Over here in the US, the Abarth name is mostly associated with the Fiat 500 and the 124 Spider. However, Carlo Abarth tuned a wide variety of cars back in the day, many of which were never officially sold here. And among them was a little Italian hatchback called the Autobianchi A112.
The Autobianchi A112 is a Fiat hatchback made (kind of) by a bicycle company
Autobianchi isn’t well known in the US, but at least one of its parent companies is. Rather like French company Peugeot once made bicycles, Italian bicycle company Bianchi once made cars. Not on its own, but through collaborating with Fiat and Italian tire company Pirelli, Jalopnik explains. And even before Fiat bought the brand outright, it often used Autobianchi as a test-bed for future designs.
The Autobianchi A112 is one of those testbeds. Introduced in 1969, the supermini used a smaller version of the Fiat 128 sedan’s platform, Bonhams reports. And eventually, Fiat used the A112 as the basis for its 127 supermini. But even after the 127 came out, the Autobianchi A112 proved extremely popular. The company sold 1.2 million examples from 1969 until 1986.
The front-wheel-drive Autobianchi A112 was a bit like an Italian version of the Mini, Classic Driver reports, and for its time was rather cutting edge. But while the base A112 is practical and economical, it’s not exactly fast. Initially, its most powerful engine was a 903cc four-cylinder engine with 42 hp, giving a 0-60 mph time of 13.7 seconds, DriveTribe reports. And even when the little hatch got a larger 965cc engine in 1971, it only made 46 hp.
True, people literally lined up around the block to buy A112s. But Autobianchi had no answer to the Mini Cooper and Cooper S. At least not until Carlo Abarth came in.
An Autobianchi A112 Abarth is a proper mini hot hatch
The first Autobianchi A112 Abarth came out in 1971. Abarth enlarged the engine from 903cc to 982cc and fitted an upgraded carburetor, a performance exhaust, and a new camshaft. As a result, the A112 Abarth makes 58 hp instead of 42 hp. The tuner also gave the little hatchback larger brakes, Petrolicious reports, as well as sportier seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and better instruments.
However, Abarth went further. When the Autobianchi A112 got a facelift in 1975, the Abarth model got even more performance. It got a larger 1050cc four-cylinder engine, and a five-speed manual rather than a four-speed. Admittedly, even with the larger engine the hot hatch only makes 70 hp, Bonhams reports. But then, the A112 Abarth only weighs about 1500 pounds, Petrolicious reports.
While the Autobianchi A112 Abarth isn’t necessarily terribly quick, the little hot hatch was popular enough to inspire a one-make racing series, CarThrottle reports. And even today you can still see A112 Abarths competing in vintage rally races, Petrolicious reports. A few owners even swap out the original engines for high-revving motorcycle powerplants, Hagerty reports.
And getting in on the fun isn’t necessarily difficult.
These superminis aren’t super rare or super expensive
Autobianchi never sold the A112 in any trim, Abarth or otherwise, in the US. However, while stock clean examples are getting harder to find, these little hatches are still somewhat plentiful overseas. And luckily, prices and maintenance costs are still rather low, Autoweek reports.
A pristine Autobianchi A112 Abarth can go for about $15k, Bonhams reports. And there’s a 1977 example listed on Bring a Trailer for $11,500. However, it’s possible to find one in reasonably-good condition for closer to $7000. That’s cheaper than some classic Fiat 500s, let alone 500 Abarths.
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