Before any Fiat-powered car ever bore the famous Scorpione badge, Austrian-born Karl Abarth designed and raced motorcycles around Europe. As a teenager, he worked in Italy designing motorbike frames and began racing on the side. He eventually won five European motorcycle racing titles, undoubtedly helped by his innate understanding of chassis design and engineering. A severe racing accident ended his on-track career in 1939, so in 1940, he left Austria for his ancestral home of Merano, Italy, adopting the name Carlo in the process. Once established in Italy, Abarth 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 racing. The ultra-slick 202 Nuvolari Spyder and road-going 202 Gran Sport followed – the latter a highly significant and influential road-going Gran Turismo. Ultimately the ambitious and costly Cisitalia-Porsche Grand Prix project nearly bankrupted Dusio, who moved to Argentina after its failure. Carlo Abarth struck out on his own, and Piero’s son Carlo Dusio took over operations at Cisitalia.
In the 1950s, Carlo Abarth established one of the most successful car racing teams of all time, contesting the complex and highly competitive world of small-bore sports racing and GT classes through the ensuing three decades. Fiat’s ubiquitous and humble production cars formed the basis of numerous iconic Abarth competition cars, and like Enzo Ferrari, Carlo Abarth also saw the importance of selling road cars to supplement his racing operations. A range of thinly disguised road-going racers was offered to privateers, as well as countless off-the-shelf tuning parts, wheels, and go-fast bits.
Meanwhile, Cisitalia Argentina offered their own high-performance Fiat-based specials for the Italian and Argentine markets. Around 1961, the lovely Fiat-Abarth 850 Allemano was updated as the Cisitalia-Abarth 850 Scorpione, reviving the successful relationship between Dusio and Abarth. The cars were built in Italy and finished in Buenos Aires thanks to Dusio’s clever working of Argentina’s strict import laws. It is not known precisely how many were produced, though the handful of known survivors rarely become available on the open market today.
This delectable 1961 Cisitalia-Abarth Scorpione is one of the incredibly rare Argentine-market 850 variants. Finished in an understated shade of Bronzo Metallizato over a fresh and beautifully finished olive green interior, it is exceptionally well-presented and authentically restored. The Allemano-designed steel coachwork is crisp and well-defined, with beautifully balanced proportions that mask the diminutive size. Reflective of its quality, this charming car is a veteran of several significant concours events, including Villa d’Este, Concorso Italiano, and most recently, the 2021 Quail Motorsports Gathering.
Cosmetic differences from an 850 Allemano include the Cisitalia hood script and front crest, Cisitalia crests on the body sides, and unique rear badging. The delicate chrome bumpers are in excellent condition, and the remaining bright trim is a mix of well-preserved original and restored pieces. Intricate Campagnolo alloy wheels and the original Automotora Del Plata dealer badge provide the perfect finishing touches.
The interior is remarkably luxurious and surprisingly practical, with room for two adults and a reasonable amount of soft luggage behind the seats. The interior has been restored to a very high standard in its most recent owner’s care, using lovely, rich olive green leather and high-quality wool carpet. Despite the Scorpione’s tiny size, this was an expensive GT car in its day and was appropriately well-equipped with a full array of Jaeger dials, leather luggage straps, quality fittings. This car also features a fabulous, period-correct Franco Conti three-spoke steering wheel and one of our favorite period accessories in recent memory – a rare and ultra-cool Voxson Vanguard 736 combination radio/rearview mirror.
The Abarth-tuned inline-four is tidy, authentically detailed, and the block number matches the riveted chassis tag. A full complement of proper Abarth parts includes the finned alloy sump, polished alloy valve cover, Abarth generator pulley, and Solex carburetor. The jewel-like 847 c.c. unit gives the little Scorpione its sting, lending a surprising turn of speed from such a small capacity.
Precise production records from Abarth or Cisitalia are virtually non-existent, though experts estimate that perhaps Cisitalia produced 100 of these lovely little machines, and survival rates are low. This beautiful and eminently charming example is a proven concours veteran that can be equally enjoyed on your favorite tight, twisting back roads where the delicate controls and captivating character are best appreciated. The 850 Scorpione is an intriguing and beautiful sports car representing one of the last collaborations between two giants in the world of tiny cars - Abarth and Cisitalia.
Offers welcome and trades considered