This is what passion looks like. It’s not uncommon to know someone that has a few old cars and a bit of memorabilia locked away in a garage. But when someone opens their garage up as a museum; starts a club to share their passion with the world; and gets their cars out and seen as much as possible—that’s the kind of passion and sense of community that I have a deep respect for. Bruno Dorigo’s Abarth collection is impressive, but it’s his passion that is truly enviable.
Just watching the Beast of Turin’s engine fire up a few months ago was flabbergasting. To see her spin around the grounds at Goodwood is downright magical.
It’s jarring to see a racing machine that is as tall as a man’s shoulder. Climbing up on to the seat of the 28.5 liter Fiat S76 is more like perching in a biplane than easing down into a low-slung racing car. You emerge from a car like this with your whole body numb from the battle—shaking and tingling for hours afterwards.
That pheasant barely made it out with his life.
Thanks for pointing this one out, Ryan.
After 100 years of sitting idle, Duncan Pittaway and his team have breathed life into this former Landspeed Record Fiat S76. More than 100 years after the two S76s were built by Fiat to take the flying mile and flying kilometer records away from the Blitzen Benz, this fearsome hellbreathing dragon has spun up her four valve-per-cylinder, multi-spark, overhead cam 28½ Litre (!) engine and it. Is. Staggering. Without exhausts fitted, this view of the combustion chambers spitting the remains of burning fuel straight into the camera lens makes me feel like Gandalf staring down a Balrog in Moria.
Modern engines are absolutely pushing envelopes. The sophistication of engineering and artistry that powers contemporary racing machines is very, very impressive. But none of them have the Earth shattering brutality of this 104-year-old Fiat. Terrifying. And Gorgeous.
Hat tip to Stefan Marjoram on this one. More to come in the new year, it seems. I can’t wait for more of the Beast of Turin.
We marveled yesterday at the tremendous lineup at Gooding’s Scottsdale auctions next weekend. With this remarkable list of lots crossing the stage, it isn’t easy for pretend-billionaires like ourselves to decide which cars we’ll be raising our paddles for. Then again, if I was a pretend-billionaire, I’d probably be taking all of them home… Let’s make it pretend-millionaire to keep it interesting.
This 1947 Cisitalia 202 SMM Spider Nuvolari is certainly a beautiful option. It is the esoteric hipster’s choice—why bother consorting with common 50’s and 60’s racing cars when you can hang with the racing machines of the 1940’s. Rare stuff indeed. If you’re an Abarth fan, there’s no reason to immediately dismiss the Cisitalia either. Carlo Abarth was still an employee of Cisitalia when the 202 was designed.
Of the handful of 202 variants (including the 202 and 202MM), the Stabilimenti Farina penned Spider Nuvolari is my favorite. It has all the visual hallmarks of what were to become iconic sports and racing design elements. The oval grille, the beginnings of tail-fins, that low windscreen: They all combine beautifully in this gorgeous little package. Just look at those mesh air intakes! Simply stunning.
There’s no such thing as a bad Abarth. Although I prefer my Abarth coupes with the double-bubble up top—I doubt I’d fit in otherwise—There’s no shortage of beautiful curves and sexy angles of this 1960 Fiat-Abarth 850 Record Monza. I particularly like the details on this particular example. At first glance it’s a bit jarring to see a bright red Italian beauty of this vintage without the required Route Borani wires, but I’m a huge fan of these purposeful (and original) pressed steelies. I think they give it a racier look than wires would.
If you’re planning on going to the track with one of these machines, the Abarth might be right choice. Designed for the racing class changes of 1960, the 850 was a step above it’s 750 brother and remained competitive in club racing throughout the decade. Sadly, this example is fitted with a later 903cc engine.
With such remarkable company, you might think the 1960 Autobianchi Bianchina Trasformabile here doesn’t even enter into the equation. It certainly isn’t going to compete with the other two on the track—and you might not even consider it an able racing machine. You’d probably be right. The only sporting Bianchini that comes to mind for me is the tale of George Lucas’ crash in one that prompted his exit from the California sports and racing scene.
Even so, I’m a fan. Italy’s take on the practicality and aesthetic that propelled the Mini to huge successes is clearly in evidence here. Of course, the Fiat 500 clearly is what comes to mind when we think of an Italian version of the Mini. I like the Cincuento, but as a long-time supporter of underdogs, I think I’d take the Bianchina if given the choice between the two. And just dig this two tone interior.
Then again, with an estimate of $35-$45,000, maybe pretend-millionaire me would just take home the Autobianchi as a side dish alongside the Abarth or the Cisitalia. What’s your choice?
The auction is complete and the estimates all pretty much nailed. They all came in at the low to middle of their estimated range. If you picked the Cisitalia, you sir, have expensive tastes. Yeah, me too.
1947 Cisitalia 202 SMM Spider Nuvolari $650,000
1960 Fiat-Abarth 850 Record Monza $89,100
1960 Autobianchi Bianchina Trasformabile $40,700
Thanks, Tulipwood Racer.
1955 Abarth “Spyder” 1100
The 1955 Abarth Competition Spyder was road tested by the Italian Racing Ace Gino Valenzano.
Gino says, “I tested many cars on a 6 Km. twisting course and the Abarth proved to be faster than many sports cars with twice the displacement.”
This new comet is the creation of two Masters: Abarth for the mechanical end and Boano for the streamlined coach work.
It is powered by a 1089 cc. modified Fiat engine with a bore of 68 mm. and a stroke of 75 mm. Compression ratio is 9:1 with 2 Weber side draft carburetors, develops 6 bhp. at 6000 rpm. Weight 1148 lbs.
Tony Pompeo • Phone JUdson 2-3863
1877 Broadway, New York 23, N.Y.
This is the very aptly named 1923 Fiat “Mefistofele”. This was the car that a very brave Ernest Eldridge attempted to wrangle to a World Land Speed Record in 1924. This mammoth machine—powered by a 350-horsepower, 21 liter airship engine—certainly looks up to the task, and despite it’s truck-like size, which surely is larger than she looks, Eldridge somehow managed to control the mighty Fiat long enough to achieve the record.
Eldridge and Mefistofele topped out a 146.013 mph over a flying kilometer in Arpajon, France. He had earlier piloted Mefistofele to a standing start half-mile record of 23.17 seconds at 77mph. Now a 23 second half mile might not sound like much to the muscle car fans among us, but I imagine that the only way to simulate the experience would be if you ran your ‘Cuda at the drags while strapped to the front bumper.
This, my friends, is a proper racing car: a little scary, a little elegant, a lot purposeful looking. Let me just say again 21 Liter airship engine. Traction control? Automatic shift? Anti-lock brakes? No. Driving this machine must be like trying to tame a dragon. Mefistofele indeed.
Let us all salute this impressive monster, and the man who tamed her as an example of the bravado and determination that so roused our collective passion for motorsport.