1959 Abarth 750 GT Zagato berlinettaCoachwork by Zagato
There is no more affordable way to drive a classic Italian sports car with stunning custom Zagato coachwork, razor-sharp handling, thrilling sounds and 100 mph speed, than the Abarth GT 750 berlinetta. It is, quite simply, a better mousetrap.
The GT 750 Zagato was an early ‘pro-street’ creation, equally at home on the highway or the race track. It was based on the 1955 Fiat 600 platform, heavily modified by Abarth, then sleekly bodied by Zagato as an aluminium coupe with its signature “double-bubble’roof. Weighing only 1,180 lbs, and with almost 50 bhp on tap from the bored out 750cc engine, it was both agile and fast.
Carlo Abarth was born Karl Abarth in Austria and was a talented builder of custom exhaust systems in the 1930s. He later branched out into high performance parts, and founded his tuning company in 1950. Abarth was also the Italian distributor for Porsche and connected Piero Dusia of Cisitalia with Ferry Porsche who wanted to go F1 racing. But the Porsche 360 F1 racer bankrupted Cisitalia, and Dusio took off to South America, leaving his son to sort out the mess. Abarth inherited most of the company assets, sold off the final Cisitalias as Abarths, then developed the Abarth 750 GT.
First seen at the 1955 Turin Auto Show, 750 GTs were racing in March 1956, and quickly scored a clean sweep of the 750cc Gran Turismo Class at the 1956 and 1957 Mille Miglias. Abarth 750 GTs took class and overall victories at the 1958 Sestrière rally, and four out of five finished the Sebring 12 Hours, one winning its class. One bold soul even entered a 750 GT at the Santa Ana drag strip in California, winning the under 1500cc Sports Class – then took a second at the SCCA races at Palm Springs. The 750 GT remained competitive into the 1960s, and returned years later to pose the same threat in vintage races.
The 750 GT was the perfect entry level car for “Gentlemen Racers”, who could drive to the track, win their class and drive home, and it quickly became the core of Abarth’s business. Abarth had also made a deal with Fiat that the company would pay him for wins and second places for Fiat-Abarths, so the more cars he built the better. The first two series were fairly small in number but there were more Series III cars, following a record-setting session at Monza in July of 1957. Raced around the circuit for four days, the Zagato coupe broke 15 records including averaging 165.346 km/h. Later versions were bored out as far as 981cc, some with double-overhead cam options and the Record Monza was developed from the Zagato “double bubble”, though it’s not nearly as attractive.
Owners report delightedly of the 750 GT’s handling, and that the combination of modest horsepower and agility just leads the driver to maintain his best speed at all times. They also remark that the car is surprisingly spacious inside, and the iconic ‘double bubble” roof leaves suitable headroom for tall drivers.
The 1959 Abarth 750 GT Zagato offered here was originally delivered to Detroit, Michigan. While it was apparently raced in its youth, no records accompany it any longer and it will be up to the new owner to track down its early history. Exported to Belgium in 1988, it made its way to Crema in Northern Italy, where it was restored to show condition by famed carrozzeria Galbiati. Little used since, it was acquired by the present owner in 2009 and mechanically rebuilt in Bergamo, Italy. Since then it has been driven an enjoyable 2,700 km. Eligible for numerous classic rallies and races, this 750 GT is beautifully finished and accompanied by essential ASI and FIVA (A/3) papers. The car is also accompanied by a spare engine and owner’s manual.
As Motor Trend reported in 1958: “Not since driving the Moretti coupe have I seen so many people gawk in admiration as I drove by, and not since the first TR2 have I had such fun.”