 140 bhp.

 
The Abarth relationship with French Simca proved as successful as it was short lived. Doing business with olf friedn Rudolf Hruschka was one thing, but doing business with the French proved too hard.  
In fact, all Fiat based Abarth projects were under continuous development despite Abarth love affair with Simca. In 1964, the Abarth 1600 OT (Omologata Turismo) arrived, a derivative of the mightily successful 850 TC, with a colossal 155 bhp from its fire-spitting 1,592 cc four-cylinder engine. It had a 131 mph top speed and could hit 62 mph in 7.2 seconds, but earned a reputation as something of a 'monster' given its aggressive character.
 
ABARTH & Co - SUCCESS THAT ENDED IN DOWNFALL  
 

Success of Squadra Carlo Abarth was so overwhelming that racing officials tried to stop that, without much success though. By mid 1960's Squadra Abarth were decimating the competition. In that year alone, Abarth racers recorder some 900 victories. Success continued unabated during the late 1960s, despite the best efforts of race officials and associations to curb the company's triumphant run. New cars continued to arrive on the racing scene, such as the Fiat Abarth 1300 OT, the Fiat Abarth 1000 SP, and the Fiat Abarth 2000 Sport Spider.

 

However, there was a price to pay. The costs sky rocketed. As the company moved towards the 1970s, the cost of maintaining the brand's reputation was beginning to take its toll. The company's management style was more focused on achieving victory than returning a profit. This had to have an unhappy ending.

 

Until the late 1960's Abarth & C was growing and "Squadra Carlo Abarth" was turning up more and more victories. Nothing signified an upcoming crisis. With almost 200 employees, great sales of the Abarth boxed conversion kits and sales of Abarth mufflers close to 300,000, With string partnership with Fiat the future of Abarth looked bright indeed. However, the world economy went into a nosedive. The automotive industry was harshly effected. Smaller companies as well as some big ones developed financial troubles.

ABARTH IS DEAD, LONG LIVE FIAT ABARTH

  

Fiat with very strong revenue and lots of cash on hand bought 50% of Ferrari, 100% of Autobianchi and 100% of Lancia. Abarth tried to resist. In 1971 a legendary Autobianchi A112 Abarth was designed. Abarth also designed a "Formula Italia" single seater. Calo's hopes that it would help Abarth to survive the World economic crisis as an independent manufacturer proved too optimistic. On October 15th, 1971 Fiat bought Abarth & C.

 

Abarth became the sports department of Fiat, managed by famous Aurelio Lampredi the designer of the best Fiat engine - the Fiat DOHC.

 

Loss of control over his beloved company was a traumatic experience for Carlo Abarth. Fiat management tried to make it easier for him by appointing Abarth a high level advisor to Fiat. Carlo served in this capacity for few years but soon retired, moved to Vienna where he died on October 24, 1979 at the age of 71.

 

Under Carlo Abarth the Abarth & C designed and made 141 models sports cars, modifying standard version cars into sports cars. Some modifications was just tuning and some meant building totally new cars mostly based on available fiat engines and variety of available Fiat and non Fiat chassis. Many cars were just Abarthized and produced in some volume. Most of the cars however were built in short series from single car to few dozens to few hundreds. Abarth built not only road cars but also Formula type single seaters, experimental or concept cars as well as cars built specially to brake records. Many of the cars Abarth build ware actually raced by his own racing team. Squadra Carlo Abarth participated in thousands of races over the years winning hundreds of them. The racing was the proving ground for their designs. Most of the cars Abarth team raced were equipped with small engines up to 1000 cc. In mid and late sixties the engines became larger.

 

In 1967 Abarth build its only 6-liter V12 car - the T140 6000. Many 60's models had variety of engine options from 1300cc to 2000cc. In total there were just ten Abarth models with more than 2000 cc engines.

 

Carlo Abarth was clearly more interested in designing cars and racing them than making money. Large number of models Abarth & C designed and produced required continuos high level of investment. Most of Abarth & C corporate profit was immediately reinvested into new models and new projects as well as to spent on the Abarth racing team. Under business rules this was risky, verging on irrational. This could only be driven by racing passion first and by then profit second. Money Carl Abarth made was just a byproduct of his passion of making his childhood dream come true. In this sense he was more of an ingenious dreamer than a candidate financial tycoon. This is what made Abarth so appealing to car fans around the world, but it also contributed to eventual submission of a small innovative auto-tuning company to an international auto conglomerate.

 

 

Source: internet publications on the subject

(edited)

 
 
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