Of all the elements that define the Alfa Romeo 4C, perhaps the most eloquent is the steering. Rack and pinion. Without assistance of any kind and with a setting so clear and direct that you can read the road as if you were in a racing car. If you add 240CV to that for just under 900 kilos, the result is a car with nerve. Ideal for those driving purists who look at small constructors like Lotus. In addition, with its powerful aesthetics, the 4C has been - along with the Giulia - the spearhead for the redefinition of Alfa Romeo.
However, these news, which both alfistas and motor enthusiasts are so passionate about, have hardly given FCA accountants peace of mind. And, although the media result of models like the 4C has been remarkable, its economic impact has not met expectations. In fact, production was closed in 2019 with a certain underlying concern about the viability of Alfa Romeo in the not too distant future. Something that arouses not a few fears among the followers of the brand, especially if we see it in the mirror of the disastrous destiny chosen for Lancia within the group.
In addition, a few weeks ago we heard a news that does not give promising prospects to another of the small brands included under the giant FCA. We are talking about Abarth, which presented its Abarth 1000 SP prototype. A model that, in reality, has been in existence in secret for five years, discarded for series production due to the limited commercial success of the 4C. Sports car from which it took its carbon fiber monocoque to offer an even more radical roadster than the Alfa, thus paying homage to the classic 1000 Abarth 1966 SP. One of the most successful cars of the company founded by Carlo Abarth.
1000 ABARTH 1966 SP. THE STRENGTH OF THE TUBULAR CHASSIS
As is common throughout the brand, the history of the Abarth 1000 SP is boldly woven into design and craftsmanship in manufacturing. A story in which the name of the Milanese engineer Mario Colucci stands out. Forged in Alfa Romeo, our protagonist was the architect of the Alfa Romeo-Abarth 1000 of 1958. An interesting 88CV and 640 kilos sports car with which it was tried to derive the manufacture of the most sporty Alfa's to Abarth. An idea born more out of necessity than by choice, due to the intense rhythm of production suffered by the Portello factory with the 1900 assembly line.
Charged with this second remarkable collaboration after the 750 Competizione of 1955, Mario Colucci made a name for himself by creating the first tubular chassis in Abarth's history. An ideal structural element for racing cars, since its torsional rigidity ensures excellent dynamic behavior in curves. Just what was desired by light vehicles like the Alfa Romeo-Abarth 1000, of which Carlo Abarth was so satisfied that he hired Colucci as technical director. An important position to put you at the forefront of a competition design focused on climbs and resistance. As it was, the idea for the 1000 Abarth 1966 Sport Prototype was born.
A model for which approval in Group 4 should be manufactured at least 50 units, later reduced to 25. Something that made the Abarth 1000 SP a massive sports car by chassis build levels at Abarth, which used to be limited to powering and tuning models from outside companies. In fact, there were many tensions during the gestation of such a decisive and ambitious project for the scorpion brand. However, the mutual trust between Mario Colucci and Carlo Abarth was the key to overcoming major disagreements over the basic design of the car.
CARLO ABARTH AND MARIO COLUCCI. A STORY OF TRUST
November 1961 was a tense time in Ferrari's history. The moment in which what some chroniclers call "The night of the long knives in Maranello". Spurred on by various internal disputes, a group of leading engineers including Giotto Bizzarrini and Carlo Chiti wrote a letter to the management with various complaints. The answer was immediate, synthesized in a sudden dismissal of all of them thanks to which a young Mauro Forghieri could stand out. And that's how Enzo Ferrari did things, with an iron fist. Quite the opposite of the collaborative Carlo Abarth, who knew how to trust Mauro Colucci despite his differences with him.
Synthesized differences in the scheme thought for the future Abarth 1000 SP. While Carlo wanted a self-supporting body with the engine hanging behind the rear axle, Mario opted for a central engine mounted on a tubular chassis. Option finally chosen. And, after all, the reason why the engineer responsible for the 1000 SP ended up hired by Abarth was his knack with tubular chassis. For this reason, the founder of the company trusted the new technical director, resulting in an innovative model for the brand. Of course, being conservative in the mechanics since the chosen engine block is the four-cylinder FIAT 600.
A modest mechanics a priori, but as usual after passing through the Abarth workshops, it reaches not inconsiderable powers. In the case of the Abarth 1000 SP we speak of 105CV and almost a liter of displacement. An important figure, especially if we take into account that this competition model barely weighs 480 kilos. That is why, with these characteristics, victories in ascension races were guaranteed. But also in their respective classes within important endurance races such as the Nürburgring 500 km in 1966 or the Monza 1000 km in 1968. Precisely the year in which, at last, the 50 units required for homologation in Group 4 were completed. .
In this way, there is no doubt about the importance of the Abarth 1000 SP in make a racing car available to many private teams with as little weight as high effectiveness. A legend of the slopes during the sixties.
Photographs: BH Auction Japan