Carlo Abarth is one of the Italian motoring industry’s greatest heroes; a larger-than-life character who built larger-than-life automobiles. His creations, particularly the Fiat-based cars of the 1950s and 1960s were among the most dominant competitors in smallbore racing classes. Abarth’s talent lay in finding horsepower in the smallest of engines, and in of support his racing squad he built some of the most magical sports and GT cars of the era. Despite his heroic status in Italy, he was actually born Karl Abarth in Vienna, Austria, emigrating from Austria to Italy in 1925, only to bounce between Italy, Austria and Yugoslavia through the end of WWII. He enjoyed a tremendously successful career as an engineer and motorcycle racer, winning 5 European sidecar titles in the 1920s and 30s, only ending his racing exploits following a serious crash.
Although he no longer raced himself, Abarth was far from done with motorsport. He was a very gifted engineer who used his connections to his full advantage. After World War II, he moved to his ancestral home of Merano, Italy (adopting the name Carlo) and teamed up with Piero Dusio, Rudolf Hruska and Ferry Porsche to form Compagnia Industriale Sportiva Italia (known later as Cisitalia). Their first project was the hugely ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful Porsche 360 Cisitalia Grand Prix car. Greater success did follow with the D46 and 202 series, but ultimately the firm would fail amid financial problems. From the remains of Cisitalia (including cars and staff) Carlo Abarth built his motorsports empire that would include high performance parts, tuning services, complete cars and a hugely successful racing team.
While Abarth worked his magic on numerous cars including Lancia, Simca and Porsche, it is the relationship with Fiat that cemented the firm’s reputation and provided much of their competition success. Customers could select anything from mild tuning kits for road cars to snorting, fire-breathing, coachbuilt racing cars. The ubiquitous Fiat 600 served as the basis for many of Carlo Abarth’s best known creations. The rear-engine giant killers such as the 750 Zagato “double bubble” and 750 Record Monza Bialbero did double duty on road or track, while the mechanically similar 850 Abarth Allemano was offered as a more civilized and stylish road car. Starting with the same platform and 79-inch wheelbase as its siblings, Allemano skinned the car with a delectable body that, despite its tiny proportions remained graceful and elegant. While the 750 Zagato and Monza models were sold in road trim, it was the 850 Allemano that served as the dedicated GT car, a task it performed with great competence. Yet despite its obvious capability, fewer than 200 were built, and today less than half of those are accounted for, making it the rarest of the breed by a significant margin.
Our featured 1960 Abarth 850 Allemano is a beautiful example of this jewel-like GT car from the small car masters at Abarth & C. S.p.A. This gorgeous machine is one of only 10 of its kind known to be in the US, and has been treated to a meticulous restoration to correct specification, completed in late 2009. It presents in a simple but flattering livery of white over red trim which suits the delicately proportioned body very well indeed. The paint quality is very good, with a consistent finish that shows very little use since the restoration was completed. To keep weight to a minimum alloy was used to skin the doors and deck lids, all of which remain straight, tidy and properly aligned. In period, Road & Track remarked on Allemano’s outstanding build quality, which is emulated in our example’s fine restoration. Minimal brightwork lets the shape of the sheetmetal speak for itself, with simple bumpers and sill trims providing a bit of protection. The plating and polishing is to a very good standard, remaining in fine condition since its restoration.
Despite its diminutive size, the cabin of the Allemano is surprisingly roomy and comfortable, with plenty of room for driver’s over 6’ tall and even a generous luggage shelf behind the seats. The red upholstery on the seats and door cards has been restored using correct materials and patterns and presents in wonderful condition, still appearing quite fresh. Floors are lined in tan squareweave carpet, which again presents in fine condition. The dash is an exercise in functional elegance; the simple body-color fascia adorned with basic switchgear and three large-clear dials behind the gorgeous three-spoke steering wheel.
Carlo Abarth’s expertise has been bestowed on the little 833 c.c. inline four. Thanks to an aggressive cam, bespoke intake with large Weber carburetor, tuned distributor and a lovely tubular exhaust header, the diminutive engine was rated in period at 54 horsepower. With a paltry 1,345 pounds to move, the 850 is easily in Porsche and Alfa territory in terms of power to weight. As part of this car’s restoration, the missing original block was replaced with a “crate” A112 unit and meticulously built to correct specification using original components. It now presents in clean, tidy condition, as it would when new, with correct Abarth accessories. The engine is very healthy, starting easily and emitting a growl from the tuned exhaust at idle that turns into an intoxicating bellow as the revs build.
This delectable Abarth 850 Allemano is one of the finest examples available, and beyond its beautiful coachwork and outstanding presentation, the driving experience is simply delightful. The light steering, surprisingly balanced chassis and jewel-like engine make it one of the most enjoyable, alluring driver’s cars we have had the pleasure to offer. The high quality restoration has mellowed very slightly, and its practical nature makes it the ideal choice for events, rallies, tours, and carving up your favorite roads. The 850 Allemano was described by Road & Track in their 1960 road test as “An almost indecently desirable automobile” - a statement which we find hard to fault.
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