The French Scorpion

The mechanical base chosen for the new sports berlinetta was borrowed from the Simca 1000, with which it shared parts of the chassis, steering, suspension and gearbox suitably revised by Abarth engineers.

Usually, when you think of Abarth, you automatically associate it with Fiat, given that under this combination cornerstones of the history of the car resulted, the memory of which are still alive in the collective imagination. In its 70 years of history, however, the marque founded by Karl Albert Abarth in 1949 also had relations with other manufacturers, and it is worth mentioning the collaboration with the French marque Simca, a short but intense collaboration which led to the birth of the Abarth Simca GT in 1300, 1600 and 2000 cc versions.

The agreement between Abarth and the French manufacturer can also be attributed to the intervention of the Viennese engineer Rudolf Hruska, a friend of Austrian-born Abarth, with whom he had previously worked at Cisitalia and who put him into contact with the CEO of Simca, Henry Theodore Pigozzi, who was instantly interested in an agreement which would enable, through competitive activity, the promotion of its brand beyond the borders of France. The mechanical base chosen for the new sports berlinetta was borrowed from the Simca 1000, with which it shared parts of the chassis, steering, suspension and gearbox suitably revised by Abarth engineers. The bodies were completely different and had nothing at all to do with the original Simca model: they were low, tapering and gritty, with a rear bonnet characterised by numerous cooling slats under which the 1,288 cc 123 bhp engine was fitted. The car, designed specifically for competition, was presented in April, 1962, at a race in the hills of Lure in France, where, amongst the line-up of cars there was, in addition to the GTs, a Spider Sport version fitted with a tubular frame and driven by Italian driver Gianni Balzarini. This car was developed by Abarth himself outside of the agreement with Simca. In October of the same year the 1300 GT was regularly entered in Gran Turismo competitions, racking up numerous successes which encouraged the Italian-French duo towards the development of more powerful and faster versions of the latter.

Thus the 1600 cc version was born in 1963, upgraded to 153 bhp with a maximum speed of 240 km/h, which differed from the previous version with some modifications to the chassis and the adoption of a six-speed gearbox, whilst from an aesthetic point of view it was recognisable by the different rear bonnet with a more elongated shape without air vents, a body also later adopted by the 1300. The 1600 cc car, however, had only a very short life due to the cancellation of the class in which it would compete in the championship, leaving Abarth unable to take advantage of its excellent qualities.

As a last resort the final evolution of the Simca-based sports car was created in 1963, with a 2000 cc engine developing 159 bhp, which could be identified by a nose with less overhang and a more compact design.

From 1964, the year of the complete acquisition of Simca by the Chrysler group, the agreement with Abarth came to an end, but this did not prevent the latter from continuing to refine the car, now without any of the constraints of the parent company, using it competitively until 1968.

Text by Tommaso Lai

Translation by Norman Hawkes

Copyright © Cars Forgotten Stories. All rights reserved.


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