It is 70 years since the Italian racing legend of the Scorpion was born. It still fuels the dreams of the fans the world over. Abarth & C was founded by Carlo Abarth and racing driver Guido Scagliarini on March 31, 1949 in Bologna, Northern Italy. Carlo’s astrological sign, Scorpio, was chosen as the new company logo.
“Telling the key stages of Abarth is an opportunity to rediscover the record-breaking cars, the revolutionary tuning kits and legendary races that marked the technological progress and motorsport accomplishments of the brand. All these belong to the past and to the present of Abarth, together with the commitment and pride of the people who over time have worked in the factories and offices and on the race tracks, with a little extra something. Races are the tough proving grounds where the most innovative technological solutions can be tested in the most adverse conditions before carrying them across to the street-legal Abarth models. In this way, we can achieve the very best in terms of performance, safety and reliability and offer them to our customers,” Luca Napolitano, Head of EMEA Fiat and Abarth brands, said.
Carlo Abarth’s career started with motorcycles. At the age of 20, he racked up his first win as a rider on a Motor Thun. The following year he built his first customised motorbike under the Abarth brand. During a competition at Linz, an accident forced him to abandon motorbikes. He continued competing with sidecars, a vehicle that he made famous in exploits endeavours, such as the race against the Orient Express, that he won. A second accident in 1939 forced him to abandon racing completely which marked a new beginning. In 1949, the first vehicle produced was the 204 A Roadster, based on the Fiat 1100, which won the 1100 Sport Italian championship and the Formula-2 racing title.
Carlo decided he needed to supplement his racing activities with the production of his 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.
Noteworthy components of the Abarth kits included the exhausts which, over the years, became a true icon of the ‘Abarth style.’ With the Fiat Abarth 750 designed by Bertone in 1956, the brand broke the endurance and speed record: on June 18, on the Monza racetrack, it broke the 24-hour record covering 3,743km at an average speed of 155km/h.
Following this, from June 27 to 29 on the same circuit it racked up a number of records: the 5,000 and 10,000km, the 5,000 miles and also the 48 and 72 hours. The same vehicle was designed by Zagato in two different versions: the Fiat Abarth 750 Zagato (1956) and the Fiat Abarth 750 GT Zagato (1956).
In 1958, Abarth completed a true work of art on the new Fiat 500, completely transforming the small utility car and enhancing its potentials to the maximum. In the same year, the brand intensified its partnership with Fiat. Fiat committed itself to reward Abarth financially based on the impressive winning streak: 10 world records, 133 international records, more than 10,000 victories on track.
The 1960’s were the golden decade for Abarth. In Italy ‘Abarth’ became the byword for speed, courage, performance and development. In 1971, Fiat Auto became the sole owners of Abarth, and the last vehicle in which the founder 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, under the sign of Scorpio, the same as his birth that had inspired the badge sported on his cars.