1959 Fiat Abarth


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1959 Fiat Abarth 750 Bialbero 'Record Monza' Coupé
Coachwork by Carrozzeria Zagato
Registration no. Not registered in UK
(previously registered in Italy: BO 242191)
Chassis no. 705712
Engine no. 222010

Carlo Abarth always demonstrated an acute understanding of the preferences of the enthusiastic, predominantly younger, Italian motorist. On March 12, 1955, the Fiat Group had launched its 600 utility saloon car model at the Geneva Salon. The model became a key to the Turin company's burgeoning postwar success. The 600 had been conceived by designer Dante Giacosa – an old associate of Carlo Abarth's from the Cisitalia days – and it had been intended to replace the little Fiat Cinque-Cento (500) as a four-seat, rear-engined economy saloon car, assembled around an integral bodyshell that was compact and light yet spacious. Fiat would produce almost 2.7-million of them over the following 15 years, and the Abarth company grew upon its remarkable capability to develop and market a highly-successful series of 'go faster' modifications for the model.

Abarth enlarged the basic Fiat engine's bore from 60mm to 61mm, and its stroke from 56mm to 64. Crankshaft, camshaft, pistons, valves and valve-springs were replaced and uprated, as was the sump. Under such attention the engine grew from 633cc displacement to 747cc. A Weber carburettor and manifolding improved the little power unit's breathing. An Abarth free-flow exhaust system enhanced output – and (always an important consideration to the youthful Italian male) the noise the engine made. The new Fiat Abarth 750 engine suddenly offered 41.5bhp at 5,500rpm against the Fiat original's modest 21.5bhp at a busier

Initially the standard integral body was retained and within Italy the Fiat Abarth became as iconic a go-faster car as the Mini-Cooper would become in the UK. In 1956 Belgian racing driver and journalist Paul Frere tried one of the cars and wrote: "The 750 Abarth is not just great fun to drive in normal use, particularly on main roads and, certainly, in the mountains but it can also offer the driver an excellent possibility of a class win in important races, such as the great international rally events...".

As early as March, 1956, a streamline-bodied Abarth 750 Coupé fashioned by Carrozzeria Zagato appeared at Monza, as a pocket Gran Turismo. Hard-nosed Carlo Abarth had apparently done a deal with Elio Zagato to produce the car on expectation, telling him "I'll give you the mechanicals – you produce the body in Milan. But no advance payment. I'll pay you only after the cars have been sold." Zagato accepted. Abarth also had Bertone body a record car version of his new 750, which covered over 3,700kms – c. 2,300 miles – in 24 hours at Monza, and at an average speed of 155.985km/h – 96mph. This encouraged Abarth to embark upon many more record attempts, over 10,000kms and 72 hours, returning similarly remarkable performances. 'Record Monza' – 'RM' would become an enamelled badge of honour on future Fiat-Abarth models such as the Bialbero Coupé offered here.

Through 1957 Zagato's Fiat-Abarth 750 entered quantity production and that competition season in Italy and Europe saw Fiat-Abarth productions triumphant in their Touring and Gran Turismo classes. But Carlo Abarth's engine development still had a major leap to make, with the adoption of twin overhead camshaft. No less an engineer than Gioachino Colombo – creator of the original Alfetta and Ferrari V12 Grand Prix designs – was engaged to create a twin-cam
head with the valves set at 40-degrees and the cam-drive achieved by chain in an overhung cam-drive chest at the rear of the power unit. With compression raised to 9.7:1 and two Weber twin-choke carburettors the result twin-cam or 'Bialbero' engine developed 57bhp at 7,000rpm - over 80bhp per litre.

While Zagato's streamlined Coupé had made its 'double-bubble' roof form famous, Carlo Abarth now decided to put the Bialbero engine only in the 'Zagato Record Monza' production model, with a smooth roof. Launched at the Paris Salon in October 1958, these little cars weighed only 540kg – 1,190lbs – and offered a top speed of 180km/h – c.112mph.

The competition feats of the little Zagato-bodied Abarths then filled the sporting press. The 1959 season saw Fiat Abarth 750 GTs taking a string of victories, ranging from the Sestrieres Rally to the year's Sebring 12-Hours race in Florida – where the Roosevelt Automobile Company's team shone – to the European Mountain Championship and more. Abarths scored ten outright victories and won their class 96 times. Fiat had long since agreed to pay Carlo Abarth a bonus for every first place his Fiat-based products achieved in competition,
anywhere in the world – and the arrangement would cost them dear... This example of the Fiat Abarth 750 Bialbero 'Record Monza' Coupé has starred within the Collezione Maranello Rosso for many years.

We have found no record of its early career, but it has been inspected for us by immensely experienced marque experts and they express no doubt that it is a highly original and absolutely authentic example of the type. From paperwork preserved within the documentation file accompanying this car we can confirm that it was registered in May 22, 1965, to Alfonso Vallisi of Bologna, its kerb weight being cited then as 586kg with fuel – 550kg catalogue weight.

There is also some evidence that the car had previously been part of the Abarth works team – and there is an inference (unconfirmed) that it is one of the cars which participated in the Sebring 12-Hours and was then returned to Italy (which seems unlikely for a Sebring contender which would normally be sold into US ownership) and sold to a customer in Taranto, Brindisi Province.

However, the registration 'libretto' booklet preserved within the relevant file with this Lot lists Antonello Degli Esposti,of Bologna, as acquiring the car with the date stamp October 5, 1974, appended. John de Boer's renowned book 'The Italian Car Registry' (1994, John Fulton de Boer) lists this chassis serial '705712' – with engine 222- 010 – as having originated on October 10, 1959 - and its owner at the time of data compilation as being the self-same Abarth enthusiast Antonello Degli Esposti, of Bologna.

Ownership was transferred to Fabrizio Violati in Rome on March 11, 2003, and it is noteworthy that Bologna licence plates under serial 'BO 242191' are included within the documentation file accompanying this Lot.

At first inspection this most attractive little Abarth 750 Bialbero's engine proved by hand to turn freely, its cylinder bores look clean and in good condition, and the water pump is also free to rotate within its housing. The power unit thus has the potential to be started with further investigation and work completed to the electrics and fuel system. The clutch system is operating and all gears could be selected. We also found that the braking system is operable but would recommend that it is subject to a full strip and rebuild prior to the car being used.

As with all these cars from long-term Maranello Rosso Collection museum display at Falciano we recommend expert technical inspection and re-commissioning before a new owner uses this delightfully original and unspoiled 750 Bialbero 'Record Monza' Coupé in earnest. Overall it presents in very good cosmetic condition apart from minor bodywork damage to the body's nose. Its interior
has a wonderful 'time machine' feel yet in remarkably good order and it is plainly a very fine surviving example of this immensely successful and exciting type. It would provide instant access to many of the world's leading Historic racing and concours events and promises the successful bidder many miles of truly entertaining use.

Please note this vehicle is subject to import tax should it remain in the EU.