In the late 1940s, Karl Abarth, a deeply talented engineer and retired motorbike racer, moved from his native Austria to his ancestral home of Merano, Italy (adopting the name Carlo in the process) to pursue a career in four-wheeled motorsport. Abarth soon teamed up with successful industrialist Piero Dusio and fellow engineer Dante Giacosa to form Compagnia Industriale Sportiva Italia – best known as “Cisitalia”. Their first car, the D46, was enormously successful in open-wheel Voiturette classes. It was followed by the ultra-slick 202 Nuvolari spyder and subsequent 202 Gran Sport which proved to be a highly influential machine and formed the blueprint for numerous Italian GTs through the next decade. Despite their success, the ambitious and costly Cisitalia-Porsche Grand Prix project pushed Cisitalia to the brink of extinction, nearly bankrupting Dusio in the process, who moved to Argentina in the aftermath of its failure. Carlo Abarth left to strike out on his own, and Piero’s son Carlo Dusio took over operations at Cisitalia.
After Abarth’s departure from Cisitalia, he built one of the most successful racing teams of all time, building (mainly) Fiat-based specials and bespoke racing cars to contest the highly competitive smallbore racing classes of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Fiat’s ubiquitous 600 provided the platform for a number of iconic Abarth race cars and road cars. Carlo Abarth had, in fact recognized the importance of selling road cars to supplement his racing operations, and he offered a number of thinly disguised road-going racers to meet demand. But the 850 Allemano of 1959 was a more civilized and sophisticated machine that shared the same platform and 79-inch wheelbase as its race-bred siblings, but was strictly a road car, clothed in a Michelotti-designed body built by Allemano that, despite its tiny proportions, was quite elegant.
Meanwhile, Cisitalia found new footing in Argentina where they continued building a variety of sporting Fiat-based specials. The collaboration with Abarth was revitalized and an Argentine version of the 850 Allemano was introduced as the Cisitalia-Abarth 850 Scorpione. It was in essence the same as the home market Abarth, but built and marketed in Argentina as a Cisitalia. It is not known exactly how many were produced, but there are just a handful of known survivors which rarely become available on the open market today.
This delectable Cisitalia Abarth Scorpione from 1961 is one of the incredibly rare Argentine-built 850 Allemano variants. Finished in an understated shade of Bronzo Metallizato over a light tan interior, it is very well-presented and restored to original specification. The paint and bodywork are quite attractive overall, with just few minor blemishes picked up from use on the road. Panel fit is quite good, and the detailing of the lightweight alloy body is crisp and well defined. Cosmetic differences from Abarth-built cars includes the Cisitalia hood script and front crest, Cisitalia crests on the body sides and rear badging. The delicate original bumpers are in excellent condition, and the rest of the bright trim is a mix of well-preserved original and restored pieces. A set of period Abarth deluxe spinner hubcaps and the original Automotora Del Plata dealer badge provide the perfect finishing touches.
The interior is surprisingly practical with room for two adults and even a bit of luggage behind the seats. Seats, door cards and interior panels are trimmed in tan leatherette upholstery which is correct for the car, and very well presented. Despite the diminutive proportions, this was a rather expensive GT car in its day, so was well-equipped with a full array of Jaeger dials, leather luggage straps, and upmarket upholstery materials. In this car, the driver grips a fabulous, period-correct Franco Conti three-spoke steering wheel and it features one of our favorite period accessories, a rare and super-cool Voxson Vanguard 736 combination radio/rear view mirror.
The original, matching numbers engine shows very well, with tidy detailing and finishes, and a chassis tag confirming this as one of the rare Argentine-built examples. The engine is dressed with a full array of proper Abarth parts that include the finned alloy sump, polished alloy valve cover, Abarth generator pulley and Solex carburetor. This jewel-like 847 c.c. unit gives the little Scorpione its sting, lending a surprising turn of speed from such a tiny capacity. Featherweight and with delicate controls, the Cisitalia-Abarth will easily hang with a 356 or Alfa Giulietta despite giving up half the displacement to its rivals.
This fabulous little GT car represents the final collaboration between the great names of Abarth and Cisitalia. Fewer than 30 of the better-known Italian built counterparts are known to exist, making the Cisitalia-Abarth even scarcer. Crisp and well prepared, this lovely example is certainly attractive and interesting enough for show, though we feel it is best enjoyed out on the road, where the delicate controls and captivating character can be fully appreciated.