My Car Quest

March 23, 2019

Raced By Bruce McLaren and Owned By Briggs Cunningham – A Fiat-Abarth 1000 GT

by Mike –

This rare, one of the three “Cunningham Abarth Bialberos”, race cars was auctioned in August 2013 at the Gooding auction in Pebble Beach and sold for $302,500.

The Fiat-Abarth 1000 GT is powered by a 982 cc engine with an Abarth-designed twin-cam (Bialbero) cylinder head, dual Weber twin-choke carburetors, and other modifications resulting in 99 bhp at 7,100 rpm. Sports Car Graphic reported acceleration from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds and a 131 mph top speed.

Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero GT Coupe

Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero GT Coupe

Gooding said,

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.

Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero GT Coupe

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.

Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero GT Coupe

Greg Paris was a close friend for more than 30 years and I saw many of his Abarths and other cars over the years, and rode in some of them, but I did not see this one until it was at Pebble Beach one year long after Greg had sold it (I did not know it was his former car at the time I saw it but I should’ve guessed). He had moved across the US to the other coast a few years earlier so it was not easy for me to keep up with his car collection.

One year (I have forgotten which year), just before Monterey Car Week, Greg was sitting in my home flipping through the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Program from a previous year and he saw this Abarth there listed as a class winner.

He was very pleased with that – he always maintained a sense of ownership for his former cars, especially Abarths. After he sold his Abarth collection he bought some Lotus Elites and became very active in the Lotus Elite community.

Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero GT Coupe

Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero GT Coupe

The photos below were given to me by Greg Paris and I do not know their origin.

1962 Sebring 3-Hour Race

This could be the 1962 Sebring 3-Hour Race – you can see the No. 8 and No. 9 Fiat-Abarths – I think that is Bruce McLaren coming directly at the camera in No. 8

Cunningham Abarths on a trailer

Cunningham Abarths on a trailer

 

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This article was originally published in October 2013.

Summary
Raced By Bruce McLaren and Owned By Briggs Cunningham - A Fiat-Abarth 1000 GT
Article Name
Raced By Bruce McLaren and Owned By Briggs Cunningham - A Fiat-Abarth 1000 GT
Description
This Fiat-Abarth 1000 Bialbero GT Coupe was one of the Briggs Cunningham Abarths and it won the Sebring 3-Hour Race in 1962 driven by Bruce McLaren.
Author

Comments

  1. This is some kind of fine for sure… these are quite competent little cars with wonderful styling.

  2. Its a beautiful car, better restored than is ever was build by Carlo Abarth. I doubt we will ever see it on a race track driven like it should be driven… On the limit!!
    I’m afraid that it has become an object of inverters to be kept behind closed doors, and only shown once a year on a perfectly mowed lawn…
    Never the less… I like it a lot and hope to see it once with my own eyes.

  3. Don Meluzio says

    Owned by two very knowledgeable , nice guys, Greg Paris , and Mark Gessler.
    Probably my favorite Abarth race car of all time, and marvelous restoration by Epifani.
    Don

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