Abarth Holds on to History

How can a new brand have history? Abarth’s not so new…

Launched just nine years ago, the Abarth brand feels young. Turning the Fiat 500 into a mini-Maserati thanks to judicious use of mostly power and noise, it’s a brand that also appeals to the young.

However, there’s far more to Abarth than a few reworked 500s. Quietly retired after being used as little more than a trim level on Fiat hatchbacks in the 80s and 90s, between 1949 and sometime in the 70s it was an evocative name.

Founded by Carlo Abarth, an Austrian who grew up in Italy, petrol was seemingly in his blood. Designing motorbikes for Castagna as a teenager, he went on to win races before becoming European champion five times. After an accident, Carlo designed a sidecar and raced the Orient Express from Vienna to Ostend.

After working with the likes of Tazio Nuvolari and Ferdinand Porsche, Carlo eventually founded Abarth and set about building a race car. Unable to find a suitable driver, Carlo took on a diet of only apples and steak to lose the 30kg of weight needed to squeeze into the compact cockpit.

That passion is gradually being installed into the new models, including the forthcoming 124 Spider, and buyers will one day be able to take advantage of the recently launched Abarth Classiche.

A dedicated heritage division for the Scorpion-logoed cars, Officine Abarth Classiche will be responsible for certification of historic Abarth models, ensuring their mechanical authenticity. As part of the brief, a team at the Mirafiori plant in Turin is dedicated to the restoration and maintenance of classic Abarths.

The programme is also open to Abarth-tuned Fiats, Lancias and Alfa Romeos, ultimately resulting in a complete Abarth registry. However, by concentrating on purely mechanical components, vehicles either heavily modified or restored will still be able to pass certification as long as the components in use are genuine.

Proving the authenticity has been a rather more difficult process than some might expect, thanks to a thriving market for fake parts that boosted power particularly in 500 and 600 models. Abarth Classiche has obtained a range of documents, including technical drawings, to work from, as well as taking on help from the ASI, the Historical Italian Automotoclub.

As with the Ferrari Classiche department, owners will be able to send their Abarths to the factory for service, maintenance and restoration at the hands of trained experts, working from the original documents.

Owners will also get the chance to participate in organised events, helping grow the community of Abarth enthusiasts and collectors.

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.