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Racy Italian:1964 Fiat 850 TC Abarth

The post-war era was a boon for small cars. Manufacturers focussed on getting lots of people, into small cars, for not a great deal of money. The classic Mini did this well in the UK, and the Italians did this exceptionally well with the Fiat 500 and 600 – which even though they were tiny, could fit 4 adults inside to whip up and down the Italian coastline with ease. Racing at the time was gaining in popularity, resulting in pocket rockets for the road – Mini had the Cooper and Fiat had Carlo Abarth to make this a formidable track weapon. Abarth made the special 850 TC version to go racing, and our seller gives a fascinating insight into this special car’s history. If you are interested, it’s available in Indianapolis, Indiana for $75,000 and is available here on eBay. Thanks to Araknid78 for this tip!

Originally imported from the UK, the Fiat 850 TC Abarth has been used in vintage racing events both there and stateside. It’s a rare car too, 1 of 12 ever built from the factory, and not a replica, of which there are many. It’s road-legal for the US and comes with a title too. The TC in the name stands for ‘Turismo Competizione’ and was the brainchild of Carlo Abarth who in 1961 developed the standard Fiat 600 D by increasing its displacement, inserting upgraded pistons, and a sportier camshaft to boost power to 52hp. This may not sound a lot, but with very little weight in the car (just 610kg), it could propel itself to 85mph. Abarth knew what he was doing – wins at Nurburgring endurance races to European road rallies began in earnest in the 1960s and customers wanted a piece of the action. One of the most interesting uses was from the Italian police, who bought one of the TC cars to fit in with the thousands of other Fiat 600s on the road and used it as an unmarked police car to bust smuggling operations.

Our car has been treated to a thorough restoration and even though it had a tough 80,000 miles in its life, it’s now ready to race again in historic rallies across the world. From the large mouth for the radiator, there’s a lot different from the standard Fiat. The rear hatch where the engine is located can be propped open to help with cooling and allows people to closely see the ‘850 TC Nurburgring’ script on the panel.

The interior is spartan for a race car, but with some nice flourishes. There are red leather door cards, a scorpion-branded shift stick, and a beautiful wooden steering wheel. There are only two racing bucket seats for you and a brave passenger to drive this pocket rocket. If we look under the car however there will need to be some remedial work – some of the suspension springs are rusty, as well as some of the other suspension components. Thankfully the seller has provided plenty of pictures so we can see what work needs to be done. It looks like this car has sat in someone’s collection not having been driven very regularly – I know what I would do – get this out on the road as soon as possible and use it. So how would you treat this Italian racer, would you be brave enough to take it back to the circuit?

Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    When I raced my Ford Fiesta in SCCA Showroom Stock,
    I got to know the race physician,Joel Tobias,who lived in Medford,-
    Oregon.
    I stopped by his place when I was in Medford.He wasn’t home,
    so I gave him a call.Hesaid “Did you see my car by the garage?”.I said-
    “Yeah,the Fiat 600″.He told me that it was actually a Fiat Abarth –
    Nurburgring Special”.He also told me that it was 1 of X of them made
    to win the championship for them.
    This might be the same car,or one of the others.

    Like 4
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      angliagt… All this time I’ve thought I was one of the very few that raced the Ford Fiesta. Now I know there is at least two. 5 of us got together in early ’97 and decided to build a race car for the end of year 24 hour race on New Years Eve at Palm Beach International Raceway. Dumbest decision I’ve ever made as I wound up doing most of the chassis work while the other “committee” members handled the engines and running gear. Four months later, after rebuilding what was a tired SCCA ITC car, we had a car for the race. Competition were the VW Rabbits of that era. Faster than all but one of them so we hit the track at the noon start time. No brakes most of the race, an engine change in the middle of the night, and nothing to show for it as we didn’t accumulate enough laps to be scored. Needless to say, I did not participate in the ’98 race. I have driven an Abarth and will tell you it ranks high on my list of pure fun cars.

      Like 6
      • Big_Fun Member

        Bobhess – thanks for sharing your adventures! Noticed the ‘Mel’s Amaco” script on the Ford. I think BP bought them in ’89. Now, that brand is back (5 years now). Over 475 stations. What’s old is now new!
        Thanks again!

  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    That’s cool! I got really excited when I saw that Bill Davidson
    finished 3rd (?) at the runoffs years ago.
    Would really like to talk to you sometime,but not sure how I
    could get a hold of you.

  3. Wayne

    bobhess, I see you got the front camber set properly!
    I had a guy that used to work for me that was building a Fiat 600 race clone. It was pretty quick for what it was and sounded very fast! He had the hardest time keeping it cool though. I don’t know if he ever solved the overheat issue.

    • bobhess bobhess Member

      Without a bunch of negative camber you can’t get the front drive cars around a corner. On this one we had to take the original owners negative camber out of the rear because it pushed hard in corners so we tweaked it back to almost zero. Ran like on rails after that.

      Like 1
  4. Elanguy

    The same seller has three more Abarths on their website, https://www.significantcars.com/inventory

    And oddly enough they have what seems like a better deal an Abarth Allemano Spyder for $65k.

    Like 1
  5. Michelle Rand Staff

    The key to the value of an Abarth is the content of actual Abarth parts in the car, especially the motor. Many Abarth cars have had motor changes, or if not complete replacements then at least have lost original cranks, carbs, pistons, etc. I would not buy this TC or any other Abarth without an assurance of what the motor actually contains. A ribbed oil pan that says Abarth is no guarantee of anything. I noted that the Allemano has been heavily modified. Buyer beware.

    Like 4
    • Martin Horrocks

      Agreed, Michelle. I´d say all Abarths have a bit of George Washington´s axe in them and record-keeping was never an Abarth area of excellence.The easy way to test out an Abarth is to run it on BaT and stand behind substantial defences.

      I don´t think that this car would last long. I think the front hinged doors might just squeeze into a 1964 Fiat 600, but most 850TCs had suicide doors. The front mounted radiator was also a later mod, mainly for racing. Any serious Abarth racer has aquired a roll cage in the last 50 years. Even experts can roll these very easily.

      I´d also be a bit suspicious of the car “originally imported from the UK” as well. Being English, and an Abarth fan since the mid 60s, very, very few of these cars came to the UK in period. We had Minis…..many, many Minis which could be built to win races for a fraction of the cost of an Abarth which would not! For 1000cc class, Hillman Imp was king in the UK..

      You´d need to know a lot more before shelling out that kind of money on this kind of evidence

      Like 3
  6. Troy

    This looks like a lot of fun but there are no tracks around me so I would wind up getting multiple tickets on the open road

  7. Stu

    My father worked for an Italian guy in the 60s in Sydney Australia. The bosses brother who was a mechanic immigrated and in his luggage was an Abarth engine he fitted to a locally purchased Bambino. The local “fast” street cars of the time didn’t know what hit them when lined up against that little rocket!

    Like 1
  8. chrlsful

    back in the day we’d buy anything w/the abarth name on it.
    A whole car?
    Yazzzir!

  9. michael h-c

    This Abarth is still registered with the DVLA in the UK. It hasn’t been taxed since 2006 so is probably part of, or has been in a collection.

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