Ever heard of Abarth, the Italian tuner?
Italian-Austrian Karl (aka Carlo) Abarth founded the company in 1949 in Turin as Abarth & C.S.p.A., fourteen years prior to Lamborghini staring out.
Baby boomer car enthusiasts may be aware of the name, but outside of Italy, there’s always been was a certain mystery surrounding the brand with a scorpion as its logo.
They built racecars in the 1960’s and were quite successful in classes from 850cc up to 2-litre, running against the Porsche 904 and Dino Ferrari.
Carlo had actually started building motorcycles, under the Abarth name and would not only go on to race his own bikes, but become five-time European Champion.
After some involvement with the cutting-edge Cisitalia car company, which went into receivership due to the over expenditure of its cutting edge Cisitialia 360 race car, Carlo took what was left of the company and so began the Abarth legend.
By the 1960’s, Abarth had become the generic word for performance tuning in Italy, and the diminutive Abarth 850 TC (Turismo Competizione) with just 57 bhp, was blitzing every race it entered.
It came first in class at Le Mans in 1961, and was a three-time winner of the European Touring car Championship from 1965-1967.
The torturous 500-kilometre Nurburgring race was also added to the 850’s string of titles in 1963, while other Abarths took all the remaining top places.
But racing is an expensive business, so Abarth had no option but to merge with Fiat in 1971 and essentially became their rally arm, with continued success in competition up to the early 1990’s.
In 2007, Fiat re-launched the Abarth brand and came up with their own version of the hugely popular Fiat 500, which had rave reviews from the world’s motoring press.
Jump cut to 2009, and Abarth is back in the racing game, with the unveiling of their Abarth 500 R3T rally car, which looks a treat.
The R3T group is for supercharged cars with a maximum engine capacity of 1600cc, so it’s a great class for young drivers or privateers to enter the sport, given the relatively low cost for a high performance car.
The 1.4-litre engine is fitted with a Garrett turbocharger develops 132kW (180 bhp) and mated to a 6-speed sequential gearbox with a twin disc clutch and self-locking blade differential.
Also included, is adjustable suspension and Brembo brakes all round, so the 1080 kilogram Abarth 500 R3T, should be competitive, when you consider several UK motoring journalists have been clocking up impressive times in hill climb events driving standard Abarth Grande Punto road cars.
FIA safety devices for Abarth’s R3T include a welded-in roll cage, racing seats with a six-point harness along with other requirements.
Success with the Abarth 500 R3T rally car should be more than enough to inspire further sales of all Fiat 500 models, including the Abarth 500 road car.