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Abarth is one of a number of small postwar European automakers best known for producing successful race cars. In Abarth’s case, the custom machines that won races all over the world are primarily based on Fiat underpinnings. But while most of Abarth’s creations relied on Fiat chassis and bodywork, the Record Monza of 1959 used a tube frame and sleek aerodynamic fastback bodywork designed by Pininfarina and made by Zagato. The engine and gearbox were the only major components that were sourced from Fiat.
The result of the project was the 1959 Abarth 750 Record Monza (also known as a Monza Record), developed specifically to break speed records and race in the under-750 cc classes.
The Record Monza bodies were made of hand-formed aluminum, which helped keep the car’s curb weight to a trim 1,257 lbs. The engine was rear-mounted and coupled to a four-speed manual transaxle driving the rear wheels. Buyers had a choice between a single overhead cam 747 cc Fiat engine with a Weber carburetor making 44 hp at 9.8:1 compression, or a double overhead cam (Bialbero) version of the same engine that developed 57 hp.
Top speed for the DOHC model was 118 mph with a 0-60 time of 14.9 seconds and a 21-second quarter mile. Abarth claimed a fuel economy rating of 43 mpg at a constant 50 mph or 32 mpg average in general driving.
The interior of the Record Monza was Spartan to say the least, befitting the car’s racing intentions, with two seats and a full set of gauges. The Record Monza suspension was idiosyncratic, using a transversely-mounted front leaf spring and trailing arms, while the rear suspension used more modern coil springs. Brakes were dual-leading-shoe drums at all four corners, and the cars featured 12-inch wheels.
Exact production numbers are not reliable, but just a few of these cars were made and almost all of them went straight to racing use. The Abarth Record Monza had a successful racing career, taking the top four positions in class for Team Roosevelt at the 1959 12 Hours of Sebring race, and numerous other victories in the United States and Europe. Notably, the U.S. distributor and owner of Team Roosevelt was Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., son of the former U.S. President.
For the collector, provenance will be key when acquiring any Abarth Record Monza. The cars are available at auction frequently, but pay close attention to history and documentation, and be watchful for missing parts that will be very difficult to replace. It is not uncommon to find older Abarth vehicles without drivetrain, and locating the correct engine or transmission in working condition can be extremely challenging.