Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto

January 14, 2014
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Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto

Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto

During the early 1950s a new generation of highly talented automotive stylists emerged in Italy. Unfortunately their means of expressing themselves was increasingly limited by the advent of the load-bearing body-shell on mass-produced models. Carlo Abarth recognised the problem and developed a new Fiat-based machine for coach-builders to cloth.

Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto

Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto. For better resolution click here.

Of Austrian descent, Abarth specialised in the production of aftermarket intake and exhaust systems for a variety of manufacturers.

It was in this capacity that he joined the engineering team at Piero Dusio’s ambitious Cisitalia company in the late 1940s. When the small manufacturer folded late in 1949, Abarth received several Cisitalias in various states of completion as a severance pay. Although built in very small numbers, these would form the basis for the first Abarth cars.

Abarth realised that, if anything, an Abarth labelled car would be a very powerful marketing tool for his ‘go fast’ products. He also knew that the best way to attract attention was with an eye-catching body. With their very promising designer Franco Scaglione, Bertone would be an ideal partner for this project. Nobody at the time could have known that the Bertone bodied Abarth would form the basis for a series of three legendary show cars.

Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto interior

Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto interior. For better resolution click here.

Known internally as the ‘Tipo 1500’, the new Abarth featured a bespoke boxed-steel platform chassis, housing the Fiat mechanicals. It was equipped with double wishbones at the front and a live rear axle. Power came from a slightly enlarged Fiat 1400 engine, which was of course fitted with an Abarth tuning kit. In this trim it produced 75 bhp, which was a considerable improvement over the 44 bhp produced by the stock engine. A four speed gearbox completed the package.

At Bertone the Tipo 1500 was fitted with a very futuristic, jet-inspired coach-work. The very long nose sported a prominent central headlight flanked by large radiator intakes and additional headlights. The sides of the car were dominated by the scalloped fender-wells. At the rear-end subtle fins were fitted that followed the curve of the body. A very airy greenhouse with curved front and rear windows topped off the aerodynamic design.

Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto

Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto. For better resolution click here.

Not surprising the ‘Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto’ was the star of the show in Turin. Two visitors were particularly taken by the car; Bill Graves and Edward Macauley. They were the Vice President of Engineering and the chief designer at Packard, and were in Turin seeking inspiration. They eventually acquired the car from a reluctant Abarth. Even before their return to the United States, a new president was appointed and with him came a new strategy in which their was no place for the Abarth.

For Scaglione the striking Abarth was only the starting point. It was followed by the three Alfa Romeo based B.A.T. (Bertone Aerodinamica Technica) show cars. These legendary machines incorporated many cues first seen on the Abarth, which in retrospect could be dubbed the B.A.T. 1. Still focusing on the component side of his business, Abarth only sporadically built cars during the following years. He eventually found great commercial and motorsport success with Fiat 600 based cars later in the decade.

Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto

Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto. For better resolution click here.

After a full inspection by Packard’s designers, the Abarth was handed to journalist Dick Smith in the summer of 1953 as compensation for suggesting a slogan for a new Packard marketing campaign. Smith cherished the car and used it sparingly on the road for over two decades. At one point during the 1970s he parked the car in his garage and it did not appear until 2003 when it was offered at auction by Christie’s. It was no longer a runner but nevertheless sold for almost four times the lower estimate at $293,500.

Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto

Abarth 1500 Bertone Biposto. For better resolution click here.

The new owner had the long lost car shipped to England for a complete restoration. Disappointed by the progress, he brought the unique Abarth back to the United States where the restoration was completed by Randy Reed in Seaside. It finally made its post-restoration debut at the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance where it deservedly won the ‘Gran Turismo Award’ for the most significant car balancing both artistic beauty and performance.

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