1965 Abarth Simca 2000 GT Corsa
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Carlo Abarth is best known for his Fiat-based road and racing cars but also had a hugely successful collaboration with French manufacturer Simca during the first half of the 1960s. One of the first products of this partnership was the Abarth Simca 1300 GT of 1962, which was based on the recently introduced Simca 1000. Fitted with a slippery, lightweight body and an enlarged engine, the small machine was immediately successful in its class.
At the 1963 Geneva Motor Show, Abarth provided a first glimpse of what was to come with the introduction of the Abarth Simca 1600 GT and 2000 GT. While these, larger-engined cars used the same Simca-derived underpinnings as the 1300 GT, they featured a newly developed engine. Of these two, the smaller-engined 1600 GT was not developed further as it would be forced to run in the same 1,301 - 2,000 cc class as its bigger brother.
Compared to the Simca derived engine, the new Tipo 236 straight four was slightly longer and importantly used five instead of three bearings to support the crankshaft instead of the three featured in the production engine. Equipped with dry-sump lubrication, a pair of 45 mm Webers and twin-spark ignition, the new two-litre unit produced 177 bhp in road-going trim. The racing engines were fitted with 58DCOE/3 carburettors, which were the largest Webers ever made, and were good for over 200 bhp.
The new engine was mated to a modified Simca gearbox, which was uprated from four to six speeds by Abarth. The steel platform was derived from the Simca 1000 as was the trailing arm suspension. The 2000 GT or 'Due Mila' was fitted with the latest evolution of the signature Abarth body, which featured a new raised 'duck-tail' to clear the longer engine. It also improved engine cooling and increased downforce. Clothed in aluminium, the road going Abarth Simca 2000 GT tipped the scales at just 740 kg.
It would take until the start of the 1964 season before the two-litre Abarth Simca was fully homologated for the GT class. Whether the required 100 examples were ever built is highly doubtful. Development of the cars was continuous and the first 'Corsa' models featured wider fender flares and additional cooling intakes. Abarth also experimented with fibreglass panels and ahead of the 1965 season, a more aerodynamic 'long nose' was introduced. In this guise, the weight was reduced to just 665 kg.
Racing side by side, both by the works team and privateers the 1300 GT and 2000 GT were responsible for 177 of the 741 class and outright victories scored by Abarth during the year. Facing particularly strong competition from Alfa Romeo and Porsche, the 2000 GT placed third in its class of the World Championship. Blisteringly quick, the two-litre machine's only weak spot was the fragile six-speed gearbox. These were never used again but the Tipo 236 engine would power Abarth sports racers well into the 1970s.
The existing agreement between Abarth and Simca, which expired at the end of 1964 was not renewed as Simca's new American owners Chrysler had different plans for the French manufacturer. Production of the Abarth Simcas did continue into 1965. Following their racing career, many of the Abarth Simcas were stripped for useful parts, the hugely powerful engine in particular, at the factory so only very few examples remain today.
An interesting note preserved within the file reads baldly "J. RINDT – 11/4/65 ASPERN: GP VIENNA 1st Assoluto GT" and "10/10/65 INNSBRUCK 1st Assoluto GT". This refers of course to none other than the legendary Karl Jochen Rindt, the later-1960s outstanding uncrowned 'King of Formula 2' in Brabham cars who also shone as one of the legendary Formula 1 drivers of the period. In 1965 he was serving his first full Formula 1 season as a Cooper-Climax works team driver, No 2 to team leader Bruce McLaren. He went on to excel in Cooper-Maserati, Brabham-Repo and ultimately Lotus-Cosworth works team cars, until in 1970 he tragically became the sport's only posthumous Formula 1 World Championship Driver after crashed fatally in the Lotus 72 during practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
He had previously won that year's Monaco, French, British and German GP races in his works Lotus cars – but on his 'weekends off' back in 1965 he had also driven Abarth works team cars. At the Viennese aerodrome circuit at Aspern on April 11, 1965, Jochen Rindt had beaten senior works team-mate Hans Herrmann to win the 20-lap 52km Gran Turismo race, with Karl Foitek's Lotus Elan third and Manfred Abels' Porsche 904GTS fourth. On October 10 in the Preis von Tyrol 25-lap, 70km race at Innsbruck aerodrome in Austria, Jochen Rindt then drove his works Abarth Simca 2000GT to beat no fewer than three Porsche 904GTS Coupés, driven by no less than future Porsche works stars Rolf Stommelen and Udo
Schutz, with Sepp Greger fourth, and the very quick Alfa Romeo TZ2 of works driver Roberto Businello fifth. These Abarth Simca 2000GTs were indeed in-period Porsche 904-beaters...
With this car, Abarth won the World Championship for Makes in 1962,this racing version of the Abarth Simca was developed throughout the 1960s, and the winning design was found to be more than a match for its competitors. In two-liter, 202 bhp specification, the Simca Abarth was able to beat the mighty Porsche 904 who won the European Mountain Climb Challenge outright.“Lots of character, performance and great looks.On track is a lion on cage ready to beat anyone in his way...Vasileios Papaidis.