Market 464: Abarth – Alfa – Colani 1000

Update 2/14/13: As they must, things seem to always come around.  Henrik pointed out that this car is now on offer for (gulp) €380,000!  Quite a bit more than the auction estimate of a few years ago.  Is this crazy?  I don’t really think so.  A unique (refreshing to be able to use that word without hyperbole) rebody of an already very special car with an Abarth Tubular chassis, Alfa race intended engine rework to 1000cc etc.  It’s a styling that works for some and doesn’t for others -like an Yves St Laurent masterpiece (for seldom do masterpieces satisfy all lookers or readers or…).  It’s kind of a shame that both cars can’t exist.  Do any of the other original Abarth examples survive?


Eddy sent me this image among some others from Retromobile.  I guess the mismatched wheels are period and thus the way it has to be.

Abarth Alfa Romeo Colani 01_1

Looks a little more ‘normal’ from this perspective.

Original Post 4/24/2009:  While off on a tangent (FIAT Record Monza/Abarth Zagato) I came across this car. From what I could find about it, mainly an Alfa Digest synopsis of a Dutch article I can’t seem to find, this car is the result of the unique vision of Luigi Colani and his lucky acquisition of one or possibly two Alfa Abarth 1000 prototypes that had been wrecked during testing. It is believed that at least three of the Abarth Alfa 1000’s were made and I will try and track down more about them later.

Colani’s designs are usually described as ‘organic’ and ‘visionary’, I would add ‘otherworldly’. This is the kind of car we were supposed to be driving in our Jet-age future. If you have some time to spend do some internet searching and check out some of the interesting stuff Colani has been doing, unexpected is a good word to describe his designs from furniture to cars and trucks.

retromobile2009_0900From this years retromobile, the Colani-Alfa-Abarth on display for auction. I don’t think it sold.

alfa-abarth-tubo-01Abarth-Alfa 1000 at the Turin Auto show 1958 I believe. Note the familiar crowd in the background. This car was something Abarth dreamed up and Alfa provided engines and suspension components.

alfa-abarth-tubo-03This is probably looking the other direction from picture above. To turn a 1300 Giulietta engine into a 1000 requires either sleeving and a reworked cylinder head, shortening the stroke and a new liner/block or perhaps a combination of the two. Race engines seem to like to be short stroke high-rev’ers so I will guess Short stroke was the best way to go. What is that behind it?

alfa-abarth-tubo-07Franco Scaglione was involved in the design of the body, and ever the empirist, he got out on the road and tested the shape. A similar photograph can be found of the SS on the autostrada.

alfa-abarth-tubo-08I’m not too impressed with the squat back end. I see a low-nose SS in the background.

The Alfa-Abarth prototypes were taken to Germany to run on the Berlin AVUS-ring where two or possibly three of the cars were wrecked. How do you wreck 3 of the same car in the same testing session? Colani bought the wrecks from a German Alfa dealer and pieced a car together that incorporated some of the original elements but mostly his own vision. The car seen here was at the Retromobile this year for sale/auction but it seems to not have found a buyer. Auction estimate was 40k to 60k British Pounds.

abarth20colani202Elements of the original can be seen in the windshield, front wheel arches and door shape. I included this picture because it really does justice to the nose treatment. I wonder if this car will make it to the Monterey weekend this year? Sheet on the windscreen reads ‘available’. Has an air of Marcos or Matra Djet about it but I think it predates both of those by a few years at least.

abarth20colani203I am going to assume this is a VERY low and small car. Note the side exhaust exit complete with aluminum plate to protect the fiberglass body. Tail is SZ Coda Tronca inspired, but totally (as I said earlier) unexpected and unique at the same time. The continuation of the ‘double-bubble’ into the rear glass is very sexy and tail light placement, while bizarre, works for my eye. I see a little BMW 507 in the grill behind the front wheel. Wheels here are most likely round hole 15″ Borranis while above they are widened Fergat’s.

abarth20colani204View from this angle is unmistakable and it looks like the back of a spacecraft. Note the line of the front fender going up and around the side glass. Rear looks short, but as can be seen below it is quite long. Anyone recognize the tail lights? Look like early Karmann Ghia or Renault Caravelle? That is the most distinct rear window I have ever seen.

1959abarth1300berlinettacolani2Someone captured this car in action over the Retromobile weekend. Again, I have the feeling this is a very small car.

I read some comments on the AlfaBB and elsewhere about it, mostly negative, but I think this thing is pretty cool and would jump at the chance to own it. I bet if this car were done in aluminum it would have sold, and sold for a lot more than the estimate above. Fiberglass tends to get a cold shoulder when it’s not the basis of an Alpine, Lotus or Corvette. I wonder how it drives? Anyone know anything substantial about this car? Email sprints @ giuliettas . com.

luigi20colani10And for reference a more recent Colani undertaking; a series of ‘trucks of the future’. Really, do yourself a favor and check out his work, you will find elements of it in everything from space-opera anime to Apple computers gadgets and your eye will be richer for the exposure.


14 thoughts on “Market 464: Abarth – Alfa – Colani 1000

  1. Excellent post — informative and intriguing so I’m going to check out more of this guy’s stuff. Maybe you can post some references?

  2. Industrial Design Center of America held a Colani showing in the Rackham Bldg in Detroit about 1983 after Colani had taken his cyclops eye transporter and some race cars to Bonneville. Cars included a 30 foot long reworked Corvette and there were a half dozen others. His presentation in English was notable for the number of tearoffs of thirty second magic marker sketches The Man tossed into the crowd like rose petals from a balcony to his adoring audience. I attended with Bob Andrews, the Avanti designer, who although far more modest, was still convulsed by the air of condescension permeating the hall.

  3. Colani must have taken ugly lessons from Zagato, but went on to do it even better. Or worse. And by the way, “I see a low-nose SS in the background.” Whre;s the comment on the wheels?

  4. The engine in the foreground of one of the pictures looks allot like a Maserati Brothers OSCA design. Especially in the chain box and distributor positioning.

  5. I was able to examine and sit in this car when it was in the Louwmann Collection warehouse, when I was there to ‘inventory’ the Alfa T33s which had been purchased from the Rosso Bianco Museum. I think this car was also from Rosso Bianco; had another ‘play’ with it at Goodwood. Could possibly have purchased it from the warehouse at £30,000…perhaps missed something there! It is indeed quite small, and though very interesting, not really beautiful…a real find nevertheless.
    Ed McDonough

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