Carlo Abarth, originally known as Karl Albert Abarth, was an Italian automobile designer whose remarkable journey in the automotive industry left an indelible mark on the world of racing and high-performance vehicles. Born on November 15, 1908, in Vienna, Austria, Abarth’s path to becoming an iconic automobile designer was as extraordinary as the cars that would bear his name.
Abarth’s journey in the automotive world began with his teenage years. His fascination with mechanical engineering led him to work for Castagna in Italy from 1925 to 1927, where he delved into the intricate world of motorbike and bicycle chassis design. This early experience set the stage for his future endeavors in the automotive arena.
Racing and Innovation: A Winning Combination
Returning to Austria, Abarth continued to hone his skills, working for Motor Thun and Joseph Opawsky from 1927 to 1934. Simultaneously, he embarked on a remarkable motorbike racing career, ultimately clinching the European championship five times. A notable achievement during this period was Abarth’s design of a groundbreaking sidecar in 1933, which outperformed the Orient Express railway over a grueling 1,300-kilometer journey from Vienna to Ostend in 1934.
A turning point in his life came after a serious accident in Linz, Austria, which forced him to abandon motorbike racing and pivot toward automotive engineering. His groundbreaking work continued with the development of the Tipo 360 F1 prototype, in collaboration with legendary names like Tazio Nuvolari and Ferry Porsche.
The Birth of Abarth & C. Company
Following World War II, Abarth’s focus shifted towards creating an enduring legacy in the realm of high-performance automobiles. Relocating to Merano, Italy, he forged influential relationships with racing icon Tazio Nuvolari and close family friend Ferry Porsche. Together with engineer Rudolf Hruska and Piero Dusio, they founded the Compagnia Industriale Sportiva Italia (CIS Italia), which would later evolve into Cisitalia. This collaboration birthed the Tipo 360 F1 prototype, a testament to Abarth’s unrelenting pursuit of automotive excellence.
After the CIS Italia project concluded with Dusio’s move to Argentina in 1949, Abarth established the Abarth & C. company in Bologna on March 31, 1949. The iconic scorpion logo, inspired by Abarth’s astrological sign, became synonymous with high-performance racing cars and the production of top-tier exhaust pipes, which continue to bear the Abarth name to this day.
A Lasting Legacy of Speed
Carlo Abarth’s commitment to speed and innovation remained unwavering. On October 20, 1965, he personally set various speed records at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, demonstrating his enduring dedication to pushing the boundaries of automotive performance.
In 1971, Abarth made the momentous decision to sell his company to Fiat, but he continued to lead it as CEO for a period. Eventually, he returned to his roots in Vienna, Austria, where he passed away on October 24, 1979, leaving behind a remarkable legacy in the world of high-performance automotive engineering. Abarth, now a subsidiary of Stellantis, continues producing high-performance versions of Fiat vehicles, offering enthusiasts sportier and more powerful options.