The Spirit of Abarth and the Targa Florio Live On

Cars Culture

A celebration of Abarth and the Targa Florio

The Targa Florio endurance race once witnessed classic racing cars ripping through Sicily’s meandering mountainous passes. It ran from 1906 until 1977 and has run ever since as a rally.

2018’s re-enactment of the iconic Targa Florio took place recently – and being more Italian than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Abarth was at the heart of it.

While there, the Scorpion-badged automaker couldn’t think of a more fitting place to launch its new 595 range. This is because its founder, Karl Abarth, who died in 1979, was closely connected with the Targa Florio. But perhaps more poignantly, the event was held in honour of what would have been his 110th birthday.

Sicily’s snaking roads were almost made for displaying his racing cars’ abilities. Therefore, the ‘Scorpion’ and the Targa share a history of racing triumphs and memorable stories. Indeed, admirers of the vehicles that earnt Abarth its racing name will appreciate how the testing ground of motorsport has fashioned the heritage that has produced the Abarth models of today.

Since the Targa Florio changed from a speed race to a rally, Abarth has recorded several wins: a couple with the Abarth 131 Rally in 1979 and 1980, and two in 2003 and 2004 with the Fiat Punto Super 1600. Also, the last two Targa Florio events have been given a boost by the comeback of the Abarth 124 Rally, established to deliver impressive performances in this field.

This year, FCA Heritage selected a trio of Abarth cars from its collection to compete in the Targa Florio Classica. They were the Autobianchi A112 Abarth 58 HP (1974); the Fiat 500 (1974) and the Abarth 2400 Coupé (1964). The models represented the three classes of the marque’s output of cars. The 2400 is an excellent example of the brand’s ability as a producer of GT cars and the plucky A112 brings to mind Abarth’s admittance into the Fiat Racing Department after its acquisition in 1971. Finally, the Fiat 500, upgraded with the 595 transformation kit manufactured by FCA Heritage, pays tribute to the glory years when Abarth built tuned-up editions of small-displacement Fiats.

The event was also graced with the presence of a couple of significant figures for the ‘Scorpion’. They were historic Abarth racing and test driver, Eris Tondelli, who dedicated much of his career in the Sixties to the development of the 595 cars. Then Anneliese Abarth joined in the starting parade in the 2400 Coupé, formerly owned by her husband.

As mentioned, the fresh Abarth 595 line-up complemented this year’s Targa Florio. Automobile aficionados were able to get up close and personal with the new cars, including the Competizione and Turismo variants. Extra colours have been ushered into the range, too: Asphalt Grey on the Turismo and Adrenaline Green on the 595 Competizione and Trofeo.

The Record Monza Active exhaust has also been introduced as standard kit on the 595 Competizione and Trofeo. It features an active valve controlled via a Sport button that creates a deeper engine note than usual. Believe me; you’ll want to press it if a sportier and more conventionally Abarth growl is what you’re after.

So, the father of Abarth may have long since departed this planet, but his tiny terrors live on – and so does the spirit of the legendary motorsport event that is the Targa Florio.