Seventy Years of History and Wins – Happy Birthday, Abarth!

  • Carlo Abarth (1908-1979) founded Abarth & C. on 31 March 1949, establishing a genuine legend of style and performance expressed through record-breaking cars, revolutionary tuning kits and legendary races.
  • Ten world records, 133 international records, more than 10,000 wins on the track. The long string of successes is used to put the technological solutions which are later carried across to standard production to the test under the toughest of conditions.
  • Abarth is celebrating the special milestone with the new “70th Anniversary” range characterised, on the outside, by a special badge that will make the cars registered in 2019 unique and exclusive.
  • Also celebrating 70 years of history are the new 595 esseesse, inspired by the legendary tuning kit of the Sixties, and the limited edition 124 Rally Tribute that celebrates the wins of the past season.
  • The racing version of Abarth 124 Rally 2019, refreshed to reassert its position as the car to beat in the R-GT class, officially debuted a few days ago in the wake of the wins in the European R-GT 2018 and in the FIA R-GT Cup 2018, which is considered the Gran Turismo world championship.
  •  Anniversary celebrations are backed up by record sales in Europe in 2018 with nearly 23,500 cars sold, marking a 36.5% growth on 2017.

Abarth will be turning 70 in a few days’ time. This important milestone in motorsports is another record of the Italian brand, which is still fuelling the dreams of fans worldwide today more than ever. Celebrating this anniversary means remembering the invaluable people, the sporting achievements and the technological heritage of Abarth as well as consolidating that indissoluble bond that unites various generations of customers all under the banner of the founder’s mission of maximum performance, craftsmanship and constant technical refinement.

“Telling the key stages of Abarth is an opportunity to rediscover the record-breaking cars, the revolutionary tuning kits and legendary races that marked the technological progress and motorsport accomplishments of the brand”, – explained Luca Napolitano, Head of EMEA Fiat and Abarth brands. “All this belongs to the past and to the present of Abarth, together with the commitment and pride of the people who over time have worked in the factories and offices and on the race tracks, with a little extra something. Besides sporting satisfaction, for the engineers and technicians of the brand with the Scorpion badge races are the tough proving grounds where the most innovative technological solutions can be tested in the most adverse conditions before carrying them across to the street-legal Abarth models. In this way, we can achieve the very best in terms of performance, safety and reliability and offer it to our customers”.

This is one of the secrets of the vitality of the brand, which continues to fascinate, as confirmed by the record-breaking sales in Europe last year with nearly 23,500 new registrations marking a 36.5% growth on 2017. The results were particularly outstanding in some markets. For example, Abarth set its national record in the United Kingdom with 5,600 units sold and a growth of 27%, while  Spain sold 1,450 units, also representing a growth of 27%. What’s more, the brand’s fan base is expanding at a dizzying rate across Europe, with nearly 110,000 members registered to the Abarth Scorpionship community.

Enthusiasm among fans is also running high following the remarkable accomplishments of the Abarth 124 rally which, after a season packed of successes in all the national and international rally championships it competed, has been renewed this year (follow the link for more information) by capitalising on the experience of the first two racing seasons and continuous development work of the Abarth team. The goal is simple: to keep being the car to beat in the R-GT class.

The Abarth “70th Anniversary” range for Abarth 595 and Abarth 124, all identified on the outside by a special badge to make the cars of 2019 unique and exclusive, was launched to celebrate the motorsports achievements and the important milestone (follow the link for the press release). Celebrations continued at the recent Geneva Motor Show with the presentation of the new 595 esseesse, also sporting the celebratory badge, and by the limited edition 124 Rally Tribute, of which only 124 will be made. Follow this link for more information on this news.

In brief, celebrating the first 70 years of Abarth will be a genuine journey into the roots of the legend, to understand where it comes from and how the inimitable personality that makes the cars with the Scorpion badge immediately recognisable on every day roads was built.

1949-2019 – The first 70 years of the Scorpion badge

The legend of the brand with the Scorpion badge started on 31 March 1949 when Carlo Abarth (1908-1979) founded Abarth & C. with driver Guido Scagliarini. Their first car was the 204 A derived from the Fiat 1100. It commanded attention on 10 April 1950 when Tazio Nuvolari drove it to win his last race, the Palermo-Monte Pellegrino. Since then, the history of Abarth has been full of racing and industrial records, always in the spirit of the founder to combine maximum performance, craftsmanship and constant technical refinement.

Actually, Carlo Abarth’s interesting career started with motorcycles not cars. At the age of twenty, he racked up his first wins as a rider on a Motor Thun, then the next year he built his first customised motorbike under the Abarth brand. Unfortunately, during a competition at Linz, an accident forced him to abandon motorbikes. He continues competing with sidecars, a vehicle that he made famous in exploits endeavours such as the race against the Orient Express train – that he won, of course. A second serious accident in 1939 forced him to abandon racing completely. This marked a new beginning for Carlo Abarth.

In 1945, he moved to Merano and becomes an Italian citizen to all effects. Then, after a brief experience in Cisitalia, he founded Abarth & C. in 1949 and had the intuition of supplementing racing activities with the production of his famous tuning kits for mass-production cars to increase power, speed and acceleration. Noteworthy components of the kit were the exhaust pipes, which, over the years, become a true icon of the “Abarth style”. In the space of just a few years, Abarth & C. went global. By 1962 it was producing 257,000 exhaust pipes, 65% of which are destined for export markets.

The pinnacle of success came at the end of the 1950s and in the 1960s. An example? With a Fiat Abarth 750 designed by Bertone in 1956, the brand broke the endurance and speed record. On 18 June, on the Monza racetrack, it broke the 24-hour record covering 3,743 km at an average speed of 155 km/h. Then, from 27 to 29 June on the same circuit, it racked up a number of records: the 5,000 and 10,000 km, the 5,000 miles and also the 48 and 72 hours.

The same vehicle was designed by Zagato in two different versions: the Fiat Abarth 750 Zagato (1956) and the Fiat Abarth 750 GT Zagato (1956). The roar of the car reached the ears of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr., son of the president of the USA, who rushed to Italy to personally sign an exclusivity contract for the distribution of these vehicles with Abarth.

In 1958, Abarth completed a true work of art on the new Fiat 500, completely transforming the small utility car and enhancing its potentials to the maximum. In the same year, the brand intensified its partnership with Fiat, as Fiat commits itself to awarding Abarth cash prizes based on the number of victories and records that the team achieved. An event that formed the basis of the impressive winning streak to come: 10 world records, 133 international records, more than 10,000 victories on the track.

 The legend continued to grow more and more, becoming a household name. The 1960s were the golden decade for Abarth. “Abarth” becomes the byword for speed, courage, performance and development. And the list of vehicles which engraved the name of Abarth in the history of motor racing is a long one: from the 850 TC, which was victorious on all the international circuits including the Nürburgring, to the Fiat Abarth 1000 Berlina and the 2300 S that strung up an extraordinary series of records on the Monza track despite the harsh weather conditions. 

In 1971 Abarth was wholly taken over by the Fiat Group and the legend continued with the Fiat 124 Abarth, winner of the 1972 and 1975 European title, the 131 Abarth, world rally champion in 1977, 1978 and 1980, and the Ritmo Abarth. Sadly, Carlo Abarth passes away on 24 October 1979, under the sign of Scorpio, the same as his birth that had inspired the badge sported on his cars.

The glorious past was actualised again in 2008 when the brand was relaunched with a new line-up created for motorsports enthusiasts, like the Abarth Grande Punto (2007) and the Abarth 500 (2008), in addition to tuning kits for each car there was also the racing versions of the Abarth Grande Punto Rally Super 2000 and the Abarth 500 Assetto Corse. Since then, new models have been launched thick and fast: the Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari (2010), the Abarth 595 Yamaha Factory Racing (2015), the Abarth 695 Biposto Record (2015), the Abarth 695 Rivale (2017), the Abarth 124 spider (launched in 2016), the Abarth 124 GT and the new Abarth 595 range (both introduced in 2018). And today, the legend of the Scorpion continues with the Abarth “70th Anniversary” range on Abarth 595 and Abarth 124, in addition to the brand-new Abarth esseesse 595 and Abarth 124 Rally Tribute.