Big things with little cars

Spaghetti Saturday: Abarth 750 Record

In collecting, one thing always leads to another. In this case, once I had received this lovely diorama from jobjoris, I realized that I was seriously short of a decent Abarth model to put in front of it. I had a few Fiats in 1/43 - but no proper Abarth!

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And after a bit of searching on the bay, I found just the right one - the 750 Record. The first of these cars was built in 1956 around the chassis of a Fiat 600, suitably modified and equipped with the Fiat-Abarth 750 engine, and was conceived with the main purpose of attracting the attention of the public and technicians to the qualities of Abarth’s “elaborazioni” on the popular micro car from Torino, which had been introduced to the public just a few months earlier.

The aluminium body was built by Bertone, for whom Franco Scaglione designed a sleek aluminium body, somewhat reminiscent, specially in its original form, of his striking Alfa Romeo BAT designs. The Abarth team subsequently carried a number of modifications (shortened tail, lowered fenders, drilled panels at the back, to reduce air pressure) that spoiled the clean looks of the car. This may have been one of the reasons for the change to Pininfarina for the next streamliners. Over a period of just a year, 1956, the car was used for five different record attempts and set a total of 20 International Records in three different classes.

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For the first two attempts the car was equipped with the 750 cc engine: the first was in fact little more than a test, nevertheless it brought the Class H record for 24 hours. The second, the for which the car had been built, was staged just a week later and saw six famous international racing journalists as members of the team of nine, including Paul Frère, Gordon Wilkins and Giovanni Lurani, who had been invited to drive the car with the obvious purpose of attracting more attention. The car ran on the Monza circuit for three full days, setting five international records for distances up to 72 hours.

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Just a month later the car was introduced to the press again as the Fiat-Abarth 500: it was now pushed by a de-bored Fiat 600 engine (at the time the Fiat 500 had not been produced yet); the body was unchanged, but it had been repainted grey/silver with a yellow top, perhaps to create the illusion that it was a different car.The car survives in this form today in the Centro Storico Fiat.

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The model is by a brand I know nothing about - “Metro” - and the website address on the box is now obsolete - so I’m none the wiser. So - does this end my quest for a proper car for this diorama? Not really. As you can see from the first photo, E. Santucci and Sons don’t just look after Abarth cars. They specialize in Giannini and Lombardi, too. Yup, there’s more to find. Isn’t there always?

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