Abarth 595. The little pest

  • 23 December 2023
  • 2 min read
  • 5 images
Abarth 595. The little pest image

Photo credit: FCA Heritage, Stellantis, Wannenes

Who. Carlo Abarth, born in Austria but relocated to Italy, was already known in 1957 as a constructor of sports cars based on Fiat models with special bodies, and for his modifications on the Fiat 600. For him, the arrival of the small Fiat 500 was a golden opportunity to apply his unique touch to this promising, budget-friendly new model.

Abarth 595. The little pest - 1 Carlo Abarth founded Abarth & C in 1949. His zodiac sign, the scorpion, will become the brand's logo.

Where. In post-war Italy, where owning a car was everyone’s dream, Carlo Abarth sensed a vast untapped market: modification kits for standard cars. Soon, working from the former Cisitalia headquarters in Turin, Abarth forged a relationship with Fiat, focusing on engine development and later, preparing cars for sports enthusiasts. His compact Abarth 850 and 1000 models, bodied by Zagato, became a force in amateur racing. However, his specialty remained the production of engine kits and exhaust systems.

Abarth 595. The little pest - 2 The 1955 advertising flyer for Abarth exhaust systems.

What. The commercial success prompted Fiat to endorse the preparation of an ‘Abarth-derived’ 500 to attempt to break a series of records at Monza. And so, on 13th February 1958, a car with special aerodynamic bodywork hit the track, achieving its goal by setting six records. This triumph convinced Mirafiori’s senior executives to forge a closer relationship with the young Abarth, and the first result of this collaboration was the 500 Sport, created for the Turismo Preparato category and later, the iconic 595.

Abarth 595. The little pest - 3 The Fiat 500 tuned by Abarth wins 6 international records at Monza in 1958.

When. In September 1963, the Fiat-Abarth 595 was unveiled, marking one of the first instances of co-branding in history. The cars were produced in Turin at the Mirafiori factory and then dispatched to the Abarth workshops for completion with special parts and modifications in setup and mechanics, increasing the engine to 595cc.

Abarth 595. The little pest - 4 The Fiat-Abarth 595 is unveiled in September 1963 at the Turin Auto Show.

How. In Carlo Abarth’s hands, the small 500 transformed into a dream machine: its displacement increased to 595cc, and its affordable price starting from 595,000 lire made it highly attractive. The camshaft, valve springs, and carburettor (now a Solex brand) were upgraded. The unique exhaust and enlarged oil pan, proudly bearing the Abarth name, injected a surprising boost in horsepower. Today, the jump to 27 horsepower and a top speed increase from 100 to 120 km/h may seem modest, but back then it was a game-changer. The 595’s success wasn’t limited to the streets, also carving out a niche in racing and inspiring the creation of a dedicated category.

Abarth 595. The little pest - 5 The small twin-cylinder engine increased to 595cc by Abarth through several modifications was capable of delivering 27hp for a top speed of 120 km/h.