Fiat Abarth 124 Rally: Really for rally but we still want it anyway

Fiat Abarth 124 Rally

Fiat Abarth 124 Rally

Good things come in small packages, they say. And we say, when those packages are cars and the good thing are powerful engines, that’s a really good thing. Particularly good, for example, is the 500-horsepower Volkswagen Beetle GCR, a monster all-wheel drive racer built for the Global Rallycross Championship series…but we want one for a road car.

Not so quite demented is our lust for the Fiat Abarth 124 Rally. The Fiat Abarth 124 Rally, however, is indeed built for competition. Classified in Group R-GT, it is intended as a “customer car,” a race-ready mount built to contest international rally events. It’s based on the Fiat 124 Spider, and not as radical or powerful as the GCR Beetle, it could reasonably be driven on the street.

Fiat Abarth 124 Rally sideways

The Fiat Abarth_124 Rally has a slight rear weight bias to make a rally cornering driving style easier. (click to enlarge)

The fun starts a with 1.8-liter turbocharged direct injection dual overhead camshaft engine that replaces the turbocharged 1.4-liter turbo standard in the Fiat 124 Spider available at your local Fiat dealer. While the 1.4-liter turbo makes only 164 horsepower (along with 184 lb-ft of torque), the 1.8T hits a peak of 300 horses at 6500 rpm and what Fiat coyly calls an “optimum torque curve.”

The result? “Performance is breathtaking, acceleration is scorching and enhanced by a full, satisfying sound,” according to Fiat.

No doubt.

The drivetrain is completed by a six-speed sequential gearbox with shift paddles and a mechanical self-locking differential. As with the standard Fiat 124 Spider, the Abarth 124 Rally has rear-wheel drive.

The enhancements are not limited to what’s under the hood. Without going into specifics, other than lightweight Italian-made Alcantara is used on the dash to reduce reflections, Fiat noted that “for the cockpit and the engine compartment, light, resistant [sic] materials were used” for weight reduction.

Roberto Cambiaghi and Emanuele Sanfront in a Fiat 124 Abarth Rally at the Rally delle Regioni in 1975

Roberto Cambiaghi and Emanuele Sanfront in an earlier version of the Fiat 124 Abarth Rally at the Rally delle Regioni in 1975. (click to enlarge) Via Wikimedia Commons

via Wikimedia Commons

Racing safety requirements include a solid roof, the convertible top is removed completely, and a carbon fiber roof is installed. A full rollcage is included, and stronger and lighter subframes are used, with metal joints replacing softer street bushing for more accurate suspension location.

Suspension, including four-way (high- and low-speed compression and rebound) shock absorbers from EXT SHOX, is set up for adjustability for different driving conditions, including ride height and performance on rally surfaces from pavement to dirt and gravel to snow and ice. Standard equipment wheels are from OZ.

The official project code of the Fiat Abarth 124 Rally is SE139, derived from “Sports” and “Experimental” for the “SE,” and the serial project number for the 139th Abarth project. The new Fiat Abarth 124 Rally isn’t the first Abarth rally-prepared Fiat 124. A similarly named car won the 1975 European Rally Championship.

Actually, for out uses, we don’t need all the dedicated rally equipment. We’d just be happy with a street version of the rally version of the production version of the Fiat 124 Spider. That’s a good, small package, and we’d take even without a bow on it.