abarth 1000

Abarth 1000 Pininfarina. A serious attempt to reach the American market

At the beginning of the sixties Abarth was already a company in full symbiosis with FIAT. However, it was also able to strike deals with firms like Pininfarina to explore the possibility of creating a small, futuristic sports car with the North American market in mind. The result of this idea were the Abarth 1000 Pininfarina GT Spider and Coupé Speciale. Creations that hit the wall of approvals.

When observing nature, many tend to highlight the most predatory and competitive aspects. Nevertheless, natural selection has also fostered symbiotic behaviors between different species. Crabs that tend stinging anemones in their claws so that they deter octopuses. Fungi and algae that exchange photosynthesis for moisture, thus forming tree lichen. And even the millions of bacteria that inhabit our own digestive system, helping us digest while they enjoy a suitable living environment.

All of them cooperative relationships in which two differentiated elements achieve a shared benefit. Something that has its automotive reflection in cases like Gordini with Renault or Abarth with FIAT. Two small trainers who by themselves could not manufacture complex components such as chassis or engines, although they could take them by hand to important sports heights. Just the process that brands so made to series production as FIAT and Renault could not do. Thus, as a result of this industrial symbiosis, models such as the R8 Gordini or the successive Abarth 1000 appeared.

Mounted mainly on FIAT 600 and 850 chassis, the Abarth 1000 formed a complex saga with a multitude of versions only united by sharing the FIAT-Abarth 1000 engine block. A four-cylinder that increased the 633cc of the original FIAT 600 engine to 982. However, all this effort never got to generate large series models. Always remaining in sales of kits applicable to the 600 in the case of the Abarth 100 TC / TCR or exclusive racing cars for the circuit such as the SP.

That is why, in the early sixties, Carlo Abarth thought of the idea of ​​having a mass-market car. But how to do it? LThe answer was a symbiosis called the Abarth 1000 Pininfarina Coupé Speciale.

abarth 1000


During the sixties, Abarth's relationship with FIAT was very intense. So much so that, in 1971, the industrial giant of the Agnellis ended up buying Carlo Abarth's company to make it its racing department. Nevertheless, Abarth had demonstrated the ability to undertake partnerships with other brands beyond FIAT. Proof of this are his projects with Alfa Romeo and Porsche since the late XNUMXs. In which the little coach learned to deal with bodybuilders and even make his own tubular chassis thanks to Mario Colucci. Arrived at this point, Carlo Abarth began to fantasize about the idea of ​​making his own models occupying small market niches.

One of them was the one referred to a Sport Prototype accessible for private teams. Brief area that was filled with fifty units of the 1000 SP. However, the juiciest part of the cake was in the American market. Place where the small European sports cars had a high prestige compensating for the lack of power with a very light weight. A formula of proven success thanks to the appearance in 1954 of the Porsche 356 Speedster. Version devised by the importer Max Hoffman, of which more than a thousand orders were registered only during the first year on sale.

A clear inspiration for Abarth, which in fact knew this case closely thanks to the work it did with Porsche in the late 356s. Improving his 185B to XNUMXCV to create the most powerful version of it: the Carrera GTL Abarth. For all this, Abarth contacted Pininfarina - very willing at that time to all kinds of futuristic experiment - in order to explore the possibility of mass-production a small sports car for the North American market. In the manner of the Speedster, but much more modern visually and mechanically based on the FIAT 850. Just the mix that gave birth to the first prototype of the project: the 1000 Abarth 1964 GT Spider.


Manufactured at the Pininfarina facility with Abarth mechanical support, the Abarth 1000 GT Spider benefited from the futuristic aesthetic marked by Aldo Brovarone. Possessing a style that served as a meeting point between Italian classicism and American space futurism, this designer is responsible for the Alfa Romeo Superflow or the Dino 206/246 prototype. One of the landmarks of the house, of which the Abarth 1000 Pininfarina took the headlights fairings with Plexiglas. Aesthetic solution that favored the low height of the nose, allowing an aerodynamic line in which the seats were placed in a very low position.

abarth 1000
Dino prototype

This facilitated a driving position typical of the competition to handle the 54CV of the FIAT-Abarth 1000 engine. A fact that, added to the absence of roof and a lightened weight up to 700 kilos thanks to elements such as magnesium alloy wheels it ensured strong sensations. Perhaps too radical a concept to be launched on the market. So in 1965 the closed version of it was presented: the Abarth 1000 Pininfarina Coupé Speciale. Equipped with a spectacular block roof opening next to the windshield, it was already more credible, among other things, due to the perfectly integrated safety arch.

abarth 1000
Prototype made by Zagato on the Abarth 1000

At this moment, many of you may be thinking that the Abarth 1000 Pininfarina was not intended to be more than another exercise in style. One of many made by Italian bodybuilders on the basis of the 600 or 850 as the one undertaken by Zagato in 1964. However, the intentions of Pininfarina and Abarth in making this model a mass-produced car for the North American market were never a simple toast to the sun. In fact, the proof of this is the end of the Abarth 1000 Pininfarina itself. Stamped against the US homologation commission, which cited reasons as unrealistic as that the headlight fairing impaired the ability of the headlights.

Nothing is further from reality. Since in relation to them the Abarth 1000 Pininfarina had a new system of halogen iodine headlights built expressly by the specialist in lighting for vehicles Carello. Another of the many refinements of the Abarth 1000 Pininfarina, which failed to pass the inspection of the federal government of the United States for sale in the country. A refusal that broke what could have been an interesting business venture the mechanics of the FIAT 850, the tuning of Abarth and the design and assembly of Pininfarina.

Photographs: Pininfarina

What do you think?

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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