124 Abarth Articles
sporting fiats club Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Introduction

124 Abarth History

124 Abarth Specs

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Stories

 

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Under Construction

Introducing the 124 Spider Abarth

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124 Spider Abarth History

Preparation of the Works cars at Abarth tended to take place in batches of up to ten cars, with several 124 Spider shells being pulled off the main production line for preparation at Abarth's premises. Of the 400 road going cars needed to qualify the 124 into the International Rallying Code for Group 4, Abarth would set aside about 30 or 40 shells for Works rally preparation. The rest were prepared as road going versions (Stradale) for sale through Fiat dealerships. The picture shows part of the works rally car preparation for the final version of the 124 Abarth in 1975.

124 Abarths prepared for the rally season at Corsa Marche in 1975 - Courtesy of  the Fiat Archive Turin

This year (1975) also saw the introduction of the 16-valve head on the Works cars - at the third attempt, and with Lampredi's personal involvement, the valve inclination and valve seat re-design delivered both low and mid range torque and a high power top end. Similarities between this chamber configuration and the BDA Ford Cosworth have been noted.... and in addition Abarth chose mechanical injection to deliver the fuel mixture..

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 pure road going version of the 124 Spider 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).

The two designs 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. 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, plus Abarth badges.
The homologation 124 Abarths were produced at Abarth for two years from 1972… with 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.

Summary of the 124 Abarth Rally Developments - Homologation

It starts with the second series BS Spider from 1970... with both the 1438 and 1608 engines in use. The papers date from the setting up of the FIAT competitions department, supporting both the 125S and the 124BS and cover the additional equipment. For verification purposes in today's events, you are probably better off with a sales brochure, as homologation was in its infancy then and details are difficult to understand.

Efforts can be summarised into four stages....
1) In August 1971 Fiat purchased Abarth, and they (Abarth) homologated the 1608 twin cam engine.... this is really also the first attempt to describe the car in a homologation sense (and there were podiums taken in the 1971 season by these cars, but they were not official works entries.)
2) The 1608 Spyder/ Spider is mainly defined & maintained for club and national level rallying on papers from 71-72... then in 1972 there is another attempt with some upgrades to make a full description of the cars in mechanical terms... and adding items like a hard top. These cars can be seen in International rallies up until 1976. Whereas the original papers were prepared in Turin by Fiat employees, this second set are produced by Abarth.
3) In 1971 Abarth develop a car aimed at winning the world rally championship (the International Rally Championship 1970-73).... with five months to prepare and homologate this car for the next season.
It had a full roll cage, 5 point independent rear suspension, hard top, different twin carbs/ cams with 8v Abarth head, full sump guard, alluminium light weight body panels, and shell strengthening. This resulted in a package 22kg heavier than the standard car, and producing about 175bhp.
4) In 1974 the Spider Abarth homologation was changed to Group 3 (for Production GT), this includes light weight wide arch panels and 8 inch wheels, and light recesses in the bonnet. This is the year when the production numbers of Stradale (Street versions) of the works cars was finalised.... with different production numbers for different Groups in the championship. These papers include a gearbox change to ZF over Colotti gear sets. All the panels are thinner, and this represents the biggest advance in the car... and the nearest they came to beating the Stratos.
During the later part of the year, they uprated the car again, and entered these changes into Group 4. This car has the 1840cc engine and 16v head, with mechanical Kugelfischer injection producing 190bhp ready for the 1975 season. The wings have plastic extensions with air
intakes But these changes are dated from the 1975 season in the homologation papers..

 

  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


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

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

 

 

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.

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

 

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.