FIAT Friday - Abarth 750 Bertone "Record"
The speeder that set Abarth on the road to beat 133 speed and endurance records
The Fiat 600 was introduced in 1955 at the Geneva Auto Show. Designed by ace Italian designer Dante Giacosa, the small car with a rear engine was instantly popular and is hailed as the car that put Italy on the road. In fact, more than a million 600s were sold in the first 4 years of its manufacturing. But when Karl Abarth saw the FIAT 600, he did not see a small rear engined runabout with suicide doors. Rather he saw a platform for a record breaking speeder. And thus the Abarth 750 was born.
The Abarth 750 was built around a chassis based on the Fiat 600's. Most of its parts (albeit modified) including the steering and suspensions, were sourced from the same parts bin as the 600 (hence the "Fiat 600 Derivazione" emblazoned on the engine door). Noted Italian design house Bertone, under the design leadership of Franco Scaglione, provided an all aluminum streamlined body to wrap around an extremely compact package that was powered by a Abarth tuned 750cc FIAT engine.
First shown to the public at the Turin auto show in April 1956, the Abarth 750 was designed by Karl Abarth to break the existing world speed and endurance records in the H class, open to cars with displacement from 500 to 750 cc. And break records it did.
The first of the records to fall, was the 24 hour endurance record. Two months after its unveiling, the Abarth 750 was transported to the Monza high speed circuit. On 17th and 18th June 1956, Remo Cattini, Umberto Maglioli, Mario Poltronieri and Alfonso Thiele covered 3475 km at an average speed of 156 km/h to set the first of the 133 records that would be held by Karl Abarth in his lifetime. But Abarth was not satisfied with the first attempt which he saw as a glorified test.
So a week later, the Abarth 750 was back at Monza and this time a gaggle of internationally famous journalists were specially invited to drive alongside Abarth test drivers while covering the record breaking attempt.
Once the journalists handed off the cars to the Abarth drivers after their initial stints, with an average speed of 150km/h, the Abarth 750 shattered speed records for the 500km, 500 mile and the 1000km lengths, plus endurance records for the 48 and 72 hour timeframes. The speedy Abarth 750 proved to be frugal too, consuming just 6 liters of petrol per 100 km over the three days.
Aptly rechristened the "Record", the Abarth 750 became the torch bearer for Karl Abarth's ideology that turned small road cars into record breaking speed mavens by harnessing the power of aerodynamics and weight reduction. And the 750 "Record" became the car that set Karl Abarth down the road on a journey that netted 133 speed and endurance records over his lifetime.