124 Abarth
sporting fiats club Thursday, May 25, 2017

Introduction

124 Abarth History

124 Abarth Specs

Rallying Results

SFC Gallery

Stories

 

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Enter the 124 Spider ... Enter Abarth

Introducing the 124 Spider Abarth
Because over a decade has passed since their last factory involvement, it’s easy to dismiss the impact Fiat had on top level world rallying. Cars powered by the Fiat/ Lancia Twin Cam engine and its derivatives were at the pinnacle of world rallying competition for over 25 years. Today the combination of Fiat and Lancia teams have still won more World Championships than any other marque. The car that really launched them towards this unprecedented success was the 124 Spider Abarth.

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124 Spider Abarth History

Background - Fiat and Abarth enter Rallying

Before the 124 Spider was introduced to rallying in 1968/1969, Fiat had been building a service for privateers interested in rallying their cars. It was called the Fiat Rally Service as mainly technical advice was given to veteran cars preparing for distance and tourist events. Independently of Fiat, Abarth provided many Italian enthusiasts with tuning components, and their own versions of Fiats with additional performance. In the Italian road rallies of the era Fiats proved most popular, with occasional Alfas and the outstanding Lancia Fulvias completing the fields.And the growth potential of this form of motorsport was apparent. From 1967 Fiat's Rally Service was extended  to provide a continuous support and car servicing capability. So the main elements of rally support for overseas rallies began. By 1968 a group of enthusists had formed a team based around the Turin offices, warehouse and workshops that had once served the Fiat racing team of the twenties.
In 1969 Fiat's attention increased. Further financial assitance lead to a more specialised workshop, and the formation of an official team in 1970, when Alcide Paganelli and Dominico Russo won their first Italian rally title in a 1438cc Sport Spider.

Late in 1969 the second series of 124 Spider (we now call the 124BS) was released, with a new 1608cc Twin Cam and twin Weber carbs, replacing the 1438cc single carbed original. It was this car, the ‘124 Sport Spider 1600’, that provided the all round performance for rallying.

In 1970, confidence in the cars and the team grew, as the team handled a programme involving 9 crews, participating in rallies for International Makes, European Drivers, Italian, and Mitropa Cup Championships.

The cars involved where the 124 Sport Spiders (in Group 4 of the International Sporting Code), 128 Coupes and then 125S saloons (in Group 1). Some 40-plus designers and mechanical specialists were employed.

In 1971 Fiat entered an official factory rally team in National Rallies for the first time. The strategy was to enter the 125S on gravel and very rough surface rallies, while the 124 Spiders were used on tarmac and smoother gravel events.


Then came a major change in the direction and intensity of rally efforts. Work to homologate a rally Fiat for international use was already underway when, in August 1971 Fiat bought the world famous Abarth & Co. tuning firm from Carlo Abarth on his retirement. In the next few months, Abarth's world class development efforts were channelled exclusively into rallying.... giving birth to, for instance, Osella to cater for some of Abarth's circuit racing interests.

Abarth's expertise in rapid designing and testing of special components reduced development times and further energised Fiat's customer rally teams as well as their newly formed Works team. Within 12 months Abarth's input moved competition efforts on to a truly international basis. Under their guidance the 124 Rally was created. .

After a serious development effort the124 Abarth Rally was launched in Autumn 1972. This car still needed to obtain homologation for international and national events - which was achieved in November. According to homologation inspections, over 400 of the eventual road going versions were verified. (The manufucturer having about 21 months to complete and sell this number of chassis).

It appears that the standard 124 spider chassis were built up at Abarth in batches. Under the new homologation regulations, Abarth were tasked with creating both the Street (Stradale) versions of the 124 Rally, as well as the Works rally cars. 124 Spider shells would be pulled off the main 124 production in one batch, for preparation at Abarth's premises. About 30 of these shells were then set aside for Works rally preparation. The rest were prepared as road going versions (Stradale) for sale through Fiat dealerships.

Having seen the factory I can only suggest it was a minor miracle to have made the 400 cars for homologation by the required deadline.

Growth in the popularity (and publicity) of rallying continued, and so1973 became the first year of the World Championship of Rallies. In 1973 the 124 Abarth still lacked pace and reliability – Fiat loosing out to the Renault Alpine team in the championship. Consequently the Fiat rally effort was increased. The car was really too heavy. Over 1974 and 1975 Abarth further developed the car with stronger suspension components, larger and better cooled brakes, wheel and tyre improvements and an extensively lightened shell - culminating in the wide body kit version of 1975. This final version had new ducts and a special 16-valve engine with Kugelfischer mechanical injection. This engine was claimed to produce over 210bhp reliably by the end of the 1975 season. The car's livery was also changed from the initial Abarth red with black hard top, boot and bonnet to light red with yellow trim.

History of the 124 Abarth Rally
Pininfarina had exhibited a prototype version of the 124 Sport Spider intended for rally competition at the 1972 Geneva Motor Show. It was called the 124 Rally. Following on the success of the 1608cc cars in Italian events, from 1969 the new ‘Rally’ took advantage of the larger capacity 1756cc engines available from the Fiat 132 saloon range.
It had been intended to launch a twin carb road version of the 124 Rally that year but the oil crisis and resultant USA emissions regulations affected plans. (The Weber IDF carb design intended for this project found its way onto other cars – for instance the twin cammed Ford Escort.)

So no twin carb.124 Sport Spider versions were made available and the new road going version of the 124 Spider to be badged 'Abarth' was cancelled. We were left with just 1000 of the 124 Abarth Rally’s produced to homologate the car for Group 4 FISA regulations rally competition. (And some confusion remains over the actual number produced and sold).

So the still born twin carb Sport Spider and 124 Abarth Rally were quite different. Like other manufacturers, Fiat were required by rally regulations to produce a large number of cars - with many parts very similar to the actual works rally cars. The numbers of cars required varied according to the class in which the rally car was entered in the championships, and the verification process is called homologation. The cancelled twin carbed 124 Sport Spider design was basically a more powerful version of the standard road going 124, with Abarth badges.....
While the homologation 124 Abarths were produced at Abarth for two years from 1972… including special lightweight body panels, glass fibre boot and bonnet, roll bar, minimal bumpers and alloy door skins. The mandatory hard top was fitted with a perspex rear window and Abarth CD30 alloy wheels plus Recaro bucket seats were installed. The 1800cc engine had twin 44IDF carbs, the rear axle was fully independent with anti roll bar. From 1973 a full performance package was available to take the road car’s 128bhp basic output to 170bhp.

 

  1972 Specifications
124 Sport Spider 1600
124 Sport Spider 1800
124 Abarth Rally
Cylinders / cubic capacity
4 in line
4 in line
4 in line
Bore x Stroke (mm)
80 x 79.2
84 x 79.2
84 x 79.2
Compression Ratio
9.8:1
9.8:1
9.8:1
Camshaft & valve configuration

dual ohc

8-valve

dual ohc

8-valve

dual ohc

8-valve

Induction
Weber 34 DMS
Weber 34 DMS

Weber 44 IDF 20

Weber 44 IDF 21

Max Power - bhp (DIN) @ rpm
108 @6000
118 @6000
128 @6000
Volumetric output (bhp/litre DIN)
67.8
67.2
72.9
Max torque - m.kg (ft/ibs) @ rpm
14 (101.2) @4,200
15.6 (112.8) @4,000
16.2 (117.1) @5,200

Electrical power - generator

              - battery

770w

45 Ah

770w

45 Ah

770w

45 Ah

Transmission - gearbox, fwd

4 speed

5 speed option

4 speed

5 speed option

5 speed
Transmission - gear ratios fwd    
3.66, 2.10, 1.36, 1.0, 0.88
Transmission - clutch

215mm single dry plate

mechanical diaphram

215mm single dry plate

mechanical diaphram

215mm single dry plate

mechanical diaphram

Transmission - differential
Crown wheel & Pinion
Crown wheel & Pinion
Crown wheel & Pinion
Top speed (mph)
112
115
118
Wheelbase (mm)
2280
2280
2280

Track - Front (mm)

           - Rear (mm)

1346

1316

1346

1316

1413

1400

Length (mm)

Width (mm)

Height (mm)

3971

1613

1250

3971

1613

1250

3914

1630

1240

Kerb Weight (kg)
960
960
938
 



124 Abarth Rallying Results
The team’s cars were winners of many events, including the European Rally Championship, but the World Championship eluded them. This was mainly due to another Fiat Group car… the magnificent Lancia Stratos! The purpose-built Stratos simply overshadowed the rest of the semi-production based designs like the 124 Abarth, heralding the future Group B rally battles of the eighties.

The 124 Abarths were successful in winning events in 1974. The cars seemed to be at their best on pace note events – where they could be set up in advance of the corners – as WRC competitors do today. The UK forest events at this time, including the RAC rally, were run ‘blind’ without the aid of pace notes. This type of event puts at a premium on a flat torque curve and large suspension travel – neither of which the Spider had. So the 124 Spider never did very well in the UK events. The drivers also reported body flex and 'whip' on rougher gravel stages which can't have helped.

Without the Stratos, 1975 would have been the title year for the 124 Abarth. The last version of the competition cars built for the 1975 season also had an Abarth produced 16-valve head with mechanical fuel injection to boost competitiveness. More effort was focused on reducing body weight. Unfortunately for the Fiat competition department, the 124 Rally lost out to the Ferrari V6 engined Lancia Stratos (also produced within the Fiat Group of course) as it swept all before it in the World Rally Championship for a second season.

By 1976 Fiat had briefed Abarth to concentrate on 131 rally development as their primary rally competition and marketing vehicle. Not before some alternatives had been explored, such as the Prototipo 2000 X1/9 and a fundamentally re-designed 124 Abarth prototype.
The Monte Carlo Rally early in ’76 began the last season for the last top-flight open topped rally car! (Try saying that sentence fast!) The 131 Abarth (to achieve three titles in four years) then delivered world championship success for Fiat.

124 Abarth Competition Specs
This information is provided as a general guide or starting point for the cars concerned. Actual specs varied for events and as development progressed. The road going versions could be ordered up to late 1974 from the factory.

Line Drawing of the 1972 124 Abarth, Courtesy of the Fiat Archive Turin

1972 Spec for the Competition Cars:

Engine 132 AC4 000 Twin Cam belt driven
4 cylinder in line, 1756cc.
9.8:1 compression
84mm bore x 79.2mm stroke
8 valve head
Output 176bhp DIN @ 6000rpm (approx. -spec varied by event)
Carburation 2x Weber 44 IDF
Ignition Electronic
Gearbox 5 speed Colotti, clutch: single dry plate
Ratios 3.667, 2.1, 1.361, 1.0, 0.881
Final Drive 10/43 ratio (varied per event) Limited Slip Differential
Suspension Front: McPherson strut type, coil springs, with upper wishbone lower arm, anti roll bar & angled tie rods
Rear: fully independent McPherson strut type with trailing arms & lower radius arms
Brakes Front & Rear disc
Weight 970kg dry
Wheels/tyres 13ins x 6.5j Pirelli Tyres

<124 Abarth articles>


1975 Spec for Competition Cars:

Guiseppe Volta's restored 124 Abarth at Donnington's Trackfest 02
Engine 132 AC4 Twin Cam belt driven
4 cylinder in line, 1840cc.
10:1 compression
84mm bore x 83mm stroke
16 valve Abarth head
Output 190bhp DIN @ 5900rpm
Carburation Fuel Injection Kugelfischer (mechanical metering)
Ignition Electronic Marelli
Fuel Tank capacity 12.0 gals, electronic pump
Gearbox 5 speed ZF, clutch: single dry plate
Final Drive 10/43 ratio (varied per event) Limited Slip Differential
Suspension Front: McPherson strut type, coil springs, with upper wishbone lower arm, anti roll bar & angled tie rods
Rear: fully independent McPherson strut type with trailing arms & lower radius arms
Brakes Front: & rear disc
Weight 900kg dry
Wheels 13insx 8j Cromadora Pirelli Tyres

The 124 Abarth Stradale (Street) Version

124 in Olio Fiat colours showing the 1975 bonnet and wing panels

In show room form the 124 Abarth Rally was officially available from November 1972. The power increase over the standard 124 Spider was a small 10bhp - being quoted at 128bhp DIN at 6000 rpm.

From 1974 an Abarth kit was available, comprising camshafts carburettors and manifiold, to raise the road going 124 Abarth's output to 150bhp - nearer to the rally spec 175bhp). These road cars did not have the limited slip differential but retained the competition rear suspension.
The look of the 124 Abarth was changed dramatically with black glass fibre bonnet and boot (plus aluminium door skins), black hard top (white optional). While the interior was finished  with a revised dash, Recaro bucket seats, and a rear roll bar.

The wheels used were Abarth CD30 alloys and the centre 4 spoke design of these wheels was retained by Abarth for the much wider tyres used by the Works cars.

In terms of sports driving, the Abarth rear suspension design makes a big difference to the stradale over the spider. While the
limited rear differential affords an opportunity to experience the true tail-out and accelerate posture of the seventies rally car. With later versions of the 2 litre Works engines installed I don't think its an exageration to say that a good proportion of the scene will be viewed through the side windows if real progress is to be maintained. Never the most solid of chassis, the angles taken up by each corner can sometimes best be described as interesting. I must find some quotes from the works drivers of the era.
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SFC Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

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JE 124 Abarth at Brooklands

Stories
Mick’s ex - Jolly Club Car
Discovering the history of this car is a bit like researching medieval history. It’s hard to tell fact from fiction. If you repeat a fiction often enough it can be taken for fact.
The story is that my car, (chassis 0077244) was built up by Abarth in 1974 for the Works supported Jolly Club Rally Team. It was built to full Group 4 spec alongside the works cars. Yet the chassis number is late and out of sequence with the other batch numbers. This is consistent with the story that it was built to special order.

The list of factory modifications to the car runs to about six sides of A4, so I’ll omit it. Suffice to say the car was built to the wide arch kit spec (although the brake ducts were later skimmed over) full works suspension, steering brakes and electrics.
I’m confident it didn’t have the type 236b engine 16 valve engine installed, as this would have required modifications not present on the car. From 1976 on it could have run with a non-homologated 131 16 valve engine though. I have a photo of a works car in that spec.

The car was imported into the UK in 1980 by Vicenzo Pumo who told me he bought it direct from the Jolly Club, and the car came with papers to show this. It passed through a number of hands in the UK (including reputedly living on the roof of a restaurant in Hounslow in the early ‘80’s).
As imported it was fitted with a works gravel spec engine (no. 190) a direct drive top Collotti dog box, and a low ratio back axle (5.375:1). With forest tyres, top speed was around 95mph at 7500 rpm, but mid range acceleration times are ‘brisk’!
I bought the car in 1980 intending to use it as a road car with some mild competition. By this time the car had lost its Collotti box which may have been damaged. A test drive and inspection confirmed this car needed quite a bit of TLC. Handling was odd over bumps, not aided by the rear near side strut being detached from its body mount, and all round shot bushes. The works engine was bored to its limit as was the brakes. But the overall basic fabric was sound. And I set about the car’s restoration.
The plan of ‘some mild competition’ took a twist when a friend of mine, Peter Raven, took me out on the 1992 Pines Rally (Somerset). I found myself nervously sitting in the co driver’s seat staring up my first ever Forest Rally stage!
Nervous not only for my lack of experience but the risk to a unique piece of rallying history!
Nothing prepared me for what was in store. It was BRILLIANT! Within two minutes I was hooked. The first few stages involved us in finding out how the car would handle. But as Peter got used to the car and I got more used to what I should be doing, the times came down. We certainly shook up the historic rallying fraternity that afternoon. By the end of the day we had set 7 fastest stage times out of the total 16 stages.
After completing all the stages our day ended in a frustratingly familiar manner to all Italian car owners – failure of a 70 pence electrical component on the final non competitive road section… meaning we had to be towed back and were disqualified!
Over the next few years the old car brought us more success and frustration with our best result being on an incredibly rough Morgannwyg Rally in 1995. In that event we not only won the historic section outright, but finished second overall in the ‘moderns’ including beating a 6R4 and an Escort Cosworth!
But that event was so rough that it finally tore the car apart from the seams. On the road back tot the finish at Swansea it was visibly twisting over bumps and in corners. We decided to give the car an honorable retirement, but only after a swan song in the RAC historic rally. That decision was our undoing, as on an icy stage we slid wide and collected a tree (on my side)!
The damage was such that it might have been more economic to build the car into another shell- had it not been for the car’s history! So we set about a lengthy and costly repair. Over a year and lots of pound signs later it was all back together.
I’ve also acquired parts of a type 236b 16-valve engine from Canada with plans to build anew. The temptation gets stronger to wheel the old battlewagon out in its proper environment again!

124 Abarth Links

Spiderpoint are one of the current 124 suppliers that will supply 124 Abarth parts - often at better and more accurate quality than the originals. For site links see the Links area below. Here's an example from their catalogue:

Parts

Suspension bushes - Superflex offer a full range for both the 124 Spider and the Abarth http://www.superflex.co.uk/SuperFlex_Fiat_124_Prices.pdf

Deep in the heart of Detmold Germany is part of the Holtmann Niedergerke Group. For the Fiat 124 in particular they carry excellent stocks of new reconditioned and second hand spares. They should be on your shopping list. H&N Online Shop they are in the process of extending the online spares list here. Local retail outlet is Gettingman & Niedergerke on +49 (0)5231/6179-0. Spares for 124s, all the Dinos and many earlier Fiats are carried too.

Retail outlets for H&N products include Gettingman & Niedergerke a Detmold Company (D 32758)

Bielstein also supply tuning and performance items for these cars. The Bielstein brothers can still be seen occasionally 'pedaling' their race cars around - including a 125! Bielstein products include very nice supportive reclining and traditional seats that can be chosen to fit right into the 124s

www.bielstein.com

Their spares are one of the reasons for the resurgence in 124 Spider ownership in Germany too. However they are part of the Recambi Group - who are wholesale suppliers. Recambi will probably only supply you direct with Abarth and Volumex parts. You will need to find the Bielstein part of the organisation - and the brothers who started this excellent business. Telephone +49 (0)5066/3074. Email bielstein@bielstein.com

Parts and Advice

In London R Proietti Ltd and associated parts and advice .

Middle Barton Garage at Chipping Norton near Oxford. Specialist with modifications and Abarth parts galore. Very much in the Abarth tradition very capable. Also do a large catalogue for the 124 range.

Guy Moerenhout 'does' Abarths in a big way. And his offerings are extensive!

Fancy Spares stockists of obsolete Fiat parts from the 50's to the 70's. Yetminster in Dorset. 01935 872722.

Trentside Classics and Sportcars from their North Lincolnshire base, offer a complete re-build service through their network of trades and craft based businesses. Owner Mal has always had strong Fiat connections, and usually has several projects around at any one time. Some of these are even sane (then again some are very interesting!) Their experience has been partly built on keeping Dinos on the road. Anything your 124 needs they can support.

DTR is one of the UKs leading advisors on the 124 and London based.

Klaus Hermann Mayer (automotive technology GmbH) one of their specialisms is supplying hood and frames for many of the classic soft tops and cabriolets. Several of the Fiats are listed including the 124 Spider http://www.cabrio.de/spider.htm . They are not as easy to talk to in English direct. Check their site Klaus Hermann Mayer and email on khm@cabrio.de

Spider-Point have established a good reputation for advice and high quality parts. Obtain a copy of their catalogue for the 124 Spider from the Spider Point Site . TopDrive Gmbh - the company that runs Spider-Point also has a weekly chat if your German's up to it. Also has large catalogue of 124 Abarth parts.