Abarth is yet again one of those illustrious historical Italian manufacturers of sports and race cars. Carlo Abarth’s philosophy to cars can be compared to that of the legendary Colin Chapman; add lightness to make a car go faster and handle better. Currently, the brand is mostly associated with high-performance variants based on Fiat 500’s. This wasn’t always the case though, as at one point an Abarth on the grid always meant business. One of the most important racing cars in the company’s history is not reimagined into a 2021 sports car. This is the 2021 Abarth 1000 SP.
A restomod, as we’ve frequently covered before, is a vintage car brought up to date with modern technology. The beauty is you usually get all of that classic car flair but with reliable and often high-performance modern technology, sometimes even electrified. While this is all fine and dandy, the story of the Abarth 1000 SP is something vastly different, as I’m sure you’ll agree after reading.
But what is it then? Simple, the 2021 Abarth 1000 SP is a restyled Alfa Romeo 4C made to look like a 1966 Abarth 1000 SP prototype race car. Are we calling it done and dusted? No, as there’s plenty more to discover.
The story starts in 1966 when Carlo Abarth, at that time already a prolific manufacturer of sports and racing cars, ordered his team of engineers to develop a sports prototype racer. Prior to the 1000 SP, Abarth would primarily build cars based on Alfa Romeo and Fiat underpinnings. His cars were usually quite small, very nimble and had superb handling as a result. Many of the cars produced were labelled quite simple; a Fiat-Abarth 750 for instance is an Abarth based on a Fiat with a 750cc engine. Engine capacity rarely exceeded two litres as there was little need for heavy and thirsty V8s.
The Abarth 1000 SP was a result of an order by Carlo Abarth to build a dedicated sports prototype following racing success with the Alfa Romeo Abarth 1000 Bertone. The 1000 SP would mark the first time Abarth would develop a special tube-frame chassis for a car. The small car was powered by a 1-litre engine from a Fiat 600 but beefed up to provide just over 100bph. Considering the dry weight of the car was less than 500 kilograms that it doesn’t need ludicrous amounts of power. The chassis was covered with a low-slung fibre-glass body, painted in dramatic fire-engine red. A wrap-around windshield continued into the doors but lacked a roof.
The little Italian race car is quite fast, with a top speed of about 220kph (140mph) and impressed on track. It came in best in class and third overall at the 1966 Nürburgring 500km. Following this moderate success, orders started coming in which led to the car being homologated for other race events too. The car took home several class wins in hill climbs, mainly in Italy, and most noticeably won the 1000cc class at the 1968 Monza 1000km race.
It took the better part of half a century would the 1000 SP live again. The project celebrates the 55th anniversary of the original 1966 Abarth 1000 SP and can be considered as a reimagined version of that little racer. It uses the now discontinued Alfa Romeo 4C Spider as a base, which becomes clear when you look at the proportions, and even more so when going through the specs. Officially it is a one-off and there’s no intention to build it in a series for now. Time will tell if that changes, but rendering it a concept car at the moment relegates it to the odd classic car event here and there.
Nevertheless, the result is quite striking! The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider donates its chassis and full drivetrain to the car. The means it has a very modern hybrid chassis with a carbon fibre tub. The engine is the same 1,75-litre 4-cylinder in the 4C series, producing 237bhp. The original 4C is no slouch as the focus is again on lightness, and as a direct result of that; handling. The short and wide Alfa Romeo 4C is known for its agility and this will be no different.
The reimagined body does look eerily close to the original, down to the roll hoop behind the seats and various aerodynamic elements throughout the car. Take the front section for instance. On the 1966 car, you see a wide air-intake, which is repeated on the modern car. Also, the slots in the front and rear bodywork are copied into the 2021 design. Of course, the new car has slightly different proportions as an exact copy would not meet current safety standards and regulations, but the essence of the 1966 car is there.
The rear section of the car features a very similar style as well, with a large opening to let hot air out from underneath the bodywork. Both cars are mid-engined, with the engine tucked in behind the drivers but in front of the rear axle. The taillights seem almost an exact copy but of course, fitted with modern technology. The biggest change perhaps is the exhaust. Where the 1966 Abarth 1000 SP had an almost humorously large trumped sticking out the back, the 2021 Abarth 1000SP has a more conventional, especially by today’s standards, centrally mounted dual exhaust coming out the back.
Now obviously the new car clearly has more than a few tweaks on the design, mainly due to modern regulations and as a result of the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider donor. Nevertheless, I think the car honours the original quite well. It’s a surprising mix of old and new design elements, with the odd touch here and there, but with its heart in the right place. Quite literally actually, when comparing spec sheets.