by James Kraus
If I asked a group of automotive enthusiasts to name a rear-engined car with colourful body-side graphics, staggered-width wheels, large rear fender flares and a ducktail spoiler; a deafening chorus of Porsche 2.7 RS would likely ring out.
That is a good answer, but not the only answer. In fact all these features came together seven years earlier…
Over the winter of 1964-1965, Carlo Abarth finalized development of his Fiat Abarth OT 1600. It consisted of a Fiat 850 Berlina body and chassis with a 1600 Abarth inline four-cylinder engine featuring dual overhead camshafts, dual ignition, dual twin-choke side-draft Weber carburettors and a 9-liter dry-sump lubrication system. Output was 154 hp at 7,600 rpm. Girling disc brakes were fitted all around and a ZF limited slip differential was installed. Its Campagnolo cast magnesium wheels were 6″ wide in front and 7″ wide in the rear, the same size as the Fuchs forged aluminium wheels of the Porsche 2.7 RS. On the rear deck lid was a moulded fibreglass ducktail spoiler.
The intention was to sell 1000 of these potent sedans to secure homologation as a Touring Car under FIA regulations. It was a similar motive at Porsche, who initially planned to construct only the 500 cars that they were required to build for homologation in FIA Group 4. However, demand for the 2.7 RS was such that Porsche eventually built 1500. Regrettably, fate was not so kind to the Abarth; it is rumoured that possibly only three or four of the OT 1600’s were actually built.
Press reviews of the day reported that the car was quite entertaining, if not a bit scary to drive. Independent road tests recorded 0-60 times as low as 7.2 seconds and speeds as high as 213 kph (132 mph) on the Autostrada.
It is unfortunate that more of these were not manufactured. Abarth had a lot going on in this era; it was the peak period for the competition success of their 1000 TC Corsa which won the European Touring Car Challenge Division 1 in 1965, 1966 and 1967, and the Abarth Simca 1300 which won the GT 1.3 category in those same years. Perhaps they decided to focus their attentions elsewhere.