Monterey | Lot 146
1961 Fiat-Abarth 1000 GT Bialbero
$308,000 USD | Sold
| Monterey, California
19 August 2016
- Reportedly the first Bialbero GT produced Raced in period as a factory competition car Multiple finishes at circuits such as Monza, the Nürburgring, Nassau, and Sebring Documented with a 1961 “Statement of Origin” signed by Carlo Abarth Restored by marque experts in 2003; exhibited at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island An early and important example of the model that helped secure Abarth the 1962 World Sportscar Championship
99 bhp, 982 cc dual overhead cam inline four-cylinder engine with two Weber 40 DCOE carburetors, four-speed manual transaxle, independent front suspension with upper wishbones and transverse leaf springs, independent rear suspension with coil springs and swing axles, and front and rear hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 78.7 in.
Abarth’s 1000 Bialbero GT was a triumphant result of years of development, capitalizing on tuning refinements to Fiat’s rear-engine 600 chassis, and the namesake dual-cam Bialbero cylinder head. While the overall design originated with the 1957 Abarth 750 Bialbero Record Monza car by Zagato, it was only with an increase to 982 cubic centimeters that the engine began to regularly dominate. By this time, bodied by Carrozzeria Abarth , the 1000 Bialbero GT led the marque to its first World Sportscar Championship in 1962, paving the way for five more consecutive titles.
Chassis number 1040293 is believed to be the first 1000 Bialbero GT built. Furthermore, claiming important competition history and an early 2000s restoration executed by marque experts, this car is one of the most important Bialberos to be offered in some time.
This sporting Abarth was prepared as a factory team car in August 1961 and entered as #111 at the Nürburgring 500 KM on 3 September 1961, with Eberhard Mahle (of the Mahle Pistons family) and Teodoro Zeccoli qualifying for a pole-position start. The duo remained in contention almost the entire race before a faulty fuel pump forced them to retire during the final lap, though they still managed to finish in 5th. On 10 September, Abarth entered the car in the Monza Coppa Inter-Europa; a photo of the car in the December 1961 issue of Sports Car Graphic suggests that it ran as #4, driven by Herbet Demetz.
In November 1961, the Bialbero GT was sold to John Norwood, a one-time naval intelligence officer who helped create Sports Illustrated magazine and was the captain of Franklin Roosevelt Jr.’s successful Fiat-Abarth team of 1959. This car was then shipped to Nassau for the Bahamas Speed Weeks. Decorated with #91, Paul Richards finished 20th Overall and 4th in Class at the Governors Trophy on 8 December, and 17th Overall with an impressive 1st in Class at the Nassau Trophy Race two days later.
In March 1962, the Bialbero GT participated in the season-commencing Sebring 3 Hours, where Briggs Cunningham’s team of Abarth Bialberos famously took 1st and 2nd, with Bruce McLaren and Walt Hansgen leading the way. Registered as #23, this Abarth placed 10th under the guidance of Paul Layman, George Schrafft, and Ray Cuomo.
The Abarth was eventually acquired by a noted Abarth collector and vintage racer who raced the car at vintage events such as the Monterey Historics during the 1970s and 1980s. In 2003, the car was sold to Rob Phillips of Portland, Oregon, and a comprehensive two-year restoration was entrusted to the late Abarth expert Greg Paris, while Les Burd, another marque expert, was retained to rebuild the original Bialbero engine. Following completion of the restoration, Phillips presented the car at several major exhibitions, including the 2005 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the 2006 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
In 2006, the outstanding GT car was purchased by the consignor, a marque collector based in Canada. He has diligently maintained the fastidious restoration while driving the Abarth sparingly, and it has neither been used in competitive driving nor displayed in over a decade.
Currently equipped with a correct replacement block of the proper AH type, this Bialbero GT is also accompanied by its original factory-issued block (damaged). The car is desirably documented with historic racing photos, period magazines, articles, race program, restoration file, and a 1961 Statement of Origin issued to John Norwood signed by Carlo Abarth. It is a rare and historically pedigreed Italian berlinetta of vast appeal, exemplifying the spirit of the legendary badge of the Scorpion.