Model history: Austrian born tuning expert Carlo Abarth was one of an all-star team that was involved in Piero Dusio's ambitious Cisitalia project immediately after the War. By 1949, Cisitalia's financial position quickly worsened and Abarth decided to jump the sinking ship. As compensation for his efforts, Dusio gave him several examples of the latest '204' model in various states of completion. They were modified to the extent that a rebadging to Cisitalia-Abarth 204A was warranted. These cycle-fendered sports cars were raced with considerable success by the 'Squadra Carlo Abarth' in 1949.
Encouraged by the good results on the track and funded by the ever increasing sales of his exhaust systems, Carlo Abarth established Abarth & C. to manufacture complete cars. The first of these made a victorious debut early in March of 1950 when Guido Scagliarini won the 1100 class in the Coppa InterEuropa at Monza. Fitted with a new coupe body, it was confusingly referred to as an Abarth 204A. Today it seems more likely that the car was actually the first of three Abarth 205s built around a brand new platform chassis. The 204s used a distinctly different tubular frame.
Both cars do share the Fiat sourced four cylinder engine. Fitted with Abarth's tuning kit, which consisted of a revised intake manifold, two Weber carburettors and a bespoke exhaust, the tiny 1089cc engine produced an impressive 83 bhp. The four-speed gearbox was also sourced from Fiat. The potent drivetrain was fitted in a very straightforward box-section steel platform chassis. Alfredo Vignale was commissioned to build the lightweight aluminium body. The beautiful design came from the pen of Giovanni Michelotti. Included, of course, were the three portholes on the front fenders that were typical for Vignale's bodies.
After its spectacular Monza debut, the 204A / 205 Coupe was shown during the 1950 Turin Motor Show. It was the first time Abarth displayed his cars at this most important show. A second example was finished shortly after and both were raced in the major Italian events that season. The third example was completed early in 1951 and was more luxuriously appointed as the two racing cars. Fitted with a slightly larger version of the four cylinder engine, it was shown during the Turin shown in 1951. Prized at the level of a two-litre Ferrari, Abarth struggled to find customers for his small Coupes and in the end only three were built.
The huge expenses of the racing efforts weighed heavily on the fledgling company and Abarth decided it was wise to cease racing and focus on developing the successful exhaust systems for the foreseeable future. The platform chassis first used on the 205 would serve on as the basis for several show cars and eventually the Abarth 207 racing car introduced in 1955. Amazingly all three Abarth 205s have survived and are in the hands of caring owners. They remain as the first in a long line of Abarth racing cars that made their mark on small-displacement racing for several decades.
Although originally referred to as a 204A Coupe, it is believed that this car received the chassis 205101. It was first raced at Monza to a class win in the Coppa Intereuropa. A week later it finished sixth overall in the Targa Florio and second in class. For the Mille Miglia, extensions were bolted on the nose and tail to make the car more efficient but it was forced to retire. In 1951 it was acquired by an Italian customer, who in turn sold to the United States. Here it was raced at Torrey Pines in 1954 but again failed to finish.
Chassis 205101 was then retired from active service an lived a peaceful life in American ownership. That was until tragedy struck in 1981 when during a fire a ceiling failed covering the delicate Berlinetta in rubble and a 1911 Overland. All seemed to be lost until Scott Emsley salvaged the remains of the Abarth in 1984 and commenced with a ground up restoration. Damaged both by the ceiling and heat, it would have been understandable that most of the body was discarded. In a monumental effort, Emsley managed to restore the complete body without having to replace a single panel or use any filler.
The restoration was completed in time for the 1989 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. This hugely impressive work was awarded with a second in class at Pebble. A year later the car and its restoration were prominently featured in the May 1990 issue of Road & Track Magazine. Since then Emsler has shown the car at numerous events, including the 2005 Quail, a Motorsports Gathering where it is pictured. More recently he decided to part with the little Abarth. The new owner brought the car, still in immaculate condition, back to Europe for the 2009 Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este.
The second Abarth 205 was completed in time for the 1950 Mille Miglia where it was raced by Carlo Scagliarini. Averaging just over 100 km/h, he finished 31st overall. It was actively used until well into the 1960s when it was owned by Swiss racer Helmut Fischer. He had the car extensively modified and fitted with an Alfa Romeo Giulietta sourced 1300cc engine. Repainted dark green, it quickly received the nickname 'Fischer Green Star.' After his passing in 2003, the well used Abarth was offered in the 2004 Christie's Retromobile auction. It was acquired by the current owner for $135,626 (including buyer's premium).
Although chassis 205102 was probably more famous in its final configuration, the new owner decided to restore the car as close to original as possible. In Fischer's ownership the car had received a revised nose, a new interior and a different engine. Rectifying all this took the better part of three years. Most of the work was done by Faralli & Mazzanti. During the 1950 Mille Miglia, the car had been raced with a bare aluminium body but the owner decided the car was probably better off by painting the car silver. The impressive work could be first admired during the 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The third and final Abarth 205 was quite possibly for Carlo Abarth's personal use on the road. It was more luxuriously finished than the first two examples and featured a two-tone black and red paint-scheme. Fitted with a slightly larger engine, it was shown at the 1951 Turin Motor Show. Just like the first car it ended up in American ownership. For the last 30+ years it has been owned by the same American collector, who kept the car in original but not pristine condition. It was recently acquired by a new owner, who is in the process of fully restoring chassis 205103.