Featured: Tiny Classic Cars Will Let You Drive On The Limit, Anywhere

Tiny Classic Cars Will Let You Drive On The Limit, Anywhere

Avatar By Jacopo Villa
December 4, 2015
10 comments

Photography by Rosario Liberti

Cars like the Abarth-tuned Fiat 500s are all about having fun at any speed. It’s the sort of car that we might need today in our congested cities: small, agile, great fuel economy, and with a near-promise you’ll always drive within the law—you’re playing with roughly 40 horsepower, after all.

Most contemporary cars will get you in trouble easily, unless you have nice roads or a racing track at hand. The 500 Abarth could be the car of choice of a more practical petrolheads: you’ll always go flatout, enjoy oversteer at 20 mph, and perfect your double clutching and heel and toeing technique. It’s a “legal limit” sportscar, and it’s incredibly practical in everyday use.

It’s also an icon and a collector’s item, like these two original (yet modified) examples, a 1970 Abarth 595 and a 1965 Abarth 695 SS Assetto Corsa.

They have it all: they’re quick, reliable, fun, and highly collectable. These vintage Abarths are, alongside Gianninis, the pinnacle of stylish and pocketable Italian performance. They’re icons of an era where you could take your daily driver to races all across the continent, maybe entering a few events on the way for kicks.

Located in the countryside north of Milan, this garage looked ordinary from the outside. I confess that Rosario and I weren’t expecting to see a complete, clean private shop, with all the tools you need to build and restore vintage 500s.

Through the door, there was literally a room full of cars and spare parts: 850s, Gianninis, Autobianchis, a Formula Monza plus spare engines, complete dashes, wheels…it was like like wandering into Carlo Abarth’s broom closet.

We could have spent all afternoon in that place, but the little beast didn’t leave us many options. We eagerly jumped in for a ride. Soon enough, we were bashing the throttle pedal to the floor, never breaking the law, going sideways at, what, 20mph?

We affectionately dubbed them the bombardone Torinesi aka, “Turin’s bombards” for their ability to wake up entire neighborhoods, scare everyone, and be effective on the field of competition. They’re the ultimate troublemakers for bigger cars, and stand as a testament to Karl Abarth’s philosophy that there’s often more satisfaction in humiliating bigger and more expensive cars with a cheaper and smaller one.

Less is sometimes more, right?

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Martin BöhmBalzacSwandiave LiveDiego NebFrancois Bozonnet Recent comment authors
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Martin Böhm
Martin Böhm

You could also take a small peek to Austria. Steyr-Puch built very fast Fiat based alternatives to the small Abarths with air cooled boxer engines. The Steyr-Puch 650 TR and 650 TRII Europa are real gems and pretty fast! I’ve got a 1970 Steyr-Puch 500S, which is a late model and i love the sound of the air cooled 2-cyl boxer with the big fan.

Balzac
Balzac

The problem is, if you park it on the street you are always worried that it will be stolen. I love these cars, but for daily practical use I prefer a “less desirable/famous” car like the Fiat 126

Swandiave Live
Swandiave Live

extreme Beauty I would say specially with this fantastic photography Petrolicious Team ! ..
but i was wondering where is that shop ? whats the name of it ? we need to Upgrade ours

Diego Neb
Diego Neb

Nice car and nice article, I have an original Fiat Abarth 595 and other Fiat 500!!! This is my collection and this is my FB paige, if you buy or sell your Fiat 500 contact me at nebgarage@live.it

https://www.facebook.com/Neb-Garage-555860581169610/

Linda N Brian Schick
Linda N Brian Schick

In my senor year in high school, I participated in what must have been the slowest drag race in history. My Renault Dauphine (32 hp) against a Morris Minor. No one won and I don’t think we even broke the speed limit.

Stephan P
Stephan P

Great article. Fantastic garage.
I understand the driving experience completely. My proletarian 850 offers the same albeit without the collectibility.

Lucas Chiarelli
Lucas Chiarelli

Que belleza

Anders Holmberg
Anders Holmberg

Utterly fabulous article, thank you Jacopo!

Alain Raymond
Alain Raymond

As the proud and fortunate owner of a genuine 1968 Fiat Abarth 595 esse esse, I can vouch for this car’s enormous crowd appeal. The minute it shows up anywhere, even with the most extravagant exotics, it immediately attract attention. As for the driving experience, it is probably the only car (with the Citroen 2CV) that you can drive flat out without getting a ticket. Check it out at http://www.auto-historia.ca/squadra-topolino/fiat-abarth-595-ss-1968/

Francois Bozonnet
Francois Bozonnet

Mr Alain Raymond, nice website too…..