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Formerly the Property of Briggs S. Cunningham
While Abarth was extremely successful both commercially and on the track, it took until 1962 and the arrival of the sleek Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero GT Coupe for Carlo's World Sportscar Championship aspirations to finally be fulfilled. A sleek competition coupe based on the rear-engine Fiat 600 and its four-wheel independent suspension, the Fiat-Abarth 1000 GT was powered by a much-modified engine expanded to 982 cc with an Abarth-designed twin-cam (Bialbero) cylinder head, dual Weber twin-choke carburetors, and other tweaks delivering 99 bhp at 7,100 rpm. A relative flyweight at just 1,240 lbs. the car provided stunning performance according to a contemporary Sports Car Graphic test, with acceleration from rest to 60 mph in just 7.4 seconds and a 131 mph top-end charge, strong performance for any automobile, let alone a 1.0-liter car in 1962!
Of the few Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero GT Coupes produced, this example, numbered chassis 1128948, is particularly special. Race-numbered 8 and driven by rising star Bruce McLaren, it was one of a three-car Abarth attack mounted by the Briggs Cunningham racing team at the March 23, 1962, Sebring 3-Hour Race, the opening round of the 1962 World Championship season. All three Cunningham-entered cars were prepared by Alfred Momo and, in addition to McLaren in this car, Walt Hansgen drove the number 9 car and Roger Penske was at the wheel of number 7.
Following a hard-fought and thrilling duel with Stirling Moss and his Austin-Healey, McLaren and 1128948 took the checkered flag with Hansgen finishing second for a convincing Abarth 1-2 finish. Both works and privateer 1000 Bialbero GTs proved dominant throughout the 1962-racing season, scoring FIA victories at venues, including Lago di Garda, the Berlin Grand Prix, Nürburgring, and at Enna in Sicily. Abarth drivers included such other greats as Innes Ireland, Eberhard Mahle, and Ludovico Scarfiotti.
For the final race of the 1962 season, the Bridgehampton 400 km on September 15, 1962, Cunningham entered 1128948 with Hansgen wheeling it to 2nd in Class and 4th overall behind the class-winning, ex-works Fiat-Abarth 1000 of Bob Grossman. Overall winner Bob Holbert drove another Abarth, a Porsche-Abarth 356 B Carrera GTL. When the dust settled, Abarth won the World Manufacturers' Championship (Division 1), the first of eight. Notably, Abarth was 2nd in overall point standings for 1962, behind only Ferrari.
Cunningham sold 1128948 following the 1962 season to Bob Ennis, who was active in SCCA events during 1962 and 1964-1967. The Fiat-Abarth passed through several other owners until Abarth historian Greg Paris acquired it in 1987 and reunited the car with its original engine. In 1999 and 2000, Mark Gessler acquired the Paris collection, which included this Sebring-winning car. It was then restored by marque expert Nino Epifani of Berkeley, California, and, in 2002, it won Best in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. In August 2010, 1128948 was acquired by the current owner and, as offered, it continues to be striking and show-quality in its period blue on white Cunningham team livery. Sleek, innovatively engineered, and steeped in motor sport history with its crucial 1962 Sebring victory with Bruce McLaren, this Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero GT is, simply put, one of the finest expressions of Carlo Abarth's inspired genius.