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by Jay Traugott
Despite its compact dimensions, the Fiat Abarth 750 Zagato is an extremely rare and beautiful sports car whose spirit still lives on today.
Abarth has for years been a name associated with speed and style. Its relationship with Fiat has been intact since 1952, when it built the Abarth 1500 Biposto and has since been a regular fixture in the Italian tuning world. It's now more or less viewed as the in-house performance division of Fiat, adding horsepower to models like the 500.
Before it was officially sold to Fiat in 1971, Abarth also took part in motorsports along with producing tuning kits and even did work with the likes of Porsche.
Not bad for a small company that never managed - or wanted - to become a large mainstream automaker. But like its scorpion symbol, it's always had a quiet presence and when it bites, the sting is painful enough to make larger, more powerful cars take notice. Company founder Carl Abarth was very much a fan of producing small cars with small and powerful engines. This philosophy still remains in place today but there was a time, albeit short, when unconventional styling played a significant role as well. Starting in 1956, Abarth started selling a more powerful version of the Fiat 600.
Instead of the base 633 cc inline four-cylinder engine, Abarth bored and stroked it to 747 cc and nearly doubled output for a total of 41.5 horsepower. Rechristened the Fiat Abarth 750, the powers that be felt another version of the car was needed but with a look all its own. They soon commissioned famed Italian design house Zagato for the task. The final product was a gorgeous aluminum-bodied coupe. In fact, its roof height was so short that designers needed to create more headroom for the occupants, hence the first use of Zagato's now famous "double bubble" roof design trait.
Just to give you an idea as to how small the 750 Zagato was when compared to the Fiat 750 sedan, it was 8.1 inches lower and 1.5 inches shorter. Along with having to look sporty, the other reason for these tiny dimensions was because it was built on the same platform as the equally tiny Fiat 600. The 750 Zagato was also lighter than the stock 600 and the twin camel hump rear-end styling was also no accident, servicing as air intake covers. The rounded front-end styling, while also beautiful, wasn't exactly up to par in terms of safety standards, but it looked good nonetheless.
Even the headlamps were covered with glass and not plastic, so it's rather easy just to consider the entire car as being quite delicate. Still, it was a striking design and a wonderful exercise in the fine art of building a small and powerful coupe with some Italian flare. With the additional help of its Abarth-designed exhaust system, the 750 Zagato produced 43 horsepower and could hit 60 mph in 17.3 seconds. Top speed was 90 mph. When it was introduced in 1959, the car sold for almost $3,500. Only around 600 units were made until production ended the following year, making each surviving unit extremely valuable today.
And now one of them is now up for sale on eBay. The seller claims this Abarth 750 Zagato is in stunning condition and has been displayed in many concourse events. It's also had a body-off restoration where it received rebuilt Jaeger gauges and an all-new interior that was correctly replicated off the original. Mechanical upgrades included a rebuilt gearbox and a new engine, which came from a Fiat 850 coupe. This newer engine is a bit larger than the original therefore slightly increasing horsepower. Other features such as the Abarth exhaust, wooden steering wheel and original wheels remain.
With just 500 miles on the odometer since the engine transplant, the highest bid was $64,100 but the reserve wasn't met before the auction ended. Despite not having the original and correct engine, this 1959 Fiat Abarth 750 Zagato still commands a high price that some collector will be more than willing to pay. Photos courtesy of sofiaabarth