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Autobianchi A112 Abarth. 50 years of the first Abarth within FIAT

1971 was an important year for FIAT, which swallowed Abarth to make it the embryo of its racing department. A sporty end that, however, was not an obstacle for the Scorpion brand to continue signing modifications made from popular models created by FIAT. Proof of this is the Autobianchi A112 Abarth. The first model under the direct control of FIAT, which now celebrates half a century with a history of commercial success behind it.

Days ago we talked to you about Lancia 2000 in the wake of its fiftieth anniversary. An emblematic model for the brand, not so much for its design or profitability as for having been the first under the tutelage of FIAT. Or rather, under the direct control of it. As in 1969 the Pasenti family sold all of the Lancia shares to the Agnelli conglomerate. A very important year for the Italian car industry. Among other things because Ferrari also came under the protection of the Turin giant.

An expansion sponsored by the Italian government, which sought to put the most emblematic brands on the national scene away from Ford's clutches. Nevertheless, In this process of acquiring brands, FIAT obtained two others with lower turnover but of which it had been an essential partner for decades.. The first was Autobianchi. Entrepreneurial adventure born in 1955, when FIAT and Pirelli partnered with the bicycle manufacturer Bianchi for the production of small city cars until the Agnellis took full control in 1969.

The second was Abarth. The legendary sports coach who since 1949 has been working with companies such as Porsche or Alfa Romeo while focusing almost all his attention on modifying or using FIAT mechanics and chassis. A work so concrete that, tightening ties in an increasingly evident way, led her to be absorbed by it in 1971. Just the year in which the first model of the Scorpion brand was presented under the control of FIAT. Curiously a creation based on the A112: the most popular Autobianchi model. We are talking about the Autobianchi A112 Abarth.


Now that Abarth is relegated to two models -one of them sharing a base with the Mazda MX5-, many of its buyers ignore the past in races of the scorpion brand. A success story based on mechanical craftsmanship to push the possibilities of the 600 to the limit with models like the 1000 TC / TCR. Extreme modifications of the popular compact, which go to extremes unheard of with the 1000 SP. Mario Colucci's 1966 masterpiece which, despite its track barchetta look, is based on the engine block of a single 600. Creations for which the history of Abarth generates fascination among fans of racing.

A story that faded after 1971. When FIAT's purchase of Abarth made FIAT the industrial giant's racing department. However, the Agnellis did not waste the seductive power wielded by the Abarth name, using it for the sporty versions of their most popular models. So things, in 1971 the Autobianchi A112 Abarth was introduced. The most extreme version of the model that Italy wanted to replicate the Mini. Presented at the 1969 Turin Motor Show as an affordable and dynamic compact with front-wheel drive.

A sales success that also required a sports variant as an alternative to the effective Mini Cooper. Precisely the mission entrusted by FIAT executives to the recently acquired Abarth engineers. Who They knew how to take all the claw to the lightweight compact of 690 kilos by increasing the displacement of their four-cylinder engine from 903 to 982cc. Something that together with the double-body carburetor and the modification of the exhaust led the Autobiachi A112 Abarth up to 58CV at 6.600 rpm. Not inconsiderable performance. Even more so if we take into account that the version created by Abarth even registered more efficient consumption than the normal one.


From 1971 on, the history of Abarth entered a profound paradox. Although, on the one hand, being absorbed by FIAT ensured its continuity as a racing engineering team, intervening in Ferrari and Lancia models for the tracks ... The truth is that, on the other hand, it limited its possibilities of creating modifications on popular compacts to the margin imposed by the group business planning. Nevertheless, Abarth has never been in a better position than this to bring its brand character to a wider audience.. A fact of which the Autobianchi A112 Abarth is good proof. Since throughout its fifteen years in production it reached 121.000 units through seven series.

Unmitigated success, reinforced by the achievement of have added 10% of all A112 units. Not inconsiderable data for a sports version, which expanded its color palette after the first generation, in which it was only available in red with the hood in matte black. In addition, the third series increased the displacement to 1059cc thus achieving 70CV. A power that was more easily tamed thanks to the bucket seats and leather-wrapped three-spoke aluminum steering wheel.

Elements that underlined the sporting possibilities of the Autobianchi A112 Abarth. Exploited by the one-brand cup organized by FIAT in Italy, which fueled a new pool of drivers, including Attilio Bettega - who died at the controls of a Lancia 037 during the 1985 Rally Corcega - or Fabrizio Tabaton - European Rally Champion in 1986 and 1988-. Only part of the history of this model with half a century behind it, which was also seen a lot in the rallies of the moment. Without a doubt, a success story that supports the first Abarth created within the FIAT Group.

Photographs: FCA Heritage

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.


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