Market Finds: This Record-Setting Abarth Could Be Your Roadgoing UFO

This Record-Setting Abarth Could Be Your Roadgoing UFO

By Andrew Golseth
June 23, 2016

Photography courtesy of Gooding & Company by Piotr Degler.

When it comes to coachbuilders, the Italians take the cake. Of the many carrozzerias, it’s hard to top the work in Pininfarina’s extensive and immensely impressive catalogue. Giving the world some of the most stunning automobiles, the design house has constructed countless Ferraris, Maseratis, Alfa Romeos, Lancias, Fiats, and more. Typically thought of as a bespoke or contracted production sports/super car production outfit, many of Pininfarina’s oddball projects have been overshadowed by its more mainstream work.

One such unique build is this 1960 Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero La Principessa. In the late 1950s, Abarth took aim on a rather obscure goal: to build a car specifically to beat sustained high-speed records. And set records it did… nine of them, in fact. So, how did Fiat-Abarth do it?

First, the craftsman at Pininfarina were asked to construct a slippery mold that’d cut through the air like a bullet. Using the Turin Polytechnic University wind tunnel as its testing grounds, Pininfarina got to work. The end result was a smooth all-aluminum monoposto (single-seater) UFO-like shell, complete with wheel spats at all four, with a drag coefficient of just .20! Measuring in at around 47 inches tall, 61 inches wide, and 180 inches front to rear, this low and long anti-drag machine was ready for propulsion.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Something that looks like a B2 bomber without wings must have a monstrous powertrain.” However, weight is key to efficiency, ruling out heavy large displacement options. Mounted amidships is a custom Fiat-Abarth built micro 1.0-liter four-cylinder engine coupled to a four-speed manual transmission… good for just 100 horsepower.

That might sound disappointing, but thanks to its clever low-drag Pininfarina sculpted cloak the La Principessa was plenty fast. After making its official public debut at the 42nd Turin Motor Show, the car proceeded to carry out its destiny: break sustained speed records. Of the nine earned bar setting titles, the two most impressive feats includes logging a 116 mph clocked average speed for 72 hours straight and 118.7 mph average speed for 10,000 kilometers!

Kept in a private collection for decades, this unrestored all-original record setting single seat flying saucer on wheels is being offered through Gooding & Company at the upcoming Pebble Beach auction. Its history is impressive, but we can’t get over the vacuum-sealed-like Coke-bottle Pininfarina coachwork. Someone please buy this and drive it around Roswell at dusk—we’ll be waiting to hear the FAA reports!

– Pininfarina designed coachwork
– Nine time sustained speed world record setter
– All original unrestored one of a kind aero-car

~100 horsepower 1.0-liter Fiat-Abarth four-cylinder with four-speed manual transmission.

Vehicle information
Chassis no.: E1351

Auction house: Gooding & Company
Estimate: (Upon request)
Price realized: TBD

All images copyright and courtesy of Degler Studio.
Photo by Piotr Degler. 

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7 years ago

This car could have claimed the name of “Silver Arrow” if not already attributed…
What a shape… take a look at the steering wheel, slightly shortened…

Niklas W
Niklas W
7 years ago
Reply to  plume19

And the slightly awkward dogleg config of the gearshift pattern. Or is that normal for dogleg?

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