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FIAT 500 Abarth Monza. 168 hours of uninterrupted driving to reply to the press

When the FIAT 1957 was launched on the market in 500, some journalists questioned the reliability of its small engine. A fact that affected the sales of the model during the first months. Thus. FIAT organized a week-long endurance test at the Monza cant. Seven days of uninterrupted driving with six drivers taking turns at the wheel in which a 500 Abarth traveled 18.886 km at 108 km / h on average. After that the unfounded criticism ceased.

Born in 1729 Edmund Burke was one of the leading political figures of the 1787th century in England. Parliamentarian, great orator and inspirer of British conservatism as we understand it Burke was also one of the first statesmen to perceive the growing power of the press. So much so that, at the opening session of the House of Commons in XNUMX, he addressed it, establishing a new term that lasts to this day. Fourth power. The concept with which we indicate the influence of the media as opinion creators and, therefore, of commercial tendencies and political movements.

In this sense, as the era of liberalism has advanced, the press has been gaining ground when it comes to generating the consensus on which our societies are based. A controversial fact. Given that Although there are many media that are dedicated to a contrasted exposition of reality, there are also many that exert their influence in a more questionable way. Thus, historically we have seen examples in the automotive press where the personal judgment of some editors has been passed off as objective data.

A situation highly feared by brands, since even in this era of content in overabundance, a large part of the public determines their purchase based on the criteria of this or that tester. Something that after its presentation in 1957 conditioned the sales of the FIAT 500. The small and practical utility vehicle responsible for driving the Italian population. All a myth of motorsport that, however, was harshly questioned by certain journalists of the moment. Situation that FIAT took advantage of to oppose objective facts against personal opinions, setting six international records at Monza.


When the FIAT 1957 was presented in 500, a project with roots in the XNUMXs culminated. Moment in which, as in Germany with the KdF Wagen -VW Beetle-, the fascist state of the time requested the creation of a simple and cheap utility to motorize the population. A project that did not fully materialize until the end of the fifties. When the Nuova 500 refined the qualities already presented in the Topolino. However, the truth is that the equipment of the FIAT 500 was excessively spartan even for the time. Fact that generated a rather cold reception by the public.

fiat 500 abarth
FIAT 500 first series with canvas roof

A bad starting point, from which some journalists ended up priming themselves with the car. Attacking not only the interior but also the mechanics raised by Dante Giacosa for alleged reliability problems. A two-cylinder in-line 479cc and 13CV in the first and most basic series. But how quickly It was updated and boosted to 15CV and 21'5CV in the standard and Sport models respectively. Moment in which the FIAT 500 ended up winning the favor of the market. Being bought both by families who with him accessed the personal vehicle and by others who were looking for a second car.

A success that was also joined by a large number of young people and driving enthusiasts. Attracted by the unsuspected dynamic qualities of the FIAT 500 in racing. Capabilities that gained appeal when considering how easily modifiable its mechanics were. In that sense, small craft preparers such as Abarth they immediately got down to work tuning 500 units for the competition. A task in which FIAT itself set itself, making use of the house of the scorpion to carry out an advertising campaign against the opinions expressed by certain journalists.


Eager to confirm to the public the true virtues of its new FIAT 500, the Agnelli company commissioned an improved version of the vehicle from Abarth. This took it up to 26CV at 5000rpm, respecting the 479cc displacement but achieving a peak of 120 km / h. Something that, in reality, did not help much to maintain the resistance of the engine since it forced it to work more compressed. Therefore, if the demonstration in Monza During a successful week in February 1938, two things would be confirmed.

fiat 500 abarth

First: that the FIAT 500's engine is trustworthy for its resistance. Second: that Abarth has the ability to improve an engine's performance without compromising its reliability. As an event designed for the press, numerous motoring journalists from all over Europe were summoned. Gathered in Monza, they could see a FIAT 500 Abarth unit running for seven days in a row at an average of 108 km / h with six drivers taking turns. Among them were the influential French journalist Bernard Cahier and the Abarth test pilot Mario Poltronieri. Later known for his work as a racing commentator for the RAI.

Thus, for seven days without stopping turning through the banks of the Monza speed ring, the FIAT 500 completed 18.886 km without any problem. In addition, he set up to six international records related to uninterrupted driving. A tough test of resistance for the mechanics of the FIAT 500 Abarth. Surpassed by success and published in the European press of the moment to silence those journalists who sought the defenestration of the model based on more private than objective criteria.

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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