Abarth is an old name in the European car industry, with a history going back to 1949. It was an independent company back in the days when even small companies could do okay even with small volumes. But by the 1970s, as competition increased, it was a challenge if you didn’t have sufficient size and so Abarth was taken in by the Fiat group where it has remained to this day (continuing its existence in the Stellantis Group).
Historically, Abarth has been a performance brand (and this was long before such a term came into use). After all, founder Carlo Abarth was sporting director of the Cisitalia factory racing team which ceased operations and led to him founding the company. Later, when acquired by Fiat, Abarth was responsible for motorsport activities to make use of its long experience.
Strong presence in motorsports
The 1960s were probably the period the brand was well known in motorsports, having a presence in sportscar racing and hillclimbs and challenginf Porsche and Ferrari. One of the sportscars from this period of its history was the Abarth 1000 SP. This was an ambitious and revolutionary project where the ‘SP’ indicated Sports Prototype, a covered-wheel car made exclusively to compete in racing competitions, with few models actually built.
Built in 1966, the car was a light and powerful spider featuring simple, low and streamlined shapes. The technical and stylistic excellence of this car soon led to an outstanding series of victories – both for teams and private customers – which further contributed to reinforcing the Abarth brand’s sporting prestige.
Although few cars were built, the story of the Abarth 1000 SP did not end in the 1960s. In 2009, Abarth and Alfa Romeo (also in the Fiat empire) renewed their bond and looked at how to expand the range of the Abarth brand. Various alternatives were considered, including that of a reinterpretation of the 1000 SP involving the creation of a medium-sized sportscar with an attractive silhouette and essential lines
The Alfa Romeo 4C
This concept – a light car with an excellent weight/power ratio – became the basis of two distinct projects, which were developed in parallel. The first was that of the new Abarth 1000 SP, while the second focussed on another car which would soon continue the tradition of Alfa Romeo sportscars: the 4C. The Alfa Romeo 4C went into production but the 1000 SP project remained at the draft stage.
In 2021, the modern 1000 SP has finally been built, albeit as just one unit. The new Abarth 1000 SP project was shaped fully in line with its forerunner – the points and lines of the original car’s design have been respected, to ensure continuity between the sportscar of the 1960s and the concept car of the new millennium. In between lay the creative process and the rediscovery of an ambitious idea.
A ‘remastering’ operation
The spark for the revival of the old project came from the same mathematics as the prototype imagined in 2009, subjected to a ‘remastering’ operation to advance and perfect the car’s ultimate design. Furthermore, it would also be an evolution of the Alfa Romeo 4C, benefitting from another decade of technological advancements,
The 2021 1000 SP is an organically balanced car, in which three key design principles that were embedded in the original model of the 1960s have been respected – its lightness; the aerodynamics; and ergonomics. And being a sportscar, this concept is embodied in the optimisation of vehicle control, and how one ‘feels at ease’ on board, in terms of spacial and dimensional perception, and of driveability.
Echoes of ancestor
All three elements have played a fundamental role in the design of this one-off car. The lines and aesthetic elements that shaped its ancestor echo strongly in the new 1000 SP which also echoes the layout of the central-engined spider. The cockpit windscreen, which protects even the tallest drivers from strong airflow, boasts the famous sculpted side deflectors, with a low profile sweeping up towards the roll-bar. The roll-bar is deliberately exposed, further underlining that fact that that this is a genuine spider.
The rear geometries emphasise the perfect harmony between the back headlights and exhausts, and also the open slots for engine cooling which were present on its ancestor. The paintwork is categorically red and the characteristic air intakes appear all over the car body. The lights too respect the minimalist scheme of the historic 1000 SP, with point-like headlamps on the nose and a single pair of round headlights at the back, to emphasise the car’s width.
Under the “skin”, the tubular frame of the historic Sport Prototype is replaced by a hybrid frame with the central cell in carbonfibre and the front in aluminium. This helps keep the car’s dry weight to just 1,074 kgs.
Like the Alfa Romeo 4C. the 1000 SP also has a powerful 1.8-litre supercharged 4-cylinder aluminium central engine. This is tuned to deliver up to 240 bhp, giving a top speed capability of over 250 km/h.