Built around a basic tubular frame with fibreglass bodywork and aerodynamic lines, the Fiat Abarth 2000 Sport Tipo SE 010 is recognisable by its sloping nose and two large front fenders featuring the signature four headlights or "Quattro Fari", which became the car’s nickname.
In the 1960s, the big manufacturers also began producing small cars with a sporty look, which squared up to compete against the small winning vehicles that had made the Scorpion famous. Carlo Abarth therefore decided to increase the company’s production, focusing on racing cars, in a bid to expand its offering into a sector far from the interests of the large manufacturers, and closer to the experience accrued by Abarth in the racing world.
Abarth’s popularity grew due to its production of derivatives based on the serial models, and its construction of cars designed specifically for use in competitive racing. This was the case for the so-called Sport vehicles: lightweight yet powerful 2-seater spiders, with covered wheels, of which just a few units were produced. Vehicles designed and built to take part in both gruelling endurance track races and short but intense hillclimbs.
The first ones to be built were immediately taken to race in the official Abarth Racing Team, with drivers of an international level. The excellent results they achieved in the most prestigious races were the best advertising medium for promoting the vehicles to private customers. Of the various sportscars that emerged, the 1966 Fiat Abarth 1000 SP was one of the most notable (1000 refers to the displacement and the initials stand for Sport Prototype) which would take home a victory on the tough Nürburgring 500 Kilometres, with Hans Hermann in the cockpit.
The customers interested in the Sport vehicles were no longer first-time drivers who purchased derivatives of the Fiat 600 and 500, but experienced, demanding gentlemen drivers, who instantly appreciated the excellent strengths of the competitive vehicles with the Scorpion logo: light weight, agility, power and speed, but also sturdiness and reliability. In the mid-60s, Abarth created two technical types of Sport vehicles: on one hand cars with bodywork in stamped sheet metal and rear engine placed behind the wheels, in line with the set-up dear to Carlo Abarth himself; on the other hand, vehicles closer to the Formulas, with tubular steel trellis frame and engine in the middle, mainly proposed by Abarth’s chief engineer Mario Colucci.
The Fiat Abarth 2000 Sport Tipo SE 010 first saw the light in 1967, partially combining the two solutions: rear overhand engine mounted on a tubular steel frame. Some of the fibreglass bodywork panels were used to increase the rigidity of the light frame (only 47 kg). The streamlined 2-seater spider with low, enveloping windscreen had particularly efficient aerodynamics. The double head lights sunk into the bumpers highlighted the versatility of the vehicle, which could be used in different types of races: indeed, according to the requirements and the regulations of the individual races, sometimes the main beam head lights were masked with adhesive strips. The tanks, with an approximate capacity of 100 litres, were proof of Abarth’s intent to also use the SE 010 in endurance track races.
The heart of the vehicle was a powerful racing engine: double over head camshaft, two large twin carburettors and dry-sump lubrication. With the two-litre displacement it delivered 250 horsepower, an extremely significant result for a 1968 aspirated engine. The total weight of just 575 kg helped give the car a top speed of 270 km/h.
The successes in the uphill races and in the endurance races, where Abarth participated in an official capacity, were not long in coming.
The Abarth 2000 SP SE 010 made a victorious debut on 7 April 1968, winning the Ampus hillclimb in France. The vehicle set a new race time record, coming in no less than 14 seconds faster than the previous record-holder. Another victory followed two weeks later in the Stallavena-Boscochiesanuova hillclimb - a historical motor race staged in Veneto - and the successes continued uninterrupted in the season’s other major European hillclimbs. These included, in particular, the hat-trick at the 12th Bologna-Raticosa Pass, where Johannes Ortner finished in first place, with Peter Schett and Arturo Merzario finishing respectively second and third.
After the success of the hillclimbs, it was the turn of the endurance races: on 4 September 1968 the Abarth Racing Team signed up three Sport vehicles for the Nürburgring 500 Kilometres event. For the occasion, the SE 010s were specially equipped with 1600 cc engines. A historic 1-2-3 victory followed, with Peter Schetty finishing first (covering 502.370 km at an average speed of 143.8 km/h), followed by Johannes Ortner in second and Arturo Merzario in third place.
The official team returned to the hillclimbs which, in the future, would be the most popular terrain with potential customers. Peter Schetty won three famous Italian competitions: the Colle della Maddalena, the Alpe del Nevegal and the Aosta-Pila hillclimbs, while Merzario took home a Class victory in the last race of the season at Aspern Airport (Vienna).
The vehicle made its debut with customers once it had been approved as a Group 4 Sport vehicle: on 27 April 1969 gentleman driver Domenico Scola drove it to victory in the Pieve Santo Stefano-Passo dello Spino hillclimb. Later, many other private drivers would choose the Fiat Abarth 2000 Sport Tipo SE 010 thanks to its successes, the reliability it displayed in the endurance races, and the performances it flaunted in the hillclimbs.