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The return of the Abarth 1000 SP

The iconic Sport Prototype inspires a one-off version.

The contemporary evolution of the 1966’s sportscar designed to turn its customers into winners.

This is a story with three different beginnings.

The first one is dated 1966. After the experience of the Alfa Romeo Abarth 1000 Bertone, and the subsequent appointment of Mario Colucci as the Scorpion Brand’s technical director, Carlo Abarth instructed the Milanese engineer to work on an ambitious and revolutionary project: the Abarth 1000 SP – where the SP abbreviation indicated Sports Prototype, a covered-wheel car made exclusively to compete in racing competitions, with few models actually built. The result was a light and powerful spider featuring simple, low and streamlined shapes. The technical and stylistic excellence of this car soon led to an outstanding series of victories – both for teams and private customers – which further contributed to reinforcing the Abarth brand’s sporting prestige.

The second beginning tells the story of two siblings separated at birth. Once again, Abarth and Alfa Romeo renewed their bond. The year was 2009. After the launch of the Fiat 500 and the new 500 Abarth, new solutions were studied to expand the range of the Abarth brand at the Fiat & Abarth Style Centre, headed by Roberto Giolito. Various alternatives were considered, including that of a reinterpretation of the 1000 SP involving the creation of a medium-sized sports car with an attractive silhouette and essential lines: of the kind that would undoubtedly attract potential contemporary Abarth customers. This concept, of a light car with an excellent weight/power ratio, became the basis of two distinct projects, which were developed in parallel. The first was that of the new Abarth 1000 SP, while the second focussed on another car which would soon continue the tradition of Alfa Romeo sports cars: the 4C. The Alfa Romeo 4C was soon shining on the roads, but the 1000 SP project remained at the draft stage.

But not for long: for a while the technical drawing remained metaphorically in the drawer, but in 2021 it was reworked and perfected, which brings us to this story’s third beginning.

The new Abarth 1000 SP project was shaped fully in line with its forerunner: the points and lines of the original car's design have been respected, to ensure continuity between the sports car of the 1960s and the concept car of the new millennium. In between lay the creative process and the rediscovery of an ambitious idea.

This story describes an automotive project of great potential in terms of style, innovation and design, and also allows us to glimpse a slice of corporate life. It reveals a reality that moves at its own internal pace, where projects often feed each other and ideas circulate relentlessly... and if they remain dormant, they do so only while waiting to find the right path to a future reward. Like the new Abarth 1000 SP.

The spark comes from the same mathematics as the prototype imagined in 2009, which is subjected to a remastering operation: the previous project is further advanced, in order to perfect the car’s ultimate design. The new Abarth 1000 SP is an organically balanced car, in which three key design principles that were embedded in the original model of the 1960s have been respected. First of all, its lightness: in shapes, volumes and obviously also in weight, this car stands out for its extraordinary efficiency... an absolutely contemporary issue. The second principle is aerodynamics: for the 1966 1000 SP this science was applied via a series of empirical tests, but modern design technologies have today made it possible to combine the iconic lines of the 1000 SP with an aerodynamic coefficient worthy of a cutting-edge contemporary sportscar.

And finally, ergonomics, focussed on improving user experience: by its nature, design is linked with gestures, because it calls for actions that must be in complete harmony with a given objective context. For a sportscar, this concept is embodied in the optimisation of vehicle control, and how one "feels at ease” on board, in terms of spacial and dimensional perception, and of driveability. All three elements have played a fundamental role in the design of this one-off car.

Today the lines and aesthetic elements that shaped its ancestor echo strongly in the new Abarth 1000 SP. The car’s body – sinuous, with bold curvaceous mudguards that reinforce the visual impact of the wheels – echoes the layout of the central-engined spider. The cockpit windscreen, which protects even the tallest pilots from strong air currents, boasts the famous sculpted side deflectors, with a low profile sweeping up towards the roll-bar. The roll-bar is deliberately "exposed", further underlining that we’re facing an all-out one-hundred percent spider.

Further design touches: the rear geometries of the new Abarth 1000 SP emphasise the perfect harmony between the back headlights and exhausts, and also the open slots for engine cooling which echo those of its glorious ancestor. The paintwork is categorically red and - a quotation that rolls back the years - the characteristic air intakes appear all over the car body, from the "slit" vents on the front hood to the cooling “slots” on its rear.  The lights too respect the minimalist scheme of the historic 1000 SP, with point-like headlamps on the nose and a single pair of round headlights at the back, to emphasise the car's impressive width.

In other words, the new Abarth 1000 SP is deeply faithful to its predecessor... even in the spartan aeroplane cockpit ergonomics of its interiors, ruled by the combination of functionality and lightness. Thanks also to the careful updating of the historic Abarth 1000 SP, it leaves no room for compromise.

Under the "skin", for example, the tubular frame of the historic Sport Prototype makes way for a hybrid frame, with the central cell in carbon fibre and the front in aluminium.

aluminum, 4-cylinder, turbocharged, 1742-cc transverse centre
240 hp @ 6,000 rpm
⩾ 250 km/h
dry: 1,074 kg
front: overlapping triangles; rear: advanced MacPherson strut
front: perforated 305 mm x 28 mm dual-cast self-ventilating with 4-piston Brembo stationary caliper; rear: perforated 292 x 22 self-ventilating
Centro Stile Fiat & Abarth (Roberto Giolito – Ruben Wainberg)

These unmistakable hereditary traits are also expressed in terms of performance. The new Abarth 1000 SP has a powerful 1742 cc supercharged 4-cylinder aluminium central engine: a muscular pulsing heartbeat capable of delivering up to 240 HP of maximum thrust. The refined mechanics of the concept boast triangular suspensions with overlapping triangles at the front, and rear suspensions with an updated Macpherson scheme. The brakes are dual-cast self-ventilated perforated 305x28, with fixed 4-piston Brembo caliper at the front, and internally ventilated perforated 292x22 at the rear.

The new Abarth 1000 SP is about to take to the roads. Hopefully it will reawaken the amazing feats achieved half a century ago by its forefather, which triumphed in races across half of Europe, from the Nürburgring to the Targa Florio. Finally embracing the destiny of all descendants: to rejoin their past and drive it towards the future.

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