Abarth: Simca 1300


written by Neil Siner

The pretty and explosively performing Simca 1300 is the essential Abarth collaboration.

It is 1961 and there are rumours of a new and exciting motoring collaboration taking place between two of the industry’s most colourful figures. When the results materialise a year later the machine in question is notable for its design beauty, a brand new engine and its immediate racing success. What surprises the industry most about the Simca Abarth 1300, however, is just how much of the Scorpion sting has infected the French part of the hybrid. Considerably more Abarth than Simca it is clear that this is an incredibly important car for Carlo Abarth containing, as it does, the first power unit entirely designed by Abarth and Company.

simca_1300_3 The car’s dainty looks belied its cracking performance

Both Carlo and Enrico Teodoro Pigozzi, (the Italian founder of the French company Simca) are old hands at collaborating with Fiat. Abarth Fiats are already famous for their flinty edge, and Simca has been producing Fiat bodies in their Nanterre works under licence since before the war. For both players this is a departure but it is Carlo that really understands its significance.

They say that to truly understand something you’ve got to build it. Imagine.

It’s 1962 and you are the impeccably attired, chain smoking Carlo Abarth. Simca have just delivered you a floor pan based on their 1000 model. You take a look at what you’ve got. Suspension: traverse front leaf springs with telescopic dampeners and upper wishbones. You like what you see and stick with it. The same applies to the transmission and steering.

The boxed pressed steel chassis from Simca is a tried and tested winner but the aluminium architecture is going to be pure Turin, inspired by the Bialbero builds that you have been producing with Fiat. You want a sleeker look for this car so you make it nearly 100mm longer than the Fiat coupés by extending the wheel base to 2090mm. What you end up with is a thing of beautiful proportions. It is 3555mm long and has 125mm ground clearance. The package is 1480mm high, which is exactly the same as its width. Pythagorean beauty.

simca_1300_2 Abarth nurtured true craftsmanship in the engineering dept.

Alfas have been dominating the road and track categories that you’re aiming for so front of mind is power and speed. You know that at 730kg the rump Simca is too heavy so you strip it back to basics and drive the weight down to a lean 630kg dry. With weight cracked you turn to power.

Abarth-Simca-1300-Engine] Ruthlessly efficient power unit

None of the current Simca engines will deliver. You need something totally new so you get to work experimenting, as you always have done, with bore diameters and stroke length until you get what you want — a 76 bore 71 stroke combination that produces 97ft/lb of torque and that redlines at 8000 revs. It’s going to compete in the 1300 categories so you design and construct a bespoke new four cylinder 1288 cc twin overhead cam engine and decide upon a pair of twin choke Weber carburettors to feed it.

Opting for dry sump lubrication incorporating two geared pumps, one to distribute and one to recoup and with a final compression ratio of 10.4:1, you chuck the beast on a dynamometer, smoke a few of your 60 a day and watch it generate 125hp at 7200rpm. Satisfied with the power you fit disc brakes all round and prepare to reveal your latest magic trick to the test track.

The car’s dainty looks belied its cracking performance

Standing on the tarmac you watch through welling tears as your creation leaps to 60mph in six seconds touching a staggering 230kph at the top end.

In this first season you will dine out no less than nine times on the back of your Franco-Italian victory machine.