Abarth historian Luciano Greggio writes in his fine book upon the marque ‘Abarth – The Man – The Machines’ (Giogio Nada, 2002) “On the much discussed question of the mid-engine favoured by Mario Collucci and the power plant inclined over the rear axle preferred by Carlo Abarth, Colucci recalls thirty years later ‘The location of the rear engine gave vent to a diatribe without end and I found drivers were split between the two layouts. Arturo Merzario sided with Abarth, but it should also be said that he was the only one who knew how to drive the cars he test drove and helped to tune. On the other hand Lualdi” – the great Edoardo Lualdi-Gabardi, the multiple mountainclimb Champion – “…was never comfortable with the (overhung) power unit and moved on to mid engines”. For some venues, particularly the hairpin-packed mountain-climbs of the period, and on the tighter road circuits – much mimicked today by most modern Autodrome circuit designs – the wheelspin-limiting tractional advantages of the Carlo Abarth-preferred, Porsche-type overhung engine location often proved a winning recipe.
Hence his long-held allegiance to this configuration for the sports prototype cars which Mario Colucci and his design team continued to create in parallel with the Abarth marque’s Gran Turismo and touring car series.
On April 7, 1968, the latest variant Abarth 2000 Sport Prototipo model made its victorious debut in the Ampus hill-climb in France driven by the Swiss sprint specialist Peter Schetty. The car was derived from previous experience with the SE04 series of barchetta cars, being assembled around a multi-tubular spaceframe chassis in 22mm chrome-molybdenum tubing, stiffened and reinforced with laminated glassfibre panelling. Overall chassis weight (bare) was claimed to be only 47kg – 103lbs – and weight distribution, with the 2-litre 4-cylinder engine hung outboard in line with Carlo Abarth’s design tenet, if not Colucci’s – was split 38 per cent to the front and 62 per cent rear.
The 1,496cc engine used at Ampus retained two of the factory team’s huge preferred twin-choke Weber 58DCO3 carburettors, and power output was up to around 250bhp at a raucous 8,000rpm.
Cooling was by twin nose-mounted water and oil radiators. The wheelbase length was listed as 2085mm, front and rear track 1405mm and 1435mm and the bodywork comprised a lightweight detachable glassfibre shell that complete with vast goldfish-bowl windscreen still weighed barely 50kg. The car’s overall weight was declared as being 575kg – 1,267lbs – and it was geared for some 270km/h – 169mph maximum speed.
The sloping wedge-shaped nose form was most distinctive, and it was made even more so by the adoption of twin headlights on each side forming the soon-famous ‘Quattro Fari’ or four-headlight keynote by which the Abarth SE010 model would become known worldwide.
Its fame was spread not only by its long string of appearances and successes around the race track and hill-climb venues of the world but perhaps to an even greater extent by the design’s popularity as a scale model subject. Quickly the SE010 Quattro Fari become one of the most recognisable of all racing sports-prototype cars of the 1960s, short perhaps only of Ferrari’s finest P-series cars.
Although no official record appears to survive of the total number of each design that were produced by the Abarth factory, it is widely acknowledged that perhaps as many as 50 of these SE010 sports-prototypes were completed as the design enjoyed a long and distinguished motor racing career.
The first 25 examples of the 2000 Sport Spider were produced for FIA homologation into the contemporary Group 4 category, into which the design was accepted on April 1, 1969. Both four-valve per cylinder and two-valve per cylinder heads were used in the overall production run, with the 8-valve units tending to be preferred for hill-climb use, and the 16-valve alternative for circuit racing, it would appear.
The current US owner purchased the SE010 at Bonhams auction 5 years ago, when the famed Maranello Rosso Collection of Fabrizio Violati was disbursed, and it was subsequently shipped to his home in the U.S. for assessment and planning of its future. A fastidious scavenger hunt for information on the car ensued, which over the course of this ownership has produced numerous archive photos of its career and most importantly a greater understanding of this particular car.
From this research, the seller was able to confirm that the car was one of only three of this series to have been built in a right-hand drive configuration. As can be imagined, that information enables pinpointing its career and indeed any visuals of it far more clearly.
At this point, its racing history can now be documented as such:
25 April 1970 1000 km at Monza Mario Casoni/Johannes Ortner No. 23 DNF
4 May 1970 Targa Florio Mario Casoni No. 42 DNS
17 May 1970 7th City of Volterra Cup Hans Ortner No. 382 1st
24 May 1970 7th Montseny Spain Hillclimb Mario Casoni No. 60 3rd
31 May 1970 Neviano Hill Climb Casoni/Baratti No. 436 1st
7 June 1970 Anderstorp (Scandinavian) Hans Ortner No. 26 3rd 1st in class
19 July 1970 Mugello Grand Prix Vacarella/Ortner No. 52 DNF
28 October 1970 Turin Auto Show Abarth Display No. 42
For the 1971 season it was run as part of the Squadra Corsa Meda with the following results:
25 April 1971 1000 km at Monza Pal Joe/Romolo Becchetti No. 29 11th OA, 1st ic
16 May 1971 Targa Florio Romolo Becchetti No. 30 DNF
20 June 1971 Salsomaggiore Sant’antonio Pal Joe 3rd in class
25 July 1971 European 2-Litre Championship Imola Pal Joe No. 51 9th Place
12 September 1971 500 km Imola Pal Joe No. 67 15th Place
31 October 1971 European 2-Litre Championship Vallelunga 7th Place
This research precipitated dozens of period images of the car, and perhaps most interestingly a video of the car being unloaded from the truck on the day it debuted at Monza in 1970.
After its brace of years of professional competition, and perhaps some further club competition the car passed to the famed Italian Collector and Racer Fabrizio Violati. There among many of its breed it sat on display in the Maranello Rosso Collection and was listed by him as a 2 Litre, 2000 model, and the undeniable highlight of the group. To judge from its condition then, it had clearly been restored at some point during that custody and this must have been a highly sympathetic job, as the interior had the appearance of being completely original, as it still does, while perhaps some new/old stock front & rear body sections were used to compensate for the later modifications done during the 1971 season.
When offered by Bonhams in 2014, it was established that this attribution was actually incorrect, and that the power unit that it carried by then had a 55mm stroke of the 1300 unit, and 8 valve, 8 plug head.
Although its race record is now more comprehensively charted, one aspect of its history is still yet to be documented, that of when its original 2 litre unit would have been replaced with the 1300 that it has today. It is surmised, but not confirmed, that being such a late example and therefore obsolete after that brief career that it may have been changed after the 1971 season in order to remain competitive and usable. It is not known whether Violati would have done this to campaign the car or whether it arrived with him in this form.
With the research carried out, a restoration was commenced to return it as closely as possible to the aesthetics of its original career early days and the iconic 1970 Monza guise. At the same time it has been completely mechanically rebuilt and that it is now running superbly and is a lot of fun to drive.
Having enjoyed the process of restoration, research and subsequent demonstration, its owner has now elected to part with the car for the next enthusiast to take care of its custody. With its period power unit, and once FIA certified it would be eminently usable in this form, leaving the option of sourcing a 2 Litre for a later juncture and with much of the hard work done, the options for circuit racing or indeed hill climbing are boundless.
A sensational looking, performing and sounding car, wherever it goes all eyes will always be on the ‘Quattro Fari’.