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Monday, November 14, 2011
Abarth Legend - The Fiat 124 Abarth Rally
In 1971, Karl Abarth sold off the company that bore his name to Fiat SpA but stayed on as a product planning consultant. By the time of the sale, Abarth had won 7 World Championships and over 7,133 races or 3 times that of any other marque. But there was still more to come.
This new chapter in Abarth's history began with the Fiat 124 Abarth Rally. Fiat had some success rally racing the Fiat 124 Spider, but with the incorporation of Abarth & Co into the Fiat empire, it now could be made into a serious contender.
Abarth took the attractive Fiat 124 Spider and set out to create a full out purpose built rally version. The 124 Spider had been proven a rugged car by its early rally wins, but in order to remain competitive it needed to have its suspension, engine power, and weight addressed. This is exactly what Abarth did.
The car went on a diet with the deletion of its bumpers and the addition of a fiberglass hood, trunk lid and doors skinned in aluminum. A roll bar was added as well as a removable fiberglass hardtop replacing the convertible top. The interior was trimmed down, too, with the removal of the rear seat, center console, and even the glove box door.
The stock car's DOHC (Double Overhead Cam) 1608cc engine was replaced with a 1756cc unit equipped with larger valves, hotter camshafts and twin Weber 2 barrel 44 IDF carburetors. The power went from 112 HP to 128 HP with race versions pushing 180 HP.
The biggest change, though, was in the rear suspension. The well located live rear axle of the standard car was dropped in favor of a more flexible, sophisticated independent design - more suited for the brutal uneven road surfaces the rally car would have to conquer.
With all this, the Fiat 124 Abarth Rally became a force to be reckoned with on the World Rally scene, and it achieved excellent results. In one year alone, the car won the 1975 Italian Rally Championship, the Canadian Rally Championship, the Mitropa Cup and the European Drivers' Rally Championship. The 124 Abarth Rally won the European Rally Championship in 1972 and 1975, and just missed being World Rally Champion in 1973, 1974 and 1975.
The Fiat 124 Abarth Rally has to be ranked as one of the most elegant and attractive rally cars ever to be produced. But more than just a beautiful car, it has a serious competition pedigree and the lessons learned from it were not forgotten. Abarth would develop these ideas and produce another Rally icon of the 1970s - The Fiat Abarth 131 Rally.
*Source:Alfred Cosentino, FAZA 6th edition catalog, 1986
Images: Fiat SpA