Alain Raymond always dreamed of owning a Fiat Abarth. He had owned its lowly cousin, a Fiat 600, while he was a student in Lebanon.
“It was a basket case. But anyway, it was my car,” he recalls.
Many years later, Raymond, an auto writer for La Presse, a French-language newspaper in Quebec, realized his Italian dream in Denver: a former racer driven by Umberto Toscano. “You can’t get any more Italian than that,” Raymond says.
While it looked forlorn at first sight, its new owner was not disappointed. “I promised myself that one day, I would get a real one, an Abarth. And that’s what I did. Voilà!” he says.
Just the name, Abarth, gives car enthusiasts the warm fuzzies, at least the older enthusiasts. Carlo Abarth was considered a master at converting an ordinary production car into a raging “bomba.” Although he probably is best known for his Fiat conversions, he also was involved with Ferrari, Lancia and Porsche.
The Fiat Abarth is based on a Fiat 600, like the one Raymond owned years ago, which was considered the “people’s car” in Italy. It was powered by a watercooled, four-cylinder, 600-cc engine that produced 28 hp.
However, Abarth gradually modified the car, which appeared in different iterations: the 750 TC, the 850 TC and the 1000 TC.
The Abarth’s characteristic open rear deck was designed to help with engine cooling, but it also enabled the car to reach higher top speeds. The car’s tendency to lift its inside front wheel in turns was another characteristic.
Since purchasing his Fiat Abarth 1000 TC, No. 328, Raymond has been competing with it in historic events throughout the United States and Canada.
He owned a Mazda Miata, which he autocrossed before buying the Abarth. And he has no regrets about selling one and buying the other, even though the Fiat requires tons of time for maintenance.
“For one hour of racing in the Miata, you have zero hours of maintenance. With the Abarth, for one hour of racing, you’ve got 15 hours of maintenance.”
Unlike the powerband of the original Fiat, Raymond’s Abarth generates about 85 hp. It also has an assortment of goodies to help make
it stop and corner, including disc brakes and adjust-able shocks.
“I normally shift at 7,500 or 8,000,” he says. But in the final installment of the 2008 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, Raymond confessed that he was shifting at about 6,000 rpm through the makeshift track carved from within Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park--just to be on the safe side.
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