<VV> ABARTH-CORVAIR Pt 2
James P. Rice
ricebugg at comcast.net
Tue Jan 12 13:07:44 EST 2016
All: Joe's posting is interesting on several levels. Al Cosentino was a
Abarth enthustic extraordinaire. Don't know if he is still counted as among
the living. I've seen some of his books and catalogs, but that was many
years ago. A couple decades ago, truth be told. The article Joe provided
is new to me. It confirms other info which I have not been able to confirm.
Back in1900's Motorbooks International was publishing a series of soft cover
"Buyers Guide" for various marques. Peter Vack did several of them IIRC.
One of them was about the Abarth. On page 123 of the 128 page book was this
"In 1961 Carlo Abarth took a fancy to the new Corvair and developed
a complete modification kit for the rear-engined General
Motors product. Selling such a kit to GM as a dealer modification
would have given a new meaning to the name Abarth in the
United States, but it was not to be. And given what happened to the
Corvair, it may not have been a wise decision for Abarth
at any rate. Abarth's fate would have been a kinder one."
I also have the 518 page book "Abarth The man, the machines." Written by
Luciano Greggio with the cooperation of the Abarth family, it was at the
time (2002), and remains so far as I know, the ultimate reference of Abarth.
There is no mention of the Corvair project in it. The only GM/Chevrolet
reference listed in the index is the Abarth 207/209A being one source of
inspiration for the C2 Corvette Stingray. This is a well know and
documented fact Bill Mitchell came back from the 1955 Turin Auto show all
hot and bothered by the Abarth's he saw there, among others other marques.
There is not a single Corvair lurking in the background in either book.
It is not hard to understand in the historic context why in 1961
GM/Chevrolet was not interested in the Abarth connection. They had John
Fitch modifying Corvairs in country. Additionally, the Monza Spyder car
out in the fall of 1961 as a '62 model. Chevy had it's own Corvair hotrod.
The rest is history we all know.
But there is a wrinkle in the potential story. At couple years ago this
month we visited friends who had a time share condo in Naples FL. Located
in Naples was/is the Collier Museum/REVS Institute. It was closed to the
general public at the time, but those with "credentials" could get into the
library for research purposes. Karl Ludvegsen, who by then had sold most of
his massive collection of automobile material to the institution, got me
inside the door. There I went thru his Corvair files on. (Don't ask) At
the same time there was a gentleman doing research on the Abarth-Porsche.
These were aluminum bodied coupe build on the Porsche 356 Carrara chassis.
Apparently less than 20 were built in 1959-60 timeframe. They were very
successful in various national and international races. As we bantered
across the table, I asked him about the Abarth-Corvair story. He said he
didn't know actually much about all the work Abarth did, as he was focused
on the chassis race histories of the Abarth-Porsches. He said he knew
nothing specifically about any Abarth-Corvair connection. But then he said,
"There is one picture I've seen of a Abarth-Porsche body with a long tail.
Don't know what was in the tail, and have found no explanation about it." I
think I sucked air...! I gave him what passes for a business card and ask
him to contact me if he runs across any Corvair connections. I've heard
There are certainly enough Abarth fans and clubs around if someone wanted to
pursuit the available info. I'm a little too busy right now, or I would,
given what Joe and I have passed on to youall.
Date: Sun, 10 Jan 2016 17:32:54 -0500
From: Taruffi57 at aol.com
To: virtualvairs at corvair.org
Subject: <VV> Corvair & Porsche (& Abarth)
I have in my possession, a page from a book which I believe was written by
Al Cosentino, concerning Corvair after-market parts & modifications being
developed by Abarth. Al and his team are known as the most prolific
American road race winners ever, in Abarth cars. There is a photo in the
showing an early model 4 door Corvair - probably a 1961, parked right in
front of the Turin, Italy main Abarth works. The following is the wording
of the article.
"I wasn't aware of the fact that there was a car called Chevrolet Abarth
Corvair until December 1961. I learned about the car from Mario Cavallero
who joined Abarth & Co. in 1961 precisely at the time Carlo Abarth was
concentrating on testing this new prototype. For six months, Carlo Abarth
personally tested all the development stages done to the suspension, engine
and drive train of the new Chevrolet Corvair. Extensive development had
been done to the Corvair and Carlo Abarth had spent as much time testing the
car with all the changes and additions his staff made as they did to any
other Fiat Abarth or pure Abarth cars except for the Formula 1. The
Corvair Abarth was eventually perfected completely after Carlo Abarth drove
it whenever and wherever he could. It was as ready as any of his best
creations including all the trimmings. Abarth muffler, grille and
instruments. Carlo Abarth's plan was to provide the parts, development and
performance in the form of a kit for the General Motors Corvair cars in the
United States. He said he came up on the idea after testing one of the cars
rented for the purpose of providing a free-flow exhaust system. Abarth had
opportunities to study a large variety of cars as they developed free-flow
exhaust systems for them. It wasn't the first or last time Carlo Abarth
admired a General Motors product. Mario Cavallero said that after about six
months, all of a sudden the work stopped and the car disappeared."
I also read - somewhere, that it was FIAT who quashed Abarth's move into the
Corvair performance market. However, in 2015, I happened to have made
contact with an old sports car racer who had some Corvair related
performance parts for sale - including Crown. He said that he had also
raced against and knew well, Don Yenko and Donna Mae Mims. I mentioned the
above info about Abarth to him and he said he didn't think that FIAT were
the one who put the stops to Abarth's Corvair thing. He said Don Yenko
told him it was General Motors who were the culprits. I tend to believe
that version of the story.
Such a shame that the small car performance genius Carlo Abarth never got
the chance to advance the handling and power of our cars. I'd love to have
driven what he ended up with.
I also have a full page Fisher Products Abarth muffler ad from Car & Driver,
June 1961 showing a beautiful Corvair black wrinkle painted - with
chromed tips, dual exhaust system for $84.50. It has 4 exhaust tips and
there is a lateral brace running from side to side - welded up under the
small diameter exhaust pipes just aft of the mufflers (on both sides), and
having mounts for bolts - I presume, in the area of the 2 rear cooling air
outlets. That would be some good solid mounting.
More information about the VirtualVairs