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750 color

The Fiat-Abarth Bertone record car

The Abarth case is quite unique in the history of speed records: over a period of eleven years, between 1956 and 1966, the Torino factory set a grand total of 113 International Records, all on the Monza circuit, 6 of which were also World Records, using eleven different cars. Six of these were the famous streamliners, built specifically for the purpose of setting medium and long distance records, most of them using Pininfarina bodies, the better known of which, the one equipped with the dohc one liter engine, set the World Record for 72 hours in 1960.
The first of the line was built in 1956 around the chassis of a Fiat 600, suitably modified and equipped with the Fiat-Abarth 750 engine, and was conceived with the main purpose of attracting the attention of the public and technicians to the qualities of Abarth's "elaborazioni" on the popular micro car from Torino, which had been introduced to the public just a few months earlier.

750 run

The Fiat-Abarth 750 at the 1956 Torino car show
The aluminium body was built by Bertone, for whom Franco Scaglione designed a sleek aluminium body, somewhat reminiscent, specially in its original form as shown at the Salone di Torino, of his striking Alfa Romeo BAT designs ("Ugo Fadini model n.19).
Unfortunately the Abarth team subsequently carried a number of modifications (shortened tail, lowered fenders, drilled panels at the back, to reduce air pressure) that spoilt the clean looks of the car. This may have been one of the reasons for the change to Pininfarina for the next streamliners.

Over a period of just a year, 1956, the car was used for five different record attempts and set a total of 20 International Records in three different classes.

750 run
Carlo Abarth (first to the right) with the team of six car journalists before the record attempt
For the first two attempts the car was equipped with the 750 cc engine: the first was in fact little more than a test, nevertheless it brought the Class H record for 24 hours. The second, the for which the car had been built, was staged just a week later and saw six famous international racing journalists as members of the team of nine, including Paul Frère, Gordon Wilkins and Giovanni Lurani, who had been invited to drive the car with the obvious purpose of attracting more attention. The car ran on the Monza circuit for three full days, setting five international records for distances up to 72 hours. Ugo Fadini model n. 9 reproduces the car during this attempt.


500 run
First attempt with the 500 engine
Just a month later the car was introduced to the press again as the Fiat-Abarth 500: it was now pushed by a de-bored Fiat 600 engine (at the time the Fiat 500 had not been produced yet); the body was unchanged, but it had been repainted grey/silver with a yellow top, perhaps to create the illusion that it was a different car.
Ugo Fadini model n. 11 represents the car during this third record session, which brought 'just' three records, due to a rather absurd misunderstanding with the FIA. The Federation had sent Abarth an obsolete list of records, on which the 1955 records set by the german Lloyd did not show, and the team had set their goals based on those wrong figures!

800 version
The Fiat-Abarth Bertone in later "800" trim
The car was back on the track two more times later in the year, setting first 6 records in class G (up to 1100 cc) with an engine just slightly over 750 cc. The car, now called 'Fiat-Abarth 800', retained the same color scheme, but the body was slightly modified in detail, including new air intakes and larger wheel spats to allow for larger wheels.
Finally, in october, the car, again sporting minor detail changes and with the headlight compartment by now closed, turned back to 'Fiat-Abarth 500' status to set the short distance records missed in July due to the 'accuracy' of FIA informations, bringing the total number of records set in class I to eight and the total for the car to 20.
By then, the record breaking 'bug' had bit Carlo Abarth and in subsequent years he went on building new cars and setting new records. Ugo Fadini model n. 4, now obsolete, reproduced another of Abarth's record breakers, the Pininfarina bodied Fiat-Abarth 750 used in 1957 and 1958.
( Ugo Fadini - All b/w photos from Centro Storico Fiat)

NOTE - A more detailed story and many more photos can be found in an 8-page article I published on the italian magazine Auto d'Epoca, March 1992.
This was the first in a series on Abarth record cars that continued on issues Dec 1993 (750 and 1100 Pinifarina cars, 1957/58), Feb 1993 (500 Pinifarina, 1958/59), Apr 1993 (750 and 1000 Pinifarina 1960/65), Jan 1994 (the later record cars, 1963/66) and May 1994 (Abarth people discuss the record cars, updates and more photos).

The model was based on measurements taken on the real car preserved at the Centro Storico Fiat in Torino.

All the records set by the Fiat-Abarth Bertone

All records are International FIA records for Category A Group 1, all set in 1956 on the Monza circuit.
(List is based on official FIA record lists)

dateclassdistance or timedriversspeed km/h
17/18 JuneH (501/750 cc)24 hCattini, Maglioli, Poltronieri, Thiele155,985
27/29 JuneH (501/750 cc)5.000 kmWieselmann, Frère, Cahier, Wilkins, Honneger, Lurani, Cattini, Poltronieri, Thiele145,175
27/29 JuneH (501/750 cc)5000 miWieselmann, Frère, Cahier, Wilkins, Honneger, Lurani, Cattini, Poltronieri, Thiele145,121
27/29 JuneH (501/750 cc)10.000 kmWieselmann, Frère, Cahier, Wilkins, Honneger, Lurani, Cattini, Poltronieri, Thiele140,658
27/29 JuneH (501/750 cc)48 hWieselmann, Frère, Cahier, Wilkins, Honneger, Lurani, Cattini, Poltronieri, Thiele145,394
27/29 JuneH (501/750 cc)72 hWieselmann, Frère, Cahier, Wilkins, Honneger, Lurani, Cattini, Poltronieri, Thiele140,632
25 JulyI (351/500 cc)2.000 kmCattini, Della Beffa, Fraccari, Poltronieri, Thiele139,978
25 JulyI (351/500 cc)2.000 miCattini, Della Beffa, Fraccari, Poltronieri, Thiele137,771
25 JulyI (351/500 cc)24 hCattini, Della Beffa, Fraccari, Poltronieri, Thiele137,948
8 AugustG (751/1100 cc)1.000 miCattini, Poltronieri, Thiele168,659
8 AugustG (751/1100 cc)2.000 kmCattini, Poltronieri, Thiele170,264
8 AugustG (751/1100 cc)2.000 miCattini, Poltronieri, Thiele167,350
8 AugustG (751/1100 cc)5.000 kmCattini, Poltronieri, Thiele167,694
8 AugustG (751/1100 cc)12 hCattini, Poltronieri, Thiele170,410
8 AugustG (751/1100 cc)24 hCattini, Poltronieri, Thiele167,622
12 OctoberI (351/500 cc)500 miCattini, Poltronieri, Thiele150,098
12 OctoberI (351/500 cc)1.000 kmCattini, Poltronieri, Thiele148,387
12 OctoberI (351/500 cc)1.000 miCattini, Poltronieri, Thiele147,664
12 OctoberI (351/500 cc)6 hCattini, Poltronieri, Thiele150,183
12 OctoberI (351/500 cc)12 hCattini, Poltronieri, Thiele147,982


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