Thursday 28 March 2013
In today's world of automobile collectors and investors, limited-production cars are often, perhaps too often, relegated to car parlors, dream garages, toy barns and museums, where they languish. You won't find the 1969 Abarth Scorpione SS of Mark Maehling and Kirk Jones living such a pampered life. Their car, one of only five built, is exercised regularly on racetracks across the United States. The delicious coupe, one of only three that still exist, is the only one competing regularly in historic racing events, carrying on a heritage that began shortly after it was manufactured in Italy and made its way to Germany. While its light green color, reminiscent of an unripe apple, might cause some onlookers to frown, the incredible speed, nimble handling and raspy exhaust tones of this pintsized car cause many other spectators to smile and look in amazement.
As with most Abarth creations, the Scorpione SS was meant to kill giants. This car, with its trick Fiat 124 engine, twin Weber carburetors, Fiat 850 gearbox, disc brakes and front independent coil-over suspension, was campaigned extensively in Germany during the 1970s and '80s by its original owner before coming to the United States. Not long after, the owner decided to sell the car--but not to just anyone. Six people expressed interest. Rather than base the sale on bids, the owner decided to interview each prospect before choosing one with whom he was most comfortable. A friend of Maehling's won the contest and acquired the car. Unfortunately, personal problems prevented the new owner from enjoying the car, and it eventually landed in the hands of Maehling and Jones, who have known each other since they were kids growing up in Pittsburgh.
Today, the two of them work on the Abarth whenever they can and buy spare parts wherever they can find them. “We probably have one of the largest collections of spares in the world,” says Maehling.
High-revving Scorpione SS models produced about 100 hp, cornered on a dime and had a penchant for overheating--not surprising, since the radiator is mounted in the front of the car and the engine is in the rear. A 7.5-foot-long cooling hose extending through the cockpit and a few other tricks in the Maehling-Jones car help to keep everything cool except the driver.
Maehling, who does all of the driving, says that the inside of the car can reach 175 degrees. Wearing a three-piece Nomex suit, he says, he loses about 10 pounds a race. The Scorpione is more distinctive than other cars of its era, with its Kamm tail, sloping hood and pop-up headlights, all of which help to make this car treno speciale.
- engine: 4 cylinders
- capacity: 1290 cc
- horsepower: 100 HP
- gearbox: 4+1
- top speed: 170 km/h