Abarth 1000 TC/TCR
It may seem strange that a 1000 ccm economy car with 85 bhp can be considered a racing car but back in the day, the Abarth 1000 TC (and all its variants) were fierce racing machines with international success and acclaim. The Abarth story is long and full of racing victories in various events, across the post-war years. Carlo Abarth made his name tuning and racing Fiat models in smaller classes and in Le Mans, but the 1000 TC was the most famous and versatile of all of his creations.
The Abarth 1000 started as one of cheapest economy cars of the day
When Fiat introduced the small 500 and later the 600 model in the early ’50s, Abarth was the first to tune these cars and he managed to get a little more horsepower from their diminutive engines. However, in the early ’60s, Abarth introduced the 1000 Berlina — a more powerful version of the Fiat 600. It had a 982ccm engine with 60-66 bhp. With weight of just over 500 kg, it was considered fast by the standards of the day.
Small package but but potential
However, when Mini Cooper S also started racing in the same period, the domination of Abarth in the lower classes or sub-1-liter class was ruined because Mini had front-wheel-drive, more power, better traction and was successful in rally and circuit racing. Carlo Abarth responded with the 1000 TC — an upgraded race model with an engine up to 982 ccm and 80-88 bhp. The 1000 TC had race-spec equipment installed with a roll cage, bodywork and suspension modifications. The radiator was moved to the front and a new body kit was installed.
The miniature Fiat had by now become a very serious racing machine capable of high speeds, something that was proven by its success in lower classes. The Abarth 1000 TC soon became the European Touring car champion in the sub-1-litre class and hill climb champion. At the same time, Abarth 1000 TC had started winning in America in smaller events and in private hands.
But there was still room for improvement; Carlo Abarth soon introduced a more powerful version called the 1000 TCR. This model was purely built for racing and didn’t have a street (Stradale) version. It was a pure racing car with slick tyres, spoilers and just the driver’s seat inside.
Evolution and success
The engine remained unchanged but Abarth installed a new cylinder head with Hemi chambers which helped with gas flow, RPM and ultimately, with power. The regular 1000 TCR produced 100 bhp, but in full racing mode it could go up to 115 bhp. From this perspective it may not sound much but the car was barely 500kg light and with a good gearbox it could be very fast. On the other hand, the noise and the vibrations of this little metal box were enough to make its driver feel like he is going much faster than he really is.
The 1000 TC and TCR had a 10-year-long racing career in various classes. They raced all over the world and were very popular with amateur drivers and private teams because Abarth was always relatively cheap to run compared to other other racing cars. The fully prepared 1000 TCR cost as much as the new Ferrari Dino but one could still buy a 1000 Berlina or a 1000 TC and upgrade it to TCR for a reasonable amount of money. Today, original racing examples are very expensive but still capable in classic racing around the world.