Le Mans history tends to heavily favor the overall contenders for glory in our hearts and minds, so it’s easy to forget there have always been many tiers of competitors sharing the track for that 24 hours. Such was the case in 1962, when Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien drove to victory in their Ferrari 330TRI, followed by GTOs and Lightweight E-types. But behind those illustrious machines fought the small-displacement heroes, Abarths, Lotus (Lotii?), Porsches, OSCAs, Bonnets, Fiats, Panhards, and others, vying for class honors. Tucked in between the 700cc Fiat-Abarths and 1.6L Porsches battled the little coupes featured below.
You may recognize the look of these happy cars, as they effectively share their design with the better known Fiat 850 and 1000 Abarth. Both versions are known colloquially as the “Bialbero”, denoting their twincam engines.
Jobjoris has covered their gestation here before, with a lovely street “GT” version of the car. Basically Simca wanted to hot up their lowly 1000, and who better do do it than Austro-Italian mastermind Carlo Abarth? Applying lessons learned with his Fiats, he punched out the 1000's engine to 1300cc, fitted a dry-sump system, tuned the underlying chassis and gave it his familiar lightweight and slippery body with the trademark raised engine cover for cooling.
Racing success followed, with class wins at hillclimbs and race meets across Europe, including Monza and, in this case, Le Mans. The blue #42 (Blue 42! Blue 42! Hike! sorry...) was fielded by Abarth and driven by the Swiss Tommy Spychinger and Frenchman Henri Orellier. It was sadly a DNF after only 21 laps with gearbox failure. The yellow #43 fielded by Equipe Nationale Belge, however, was one of only 18 cars to finish and won the E1.3 class in the hands of Belgians Claude Dubois and Georges Harris, 63 laps behind the winning SEFAC Ferrari.
These models were part of my score from DiecastSelect’s sale, and for $11 each I just couldn’t resist addingthem to my growing French Le Mans collection. They’re by IXO and feature a high level of detail for the money. The posts for the front lights are a bummer, and pictures of the actual cars in period are very scarce so I can’t readily compare them to the real thing, but they appear convincing. I mean, look at these! Who can’t love ‘em?
Have a good weekend!