Values have been rising steadily for the least expensive coachbuilt Italian racing car with a decent history


Abarth was an Italian tuning company founded in 1950 by engineer and designer Carlo Abarth. His 750 Zagato was designed to be equally at home on the track as on the street.

The cars were built on the Fiat 600 platform, then heavily modified by Abarth and bodied by Zagato, which was renowned for its low-drag aluminum bodywork fitted to the finest sports cars of the era. The 750 had a weight of only 1,180 lb, giving it unmatched agility and a top speed approaching 100 mph.

The 750 Zagato was first seen racing in March 1956, and the list of competition results was soon impressive. The car made a clean sweep of its class at the 1957 Mille Miglia, and in the 1958 and 1959 Mille Miglias, Abarth 750 Monza coupes emerged victorious in their class. Class wins at the 1961 Le Mans, Sebring, and Daytona races were also among their many accomplishments.

This 1959 Abarth 750 Zagato is a fine example of these rare Italian gems, famed for offering performance and style unmatched by cars many times their size and price. Presented in period racing colors, with matching blue interior, it shows well and features correct Abarth badges. It is equipped with a special Mille Miglia rally clock and competition seatbelts for an appropriate sporting character.

The engine is a high-performance GBS 903-cc block that has been bored out to 981 cc, giving the car more than enough power to compete successfully in rallies and hillclimbs. This Abarth was recently fitted with a new electrical system and is mechanically sound, with all systems working as they should. The 750 is one of the most successful and widely recognized Abarth models, and this is the model that comes to mind for most collectors and enthusiasts when the small Italian firm is mentioned.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1959 Fiat Abarth 750 Double Bubble

This 1959 Fiat Abarth 750 Double Bubble sold for $88,000 including premium at the Gooding & Company auction held in Scottsdale, Arizona, on January 19, 2008.

Carlo Abarth (born Karl Abarth in Austria) was a very talented and masterfully clever businessman. A designer and builder of high-performance exhaust systems in the 1930s, he later branched out into go-faster parts for Italian cars small and large. As the Italian distributor of Porsche cars in the early post-war years, he was asked to find a manufacturer who would be willing to build a Grand Prix car Ferry Porsche had designed.

When Piero Dusio of Cisitalia wanted to scratch his big-time Grand Prix itch, Abarth, who was also Dusio’s racing director, introduced him to Porsche-who just happened to have the plans in hand. Unfortunately, the radical and very expensive Type 360 bankrupted Cisitalia and Dusio decamped for South America, leaving his son to deal with the mess. In the settlement, Abarth magically found himself with almost all the Italian assets of the company and on its ashes, he built his eponymous business.

After developing the last of the Cisitalia chassis as Abarths, he then turned to where the real money was, tuning Fiats. The perfect canvas came along with the Fiat 600 of 1955, and it became the core of Abarth’s business. In addition to supplying parts, he developed an enlarged 750-cc version of the 633-cc engine and sold “derivazione” or “derivation” kits to dealers and garages for fitting into stock 600s.

Quickly established as a winner

He also built complete cars in his factory, the best known of which were these sleek little Zagato-bodied competition cars. The Fiat 600 Derivazione 750 Abarth Zagato made its debut at the 1955 Turin Auto show and began its racing career in 1956. It quickly established itself as a winner in European events, including that ’57 Mille Miglia sweep. Nicknamed “Double Bubbles” for the distinctive roof humps found on almost every example, they were equally successful in the U.S. on all types of tracks across the country.

I mentioned at the start that Abarth was a clever businessman. By creating a capable “drive to the track, race, and drive home” mini GT that was also affordable, he maximized sales to privateer racers. Since he had made a deal with Fiat, which paid him for every win or second place scored by a “Fiat Abarth,” the more cars out there, the better. Through two earlier, small-production series of cars, the final configuration arrived in late 1958 with production through 1959.

Most of the Fiat Abarth 750 Double Bubbles found on the market are these Series III cars, as was the one offered at the Gooding sale. I owned one such Double Bubble for several years and absolutely loved it. They are fun to drive, in the way only very light, somewhat underpowered cars can be. You can hurl one around with complete abandon and not really worry, even though the engine is behind the rear wheels.

As driveable on the street as on the track

Once the entry (and exit) drill has been learned, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much space there is underneath those roof humps. There’s plenty of room inside, even for those over six feet tall. Not inconsequently, they are also a masterpiece of design. I can think of few, if any, times that such a sleek design has been achieved on such a short platform. Finally, they also have a real racing pedigree-on both sides of the Atlantic-and are welcome in vintage racing and rallying practically everywhere. They are as drivable on the street as on the track.

I bought mine in West Virginia and with no problem drove back to where I then lived in eastern Pennsylvania. The trip included several hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, cruising along with tractor trailer trucks whose wheel hubs were at the level of the roof of the car. This reliability makes them quite usable in long-distance vintage rallying.

Because of the duality of use, the cars can vary greatly in the quantity and quality of trim present. Most racers had much of their interior trim removed over the years and also lost the hand-made alloy bright trim body pieces.

This Abarth 750 Double Bubble had a complete interior, some of which had clearly been re-created, with some details not quite right. All of the exterior trim was present, in varying levels of condition.

The bodies are quite prone to corrosion, both of the traditional sort in the steel Fiat floorpan as well as electrolytic corrosion on the edges of the alloy panels-especially the doors. Here, evidence of the latter could be seen in the sills and doors. The panel fit on these cars should be very tight and even; this car’s was neither. In addition, the original glass windshield for these cars is practically unobtainium and is usually replaced with Plexiglas, as on this car.

Values have been rising steadily, reflecting the fact that they remain the least expensive coachbuilt Italian racing car with a reputation that you can buy. In spite of the relatively large production, they don’t come up for sale often and price spikes are common. The earliest of them are Mille Miglia Storica-eligible and trade for multiples of the later model. Very good Series III examples have traded in private sales in the $75,000-range. This sale, at $88,000, is either another spike-a sign the market has once again moved forward-or simply the enthusiasm of two bidders. With the issues visible on this car, the transaction has to be classified as “well sold,” but not for long.

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