1963 was a year of changes. Besides important happenings in politics, the automotive world also experienced some change. Two cars were unveiled during this year that would change the future of two important brands. Porsche presented what became the future benchmark for sportcars – the 911. The other, was a tiny car from Italy – the 595 Abarth.
Carlo Abarth’s creation aimed to ‘democratised motorsport’, bringing an affordable sportscar for those that wanted to challenge Ferrari or Porsche, yet didn’t have the funds to purchase something of similar proportions. The original 595 Abarth featured a 595 cc capacity engine and a measly 27hp (50 percent more power than the serial Fiat 500 Cinquecento). 27hp wasn’t all that much even in the 60s, yet the 595 became a success thanks to its extremely low weight, small size and relative affordability.
Back to the modern day and since 2007, Abarth has sold over 60,000 cars in 31 countries on five continents. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the legendary 595, Abarth has unveiled the Abarth 595 50th Anniversario, limited to 299 pieces and available across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. We were invited to test the Abarth 595 50th Anniversario and a number of other Abarth models on a racetrack in Italy.
The Engine & Setup:
At the heart of the most powerful Abarth 595 is a 4-cylinder turbocharged 1.4 liter T-Jet engine, producing 180 hp at 5500rpm and a maximum torque of 250 nm in sport mode. It equates to 128 hp of output per liter so the tiny Abarth engine is built to its maximum. The gearbox is the Abarth competizione mechanical gearbox we previously saw in the Abarth 595 Competizione. It comes complete with paddles. No manual gearbox option is available for the 50th Anniversario.
Performance is fairly impressive from a car of this size. The Abarth 595 achieves its sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in just 6,9 seconds, hitting a terminal speed of 225 km/h. The performance is aided by relatively low weight. Taking into account the various ballast modern regulation dictates must carry, the Abarth 595 50th Annoversario weighs in at just 1,090 kg.
The Abarth 595 50th Anniversario comes fitted with a proper Brembo braking system to guarantee greater performance. The brake system features perforated self-ventilating 305mm discs on a four piston caliper at the front and 240mm discs at the rear. Both are hidden by 17 inch alloy wheels in 695 grey design with red pinstripe.
The suspension is provided by specialists Koni and promises superb handling with frequency selecting damping and lowered Eibach springs. Finally, Abarth fit a four-pipe “Record Monza” exhaust system to increase the volume! Abarth claims the 595 is a true sportscar.
Interestingly, both cars are near identical to the Abarth 695 Edizione Maserati and Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari.
The Design of the Abarth is well known by now. The sweet little Fiat 500 gains a more muscled look, transforming it from a cute city car to steroid tuned monster. The aggressive front and rear design feature a variety of air inlets, the body panels are wider, the rear diffuser is altogether more ambitious. In case of the Abarth it’s a stabbing scorpion, the logo of Abarth and zodiac of Carlo Abarth.
The Abarth 595 50th Anniversario comes with a handmade painted 3-layer matte white paintjob. Historic details include a red stripe running down the side, the historical Abarth badge and the painted scorpion on the hood. The interior design is of course based on the old 595 too.
The sports seats come with fine leather in red with white details. Red is also present on dashboard, door inlays and steering wheel, to symbolize the soul of the 50 year old sportscar history. The black steering wheel with its red and Italian details combines luxury and sport. Four buttons in the center console control the gearbox instead of a gear lever. This is the only possible colour combination for the 50th Anniversario edition.
Arriving at the Balocco proving ground, we began the day with a short briefing and coffee before heading out on track. Wonderful sunshine and a dry track made perfect conditions for this day. While waiting for an instructor to show us the track before we drove on our own, we had our first experiences of the exhaust system of the 50th Anniversario.
The ‘Record Monza’ four pipe exhaust growls deep and powerful. You would never expect a small 1.4 liter engine by hearing the aggressive sound, especially at higher rpm. Then we got our instruction for the track and a few rounds in an Abarth 500 custom but switched soon after that for the Anniversario model.
The seats feel good and comfortable. The interior quality is good and way above what you expect from what is for all intents and purposes, a small city car. First gear, sport mode and off to the track!
The car accelerates quickly, but of course nowhere near as quick as a Porsche or Ferrari. First corner – hammer down – steering – foot down and off to the next corner. Superb! The Brembo brakes and Koni suspension system perform an excellent job. They keep the car stable on the track and continue do the same, lap after lap. Both parts are obviously geared more towards track driving and less towards daily cruising. The suspension would be too stiff for most people, yet the car feels good and stable on the racetrack. It drives easily and you don’t feel the fear of losing grip for driving too harsh. One negative point is the gearbox, which could shift faster into the next gear.
The Abarth 595 50th Anniversario is a positive surprise. The quality and attention to detail are high. It is the pride of the Abarth family, needless to say, it comes steeped in history. We agree that the 595 50th Anniversario does have the feel of an entry level sportscar, but it is no supercar as claimed by the marketing. It has a proper setup which lends it to the racetrack more than anywhere else. It is a good choice for track driving beginners who, above all else, require a car that is stable and safe, with not too much power or potential to lose control.
But history costs money and so the Anniversario isn’t all that cheap. It’s more of a collectors car for Abarth enthusiasts as it costs 34.595,50 Euros (in Germany). But for those who want to use the advantages of an Abarth 50th Anniversario, we recommend the 595 Competizione edition which can be equipped with the Brembo brake kit and Koni suspension too. What we also liked about the cheaper Competizione version was the availability of a manual gearbox and Sabelt bucket seats.