1952 Abarth 1100 Sport by Ghia

Angus McKenzie, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

The last of four Abarth 205 competition chassis to be constructed, the car offered here is the only example to use an engine and transmission developed from the new Fiat 1100-103, as well as the only example bodied by Ghia. Believed to have been designed by Giovanni Michelotti, it was constructed concurrently with the Ghia-bodied Chryslers of the same period. The Abarth echoed the Chryslers’ broad oval grille opening, wide low stance and canopy-like roof element — but with a delightful smaller scale.

Ghia exhibited the car on its stand at the 1953 Turin Salon, the same show at which the 1100-103 made its debut, thus emphasizing the abilities of Abarth and Ghia to maximize the performance and style of the new model. Aldo Farinelli, in his report for the Italian magazine Motor Italia, described the car as “A Masterpiece of Design.”

Abarth sold the car to American Bill Vaughn, who exhibited it at the 1954 New York Auto Show as the Vaughn SS Wildcat, with “the first overhead camshaft V-8 in the USA.”

If Vaughn did indeed repower the car with a V8, no photos of the installation survive, and the car never saw the limited production run that he envisioned. After that, the car was lost in time until 1982, when Russ Baer discovered it in a barn in Ashton, MD. Longtime beloved enthusiast Pat Braden ended up saving the car. Both of the men helped to preserve the car and contributed to its history. An interesting clue to its earlier history is a parking sticker in the rear window reading “Litton Industries Maryland Division 1958.”

This rare Abarth passed through the hands of two additional collectors before the consignor purchased it in 2010. The consignor spent the next five years on a thorough and correct restoration. As a dedicated enthusiast working for the love of the car, he painstakingly researched the authenticity and accuracy of every component. Included in the car’s history file are high-resolution color photographs taken at Turin, as well as other period articles and documentation from throughout the Abarth’s fascinating past.

After completion of the restoration, the Abarth was exhibited at the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it won its class and was nominated for Best of Show, a remarkable achievement for a post-war automobile. Not shown, photographed or published since being shown at Pebble Beach, it remains a remarkable performance masterpiece in the Italian style, ready for further concours successes or driving events.