Restoration Shop Classic: Fiat Abarth 1000 – The Little Mouse That Roars

(first posted 2011)   One of my favorite stopping off points downtown is Joe Potter’s shop. A superb restoration specialist who often works closely with the Sports Car Shop across the street, Joe’s particular specialty is vintage rear-engine Fiats. He restored the 600 Multipla CC we saw here a while back. And he’s currently restoring an Abarth Zagato double bubble (we’ll do a piece on it soon), the epitome of these cars. The Sports Car Shop just sold one recently for $95k. It’s the cheapest way to buy a classic hand-hammered alloy-bodied Italian car, a presumably sure-proof investment, given their scarcity.

So here are Joe’s two rides; his DD 850 Spider (also coming to CC), and his summer-weekend ride, a wild and woolly Fiat (600 based) Abarth, ready for the first SCCA races up at Portland this weekend: a veritable rolling cherry bomb.

The Fiat-specialist tuning house of Abarth created a long line of legendary little monsters. All the smaller Fiats got the Abarth treatment, from the two cylinder 500 up. And Abarth built some Fiat-based cars and sports-racing cars, up to the beautiful OT 1300/1600, the superb 2000 Tubolare and the formidable 3000 Spider.

But the staple of the Abarth business were the Fiat 600 and its evolution, the 850. And this one represents the outer limits of the 600’s development. From its original 27 hp, Abarth offered a range of performance levels. My 1969 catalog shows the TCR 1000 as the top of the various steps, packing no less than 110 (DIN) horsepower at 8000 rpm from the bored and stroked 982 cc pushrod four.

Joe was busy under the Zagato’s dash re-wiring it, so I didn’t bother him with what exact level this on is at, but given that these cars weigh some 1200 lbs, power-to-weight ratio and traction makes them ferocious accelerators, and an estimated top speed of some 120 mph is nothing to snort at either. Since this one has a two barrel Weber, I don’t think it’s in full TCR 1000 trim, but the fun factor is what counts here.

Here’s what it takes to do restoration work successfully: organization. I love coming in and checking out the buffet table full of the current project’s parts. There a practical advantage to restoring little Fiats; the tables don’t have to be very strong.