Market Finds: This One-Of-A-Kind Abarth Road Racer Could Be Yours

This One-Of-A-Kind Abarth Road Racer Could Be Yours

By Nat Twiss
March 3, 2016

Words and photos by Nat Twiss

The Fiat 1500 doesn’t get a huge amount of recognition these days. In the UK, the long shadow of the Ford Cortina definitely has something to do with it, but the reality is that the 1500 is quite special. It may not look it on the surface, but this little car had some serious race car potential. Seriously: disc brakes all round, on an affordable car, in 1961? That was virtually unheard of.

With those excellent brakes, a short wheelbase, rear-wheel drive, and nippy 1.5-litre inline-4 engine to boot, it only made sense for performance-house Abarth to make upgrade kits for this car. Twin carburetors, steering wheels, exhaust systems, wheels—you name it—Abarth supplied it for the 1500, turning this perhaps slightly underpowered little car into a real challenger in fields of Ford Cortinas, Mini Coopers, and other touring cars from the era. Plus, those with the parts would definitely stand out in a crowd.

What we have here is believed to be the only such Abarth that still makes it to the circuits. Not just in the UK, either—the only one in the world. Starting out racing and rallying in Denmark in 1962, the car has a career of more than a half century. It found its way to most recent owner Guy Harman, in the UK in 2012, and since then has had a comprehensive update to meet FIA historic regulation, while also gaining some more modern parts like a fuel cell and fire suppression system, a custom made limited slip differential and drivetrain, and updated and uprated suspension parts. Last year, after a comprehensive engine rebuild, it was fitted with new Weber carburetors and competition exhaust system.

It would be wasteful to not put all of those upgrades to good use, and where better to do it than at Goodwood? Lord March is renowned for his strict policy on entries at the famous Revival festival, and this car has competed there three times—in 2013, at the 72nd Members’ Meeting, and in 2015.

With a face like that, and the credentials to back them up, this last of its kind Abarth racer must be something to consider. Even with a lifetime of racing behind it, the care taken on this car has left it in excellent condition, and you could happily keep it in storage, or race it for another fifty years. We know what we’d do.

– Believed to be the last Abarth 1500S in competition in the world
– Competition history spanning a half century, including events at Goodwood
– Upgraded to modern FIA specification

~110hp, 1,481 cc overhead valve inline-four engine with twin Weber DCNF downdraft carburetors, four-speed manual transmission with upgraded components, limited-slip differential.  ~950kg. Wheelbase: 95.3 in.

Dealer: Targa Florio Classics
Price: £35,000

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Lucas R
Lucas R
7 years ago

Guys, 1500s never came standard with REAR disc-brakes. That might have been an aftermarket mod, maybe just from Abarth.

I used to have an all-original 1966, with the gear lever in the steering column and the weird landscape-speedometer, digged into the parts market for almost two years trying to get original parts, and not even the latest versions came with discs all-around.

Now, that being said, what an awesome turn-in, what a great front-end. Even with a worn-out steering box, the huge original wheel, and the gear lever hanging from the steering column, what a blast to drive, specially in the dirt!!
I trully miss it.

Bryan Dickerson
Bryan Dickerson
7 years ago

Once again a car looks great with steel wheels.

Vladimir Jovanovic
Vladimir Jovanovic
7 years ago

great car…always loved street version of 1300 but this is the best one…