Lack of records makes it very difficult to tell a factory Abarth from one built by Uncle Giorgio's Garage

(Note: In the auction catalog, there was an addendum that declared that this particular car was in fact a Fiat 750 rather than an 850. As its model year was appropriate for an 850, we can only assume that an earlier 750 engine had been retrofitted. The historical information about the 850 model presented by the auction company is correct and we have not changed it. Where the auction company refers to this particular car, we have changed the nomenclature from 850 to 850/750. As indicated in Osborne's analysis of this sale, this type of alteration has minimal effect on the value of the car.-ED.)

Fiat and Carlo Abarth have such a convoluted history, it's hard to believe joint planning didn't take place at conspiratorial "Godfather" dinners in some restaurant wine cellar. This story is no exception.
Fiat debuted the "D" version of the 600 in the beginning of 1960, shortly after Abarth began designing the 850 with grand touring competition in mind. Introduced in 1961, the Fiat Abarth 850 was essentially a 600 sent directly to Abarth without front brakes, crank-shaft, carburetor, exhaust and some other minor parts. Abarth then fitted the cars with modified components and sold them for the incredibly low price of just 850,000 lire ($1,282).
This price was only a 25% increase over the base price of a Fiat 600, a very good deal considering the 850 had three and a half times more horsepower than the miniscule 600. Aside from the beefed-up engine, Abarth also upgraded the brakes and tightened the suspension. On request Abarth could supply a sports-style steering wheel and add a rev counter and an oil temperature gauge to the normal instruments. In order to obtain the homologation of the touring category, Abarth had to reach a monthly production of 150 units. This meant that it had to guarantee the minimum number envisaged-1,000 units.
This Fiat Abarth 850/750 Berlina was released from the Italian classic car collection of Franco Manetti and recently arrived in the United States. The car has undergone a cosmetic restoration, with an interior that includes new leather seats and new Fiat floor rubbers.
The engine and transmission have been inspected and tuned up to ensure optimum performance from the 850/750-cc motor. All electrical and mechanical systems have been thoroughly tested and are in working order. The 850 is a very fun car to drive as it can be tossed around and driven to the edge without having to go extremely fast. This car is simply a blast to drive and is undoubtedly worth the money in every respect.

SCM Analysis


Years Produced:1962-67 (600D)
Number Produced:2,984 (850 sedans)
Original List Price:$1,360
SCM Valuation:$10,000-$13,000 (850TC)
Tune Up Cost:$175
Distributor Caps:$25
Chassis Number Location:Left side of firewall
Engine Number Location:Left side of crankcase support
Club Info:Abarth Register, 54 School Street Suite 102, Westbury, NY 11590
Alternatives:1963-67 Mini Cooper S, 1959-65 BMW 700, 1964-70 Renault R8 Gordini
Investment Grade:D

This 1963 Fiat 750/850 Abarth Berlina sold for $17,600, including buyer’s premium, at the RM Auctions Monterey sale held August 19, 2005.
Fiat has a long history of small, performance-modified race cars that dates back to the Ballila and Topolino of the 1930s. Beginning in the mid-’50s, Carlo Abarth’s modified Fiats became the kings of small-bore European racing, a rule that extended through the 1960s.
While most of the big event results were achieved with the sleek Zagato-bodied cars, the standard “Berlina” or “sedan” Abarths also did quite well. Taking full advantage of the durable, under-stressed Fiat 500 and 600 engines, Abarth was able to double or triple the power output while retaining a great deal of reliability.
The canny Austrian also made a deal with Fiat, which saw him receive payment for race and class wins. So to maximize his income, he made sure that as many entries as possible were Abarth-enhanced and -badged cars. Although the catalog description tells a story of the cars that were modified at his factory, the truth is that far more cars were built by dealers and mechanics from kits as after-market projects for customers.
That, combined with an almost total lack of factory records, makes it very difficult to tell a “factory” Abarth car from one done by Uncle Giorgio’s Garage. Whoever did the work, the cars are capable and fun on the track or the street.
Even with a documented history, there are few ways to tell what modifications-beyond badging, instruments, and a rear hatch lift kit-have been made without opening up the engine. The most important parts of an Abarth are the crankshaft and camshaft, and it’s not possible to tell much by looking at the outside of the engine.
The rest of the kit included a finned crankcase with larger diameter bearing supports, lightened and strengthened conrods, lighter pistons, a bigger carburetor, and of course his famous exhaust system. It’s interesting to note that the badges, emblems, and grilles were a separate order from the go-fast bits-which of course encouraged some more impecunious owners to buy the sizzle without the steak.
In buying an Abarthized Fiat Berlina, it’s more important to look at the condition of the car and the quality of the work than to obsess about the originality. When new, these cars were inevitably run hard, even if they weren’t raced, and will have had many of the original parts replaced due to use and wear. It’s not uncommon for them to be sold with multiple engines as spare parts (my 1959 Abarth Zagato Double Bubble came with two and a half) and for the parts to be mixed with abandon.
That brings us to the Editor’s note above. As a 1963, this should be an Abarth 850, as originally written, rather than a 750, as corrected by the auction company. The factory began marketing the larger engine in 1960 with the launch of the 600D model, and while it’s possible that an old 750 kit was sitting on a shelf, it’s more likely that a modified 750 engine was fitted to the car at a later date. It doesn’t really matter, however, as explained above- if it’s not a “factory-documented” race car, it doesn’t make a difference except for a small margin of performance.
This Fiat 750/850 Abarth Berlina had been recently restored (the catalog photo showed it when it was fresh out of the paint shop with no headlights or trim fitted) and was very well done. It had all of the Abarth trim pieces, down to the funky spinner hubcaps. As such, although high, the price paid was fair (and below the $20,000-$25,000 estimate) and the new owner certainly bought the car for less than the price of the restoration work. It’s a car to be sorted and enjoyed right away.

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