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The Abarth Classiche 1300 OT


The Abarth Classiche 1300 OT

Abarth Classiche 1300 OT

To celebrate their 75th anniversary, Abarth have brought back a classic nameplate and a modern classic chassis. Ken Pearson has all the details.

There is more to Abarth than faster versions of the Fiat 500 - they now make a compact electric SUV called the 600! But what caught my eye recently was the announcement of a recreation of a racing model from the 1960s which is built around a thoroughly modern - if not entirely bespoke - chassis. The Classiche 1300 OT is a fairly faithful love letter to the OT 1300 of 1965. This Group 4 GT racer claimed overall victories at the 1966 Nürburgring 500 km and 1967 Hockenheim Grand Prix along with class victories at Monza, Mugello, the Nürburgring the Ollon-Villars Hillclimb and more. The OT 1300 was a dry-sump rear-engined coupe with a 1.3 litre four-cylinder engine fitted with two twin-choke Weber 45 carburettors. Peak power of 145 bhp was developed at 8,800 rpm which was sent to the rear wheels by a five-speed manual transmission.

The body can only be described as extremely pretty and it certainly looks as though it weighs less than 1,000 kg. In fact, it weighs less than 700 kg with the car tipping the scales at just 655 kg which is what my C-Class would weigh if I managed to reduce its weight by a tonne…anyway. The styling highlight for me has to be the periscope-style intake which sits at the rear of the roof. This isn’t for cooling the engine, but rather the drivers as even at the car’s top speed of 152 mph, the cabin would get uncomfortably hot so this periscope and an intake in the right-side window became functional and good-looking ways to prevent the drivers from boiling.

Abarth Classiche 1300 OT

With a style and racing heritage like that, it’s no surprise that the OT 1300 was reborn to become the 1300 OT. While the two letters may have switched places with the number 1300, the meaning of “Omologate Turismo” - or homologated touring - remains. The overall shape and style has been faithfully modernised and the larger size of the new model compared to its predecessor means that there is more room for the fabulously curved rear haunches to flow into a short ducktail spoiler and a gently curved rear bumper. This also features a wide, open air outlet with the ABARTH wordmark clearly visible in the grille; it’s flanked by two large and circular brake lights which are another nod to the 60s racer. One inverted trapezium exhaust features in the lower bumper which nicely interrupts the full-length racing stripe that can be traced all the way back to the front splitter.

Following the path of the stripe will lead you to the slotted plexiglass engine cover which allows hot air to escape from the 1.7 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Going further forward, the stripe also houses the periscope air inlet which is lower than before and finished in the body colour of yellow. The nose features one rear-facing air vent on the bonnet and another at the top of the bumper, along with a low and wide intake which makes the resemblance to the OT 1300 crystal clear.

Abarth Classiche 1300 OT

The new model gains additional side inlets with short LED running light strips that pair up with the four individual headlights that sit high and wide on the bumper. I think it looks great overall with fantastic details like the Italian tricolour which features on the B-pillar-mounted arrows, a chequered flag badge just above, the Abarth crest surrounded by wreaths, quick releases for the rear bodywork and the number 75 decals that look as though they’ve been hand-painted with a large brush. The only thing that stops it from being a perfect modernisation of the original is the headlight layout - four uncovered lights are totally different to the two covered lamps of the 1960s OT, but there is a reason for this.

You may have looked at the shape of the 1300 OT and thought that it looks a little familiar and you’d be right - it looks quite similar to the Abarth Classiche 1000 SP from 2021 which was the brand’s first reimagining of a classic racing car, this time wonderfully paying homage to the 1000 SP open-top racing car from the same decade as the OT 1300. The headlights and door mirrors look similar on both the 1000 SP and the 1300 OT, and rather similar to another small, mid-engined car with a 1.7 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine called the Alfa Romeo 4C.

Abarth Classiche 1300 OT

Abarth Classiche 1300 OT

Yes, the lightweight mid-engined coupe and roadster which went out of production in 2020 is the basis for the Abarth Classiche 1300 OT (and the 1000 SP) which makes perfect sense. If you’re reimagining a compact, lightweight, mid-engined four-cylinder Italian sports car, it would make sense to base it on a compact, lightweight, mid-engined four-cylinder Italian sports car instead of anything else, wouldn’t it? I think it’s too easy to say that the 4C lives on or to fall into the trap of saying that it’s a 4C with an Abarth badge because it clearly is more than that; the fabulous carbon fibre bodywork forms a fascinating modernisation of a very pretty racing car that may have been a little-known part of Abarth’s racing heritage until now. It also brings the nameplate to the road, but only in limited numbers.

Are they making 100? No. How about 75 as another numerical nod to the anniversary? No, take 70 off that. Only five will be built which will surely instantly create a highly desirable collector’s model but unfortunately sentence the cars to a lifetime in garages rather than the roads and circuits that they should be traversing. No prices or performance details have been confirmed so we can only assume that the cost has at least six numbers to it and that the 1.7 litre turbocharged four-cylinder makes the same 237 bhp and 258 lb ft (350 nm) as it did in the 4C.

The latest instalment in Abarth’s 75th anniversary celebrations may look incredibly different on the surface, but dig a little deeper into its historical racing and modern chassis roots and the Classiche 1300 OT appears to use familiar styling and a proven platform to brilliant effect. I just wish that it got the US-spec covered headlights…

Written by

Ken Pearson


19 January 2024

Last Updated


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