The Fiat Abarth 850 TC
MOST enthusiasts for Minicar motoring would probably name the Cooper-Mini as the most accelerative of the t„000-e.c. brigade but we have recently been testing a car which is able to out-accelerate the Cooper-Mini with a capacity some r5o c.c. less than the 997 e.e. of the Cooper. This incredible machine is the Hat Abarth 850 TC, an outwardly normal-looking 600D Fiat with a performance entirely out of character with its homely appearance. In fact the only external signs of its potency are the Abarth badges and insignia and twin tail-pipes protruding from under the rear bumper. Placed side by side with another 600D the difference in height would immediately reveal that suspension modifications have been made to the 85o TC. The suspension is lowered somewhat and Michelin ” X ” tyres are fitted all round.
Carlo Abarth’s modifications to Fiat engines are well known and respected and the installation in the test Fiat, Supplied by Anthony Crook Motors Ltd., the British Concessionaires, is no exception. Like the Cooper-Mini engine, this 767-c.c. Fiat unit is fitted with a stronger, short-throw crankshaft which, combined with an increase in bore size to 62.5 mm. gives a capacity of 847 c.c. The light alloy cylinder head is cleaned-up and a single downdraught 32-mm. Solex carburetter with stone-guarded intake trumpet feeds directly into the cylinder head, replacingthe standard Weber. A high-lift camshaft and 4-branch exhaust manifold completes the engine modifications.
The gearbox ratios are unchanged but the final-drive gearing is raised and a stronger clutch fitted. To stop this projectile Girling disc brakes are fitted to the front wheels, together with tinneddrums at the rear. The metier of the 850 TC is obviously acceleration, and this it achieves with the utmost relish, surging forward in a most satia
Lying manner. The engine is delightfully smooth, running up to 7,000 r.p.m. in one glorious rush with no sign of strain. In fact, so easily will the engine reach 7,000 r.p.m. that a large 8,000-r.p.m. Jaeger rev.-counter is placed in front of the driver, for the engine gives no audible sign that it is reaching its rev limit and obviously some limit must be placed for the sake of engine durability. There is a flat spot below 2,000 r.p.m. which calls for the use of the gearbox to keep the revs above this mark, but the Fiat box, fitted in this case with a sturdier gear-lever, is well up to any demands made upon it.
The noise level from the engine is remarkably low, no great mechanical noise being evident, only a pleasant cracje frOm the twin tail-pipes informing by-Standers that the car is not what it seems. A more disturbing amount of noise emanates from the body shell which sets up a severe drumming at speeds between 65 and 70 m.p.h., although above and below these speeds the drumming disappears.
The suspension modifications cause some stiffening of the ride and poor surfaces give the occupants a Choppy ride. This is compensated for in enthusiasts’ eyes by the almost complete lack of body roll in fast cornering. Handling is most satisfying in normal cornering but wet roads call for some caution for the high rearward weight bias causes the tail to slide at earlier speeds than one would expect. The braced-tread Michelin ” X ” tyres no doubt play their part in this for they have better cornering properties than normal tyres up to a point but tend to lose adhesion rather more quickly. Having experienced one vicious slide we practised on deserted, wet roads but found that the car gives little warning of impending breakaway. The car is fitted with a fuel tank which completely fills the underbonnet compartment at the front, and with 12 gallons of fuel on board the handling improves somewhat.
This fuel tank reduces the 85o TC to a 2-seater if any luggage is to be carried but this would probably not affect the driver who would buy this type of car.
The brakes are virtually beyond criticism as the Girling discs help to stop this light car in a commendable fashion. One might criticise a lack of feel, which sometimes causes the driver to lock the wheels on wet surfaces, and a handbrake which was virtually out of action at the time of our test due mainly to the need for some maintenance work.
This Fiat is the type of car which makes the driver forget any minor criticisms for the sheer fun of zipping through the gears, to the consternation of other road users. The figures appended below compare favourably with the Cooper-Mini which we tested recently and a top speed of 92 m.p.h. is quite remarkable for such a small engine which shows no ill effects after prolonged bursts of speed in excess of 8o m.p.h. The only tragedy is that after the addition of purchase tax this £950 car coats no less than E1,405.—M. L. T.