General History and Background Information
Carlo Abarth (1908-1979) was born in Vienna, Austria. He was a prolific auto tuner who, in 1949, founded his Abarth factory in Turin, Italy. His influence on the automotive world was significant, arguably creating some of the fastest and most successful small race cars in history. An excellent description of his life and work can be found on abarthisti.co.uk with additional details at bernimotori.com and viathelma.com.
Abath developed the Fiat Abarth Zagato 750GT "Double Bubble" in combination with Fiat and Zagato creating a quick, agile, and beautiful machine. Zagato is a prolific designer and coachbuilder from Milan, Italy. They have been well known for their light weight and beautiful bodies in both the aeronautical (early) and automotive industry for 100 years (1919-present). Specializing in light weight materials and cutting edge design, their influence in the industry has been seen in dozens of marques including Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Fiat, Lancia, and Maserati to name a few. Elio Zagato (1921-2009), son of founder Ugo Zagato, is credited with the design for the 750GT. Further description of Zagato's history and works are well outlined at coachbuild.com, telegraph.co.uk, zagato-cars.com, and wikipedia.
The initial development of the car began with Fiat supplying chassis of the new “600” to a few select Torinese coachbuilders prior to the Geneva Salon in March of 1955. Their hope was that these coachbuilders would add their own interpretations to the Fiat 600 and create “excitement” for Fiat’s own presentation of the Fiat 600 to the public. Shortly after July of 1955, Milano-based Fiat dealer Ovidio Capelli commissioned a body by Zagato for an early Fiat 600 chassis.
The first Zagato bodied Fiat 600 chassis was displayed October 1955 without Abarth’s involvement. That car later become identified as “Abarth” within a few months. This first example, along with several other earlier “Abarth Fiat Zagato” examples, had a smooth roof. In seeking an export market with the potential of taller customers, the “Double Bubble” (“Doppia Gobba”) version became the standard Abarth offering beginning early 1956. According to Luciano Greggio's Abarth, the man, the machines, 2002 the first public display was at the Geneva Motor Show on March 8, 1956 with a second showing weeks later at the Torino Salone.
Production was from 1956-1960 (with likely a few being registered in 1961). According to John de Boer, there were likely multiple production lines at the Zagato factory with an additional contracted production facility, M.E.C.A.T., by 1958. M.E.C.A.T. may have stood for: Meccanica e Carrozzera Automobili Torino but this remains to be clarified. The total number of cars produced is still unknown but most estimates seem to fall around 500 - 600 total units. John de Boer's research has shown that 294 double bubble cars can be positively identified by chassis number via historical build ledgers and/or personal communications. An example of a 750GT Double Bubble, chassis # 504396, is shown below.
Each car was hand built and featured a Fiat 600 engine that was highly modified and enlarged to 747cc. It was mated to a 4 speed manual transmission and aspiration provided through a weber 32IMP carburetor. The aluminum body, designed by Zagato, featured the characteristic "double bubble" on both the the roof and rear deck lid. Subtle design changes were made throughout production and frequently can be seen with differences in: headlights, front air vents, air vents behind quarter windows, gauges, window material, bumperettes, badges, dash switches, seats, tail lights, interior trim, exterior trim, window trim, rain gutters, indicator lights, etc.
Specifications as reported by Sports Car Illustrated in 1959 are listed below. In the same article John Christy also describes 4 different engines that were available: Grand Touring (44bhp), Mille Miglia (45bhp), large valve Mille Miglia (46bhp), and Sprint (47bhp).
Fiat Abarth Zagato 750GT Specifications as reported by Sports Car Illustrated:
A subset of the 750 termed "Sestriere" was also seen throughout the production years. Initially the “Sestriere” name was used in some Abarth 750 cars and was based on the “softened” tuning level (possibly GT) used on at least the second of the two overall winners of the Rally Sestriere (February 1958 and February 1959). It seems that a more standard “Sestriere” model was introduced in1959-1960 and appeared as a variant to the “double bubble”. According to an article from Auto Italiana Sport, March 1, 1960 (as seen on John de Boer's Sestriere information), this later “Sestriere” version is generally considered to be a steel bodied version without roof bubbles. It also has more forward positioned open head lights and a much larger set of rear air intakes to allow for improved cooling. It was not intended for racing like its double bubble brother. The engine was also different with designations of either Tipo 215 (748cc) or Tipo 213A (785cc). Of note, some Sestrieres have been described/claim to have aluminum bodies and/or double bubbles. Images of chassis # 757464 found at petrolicious clearly show the differences in roof line, headlights and rear vents.
One particularly controversial topic is the designation of yet another subset of the 750GT referred to as a “corsa”. The term "corsa" seems to be associated with a certain batch or group of "light weight" cars that were specifically built for racing (i.e. mille miglia, hill climbing). Although no definitive historical evidence has yet been discovered describing the production of "corsa" cars many claim that 21 "corsa" versions were produced. The "corsa" version has been described to have certain characteristics as seen on Guy Moerenhout’s blog, smclassiccars and sunspeed.
Success on the race track and hill climb events throughout Europe and North America could be seen at locations such as: Mille Miglia, LeMans, Sebring, Lime Rock, Daytona, Pensacola, Marlboro, Danville, and Cumberland. Further success was seen at numerous SCCA events where it claimed 1st in points for SCCA national competition. Team Roosevelt, owned by Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., was arguably the most successful Abarth racing team earning numerous victories throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s. In addition to racing, he was a United States importer and distributer for Fiat/Abarth.
Many American "weekend racers" ordered their 750GT from Roosevelt Motors which was located in Washington D.C. His advertisements (refer to Articles section) were frequently seen in the automotive magazines of the day. The advertised retail price was $3,640 to $4,990 which is the equivalent of $31,596 to $42,490 when adjusted to buying power for 2018. One advertisement from 1960 lists the 750 Sestriere's suggested a retail price of $2,895.
The 750GT has been referred to by many names/nicknames. We have used several throughout this website to describe the car as we feel the names are reasonably interchangeable and keep the reader guessing what the heck we are talking about.
Fiat Derivazione Abarth 750 Gran Turismo
Fiat 600 Derivazione Abarth 750 Carrozzeria Zagato
Fiat Abarth 750 GT Derivazione Coupe Zagato
Fiat Abarth 750GT Zagato
Abarth 750GT Zagato
Fiat Abarth Double Bubble
Very special thanks to John de Boer for his assistance in the review and preparation of this section.