I've heard it said, (tongue-in-cheek perhaps) that Italian carmakers valued their cars according to the length of the name they gave them. If so, the Fiat Abarth 750 GT Derivisione Coupe Zagato is certainly worth a fortune in words!
For those of you who are not familiar with the car, here is a quick overview. The Fiat Abarth 750 is a Fiat 600 based automobile. It is powered by an ABARTH modified Fiat 600 inline 4 cylinder, 4 cycle engine, most of which were of a single cam, overhead valve design, producing 48 HP when new. For comparison, the base Fiat 600 motor, prior to modification, only produced 24 hp!
Some versions were fitted with the "bialbero" (or overhead twin cam) addition (Her Majesty wasn't fitted with the bialbero). Both versions are water cooled and have their engines and cooling system mounted in the rear. Power is conveyed thru a 4-speed transaxle driving swing axle shafts connected to the rear wheels. Brakes are generally Fiat 600 aluminum drums all around (way too small). AND STILL THEY DOMINATED THEIR RACING CLASS! How, you may ask? They corner like nobody's business.
Back in 1965, this car was wasting away in a barn in a small rural village in upstate NY. It had little left in the way of mechanicals. Its luster was faded from several years of abuse and neglect. But none the less, it sat there proudly, gravely wounded, but with head held high and dignity firmly intact. I purchased the car and what few parts remained and borrowed the owner's stake truck to carry it back to my driveway, where the project began. Three of us lifted the car on and off the truck! Without an engine and transmission, these aluminum alloy-bodied cars weigh very little!
It was in the Spring of 1965. I remember the day like it was yesterday. Her Majesty had just arrived. So many things to do. Where to start?
This is what I had to start with. As this type of project goes, I was fortunate. There was actually a lot to work with.
I've often scolded myself for not taking a picture of the 3 metal washtubs semi-full of parts. Not a lot, but enough to start with.
The ABARTH name is legendary, not only for this model, but for many others as well. The Scorpione is revered by racing fans the world over and rightfully feared by its competitors. Abarth cars have emerged victorious at races like the Targa Florio, the Italian Mille-Miglia, and the 24 hrs of LeMans, just to mention a very few.
Since there are so few of the Tipo 750 Zagato Coupes remaining, and they have so much to offer in the way of historical value and pure driving fun, they certainly deserve whatever attention it takes to put them back on the road. As of this writing, Her Majesty has received over 46 years of said attention. Still a few more left to go. Maybe more. Projects like this are never truly "finished".
Flash forward. It's 1970. Mistakes made, Lessons learned. Now up and running and sporting the white/blue US Racing team colors. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. We've since noticed several 750 GT Zagato "Double Bubbles" with the same stripe!
For more historical information, there are many other ABARTH sites on the web where you can find a detailed history of this great "tipo" ("marque" for those of you who prefer "British"). Today, track events and autocrosses are especially fun as these cars are still completely at home on the track.
2011 — Her Majesty at home in Her garage.
Speaking of a little work, it's not 1960 anymore. And these cars were made for driving, not sitting in a garage. Here's how I Made Her Majesty faster and safer for today's road conditions.