The history of four world-leading Italian motoring brands
From the most emblematic models to the most successful, revolutionary people, and the most significant events, this section illustrates and celebrates the cornerstones of Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Abarth.
Passion for speed prompted Karl Abarth to get back into the cockpit in one of his creations and set his company’s 100th record, on the Monza circuit.
Karl Abarth’s reputation as a brilliant car tuning specialist, eclectic entrepreneur and constructor stemmed partly from the numerous records established by his cars. In nearly all cases, the venue was the Monza race track, which in those days still had a high-speed ring that was perfect for long drives at very high speed.
Aware of the importance of aerodynamics, Abarth developed cars in conjunction with top coachbuilders (Zagato, Pininfarina and Bertone), with the aim of creating unique models capable of breaking every record. Among the most memorable are the single-seaters powered by 500, 750 and 1000 cc Fiat-derived engines.
Fiat executives understood how records could have a positive effect on sales, so they encouraged Abarth to break them whenever possible, including with financial support. But besides being an excellent marketing tool, record-breaking was also something of an obsession for Karl Abarth, an irrepressible passion that pushed him to constantly outdo himself.
At the age of 57, Abarth decided to don his driver’s outfit once more and set the 100th record for an Abarth car, as both constructor and driver.
The new car—developed entirely by Abarth—was an open-wheel single-seater with a 1000 cc engine, derived from the one used in Formula 2 during the 1964 season. The twin-cam developed 105 hp at the high speed of 8800 rpm. It had a dry weight of just 500 kg and a small 10-litre tank.
So that he could fit into the cockpit, Karl Abarth shed 30 kg by following a strict diet (said to have consisted solely of apples); this weight reduction undoubtedly also contributed to the car’s unprecedented performance.
So, on 20 October 1965, the Autodromo di Monza provided the backdrop for further exploits. The Fiat Abarth 1000 Monoposto set two world records in Class G, for acceleration over the quarter-mile (13"62) and 500-metre (15"38) distances. Not satisfied with these successes, Karl promptly had a 2000 cc engine fitted to the car and the following day set another two acceleration records in Class E: over a quarter-mile and 500 metres with times of 11"55 and 15"38 respectively.