Forty years after last competing in the 1976 Monte Carlo Rally, the Abarth 124 Rally returns to set the pulses of rallying enthusiasts racing once more.
The car made its rallying debut in 1969, when several private drivers entered national races with the first-series Fiat 124 Sport Spider, still with its 1438-cc engine. Its overriding strength was its combination of robustness and excellent road holding due to optimal weight distribution, despite a power output of less than 100 hp. The results prompted Fiat's unofficial entry into rallying. This is how the 1600 version was developed, which proved to be a winning car and won the 1970 Italian Championship with Alcide Paganelli and Ninni Russo.
Fiat came out into the open with its official team in 1971: the merger with Abarth was completed and it became a separate racing division. Both the 125 S sedan and 124 Sport Spider were used in races, for which specialised foreign drivers such as Swede Hakan Lindberg were drafted in. Luciano Trombotto confirmed the Spider’s competitiveness in the narrow, winding streets on the island of Elba, winning the race for two consecutive years. One triumph quickly followed another, especially in the 1972 season, when Lele (Raffaele) Pinto and co-driver Gino Macaluso crossed the finish line in the Costa Brava Rally with a 124 Sport Spider that was 90 kg lighter.
By this time it had been renamed as the Fiat 124 Abarth Rally and was approved for Group 4 at the end of 1972. The car had been further advanced and the engine displacement increased to 1800 (1756 cm3) with a peak output of 128 hp at 6200 rpm, which was pushed up to 170 hp for Group 4. Instead of the rigid rear axle, the car featured new independent suspension and a ZF self-locking differential. Even the exterior had a racing car look: it had no bumpers and there were plastic wheelarch trims, roll bars and racing seats. It made its racing debut in the 1973 Monte Carlo Rally, where Pinto and co-driver Arnaldo Bernacchini finished behind the contingent of Alpines but in front of the Lancia Fulvia HF of Källström-Billstam. At Sanremo in 1973, Verini-Torriani took second place on the podium surrounded by two Alpine crews, with Bisulli-Zanuccoli, Barbasio-Scavini and Paganelli-Russo occupying 4th, 5th and 6th places ahead of the official HFs of Pregliasco and Lampinen.