Abarth 209A Boano Coupe 1955
During his tenure as the chief designer at Ghia, Mario Felice Boano regularly worked for American clients, so it was no surprise that he looked to the United States when he established his own carrozzeria in 1954. One of his first plans was to tap into the country's lucrative sports car market with an all-Italian machine specifically suited to the Americans' needs. In order to create the car, he partnered with exhaust-wizard Carlo Abarth, who had risen from the ashes of what was once Cisitalia as a specialist manufacturer. The two men had worked together before when Boano was still at Ghia.
The new Boano Abarth was built around a straightforward and very compact boxed pressed-steel platform chassis. This was perhaps not the most sophisticated chassis of its day but it did the trick and also allowed for a great variety of bodies to be fitted. Much of the car's running gear was derived from the contemporary Fiat 1100 model including the front and rear suspension and the car's four cylinder engine. Equipped with the readily available Abarth tuning kit, consisting of twin Weber carburettors and a custom exhaust header, the 1,089 cc engine was good for around 66 bhp. It was mated to a four-speed gearbox, which had also been sourced from Fiat.
Boano envisioned not one but three different body-styles for the new Abarth; the track-bound Spider (207A), a more luxuriously appointed Convertible (208A) and a Coupe (209A). Each shared the same basic lines penned for Boano by Giovanni Michelotti. Among the most striking features were the tall front and rear fenders, the small circular headlights and the exposed stainless steel side-exhausts, which showcased Abarth's craftsmanship. The 207A Spider boasted a wrap-around windshield for the driver only and a faired headrest. The road going versions sported small pop-up headlights mounted on the nose, which were among the first of their kind.
Whether a deal was already in place before the first Boano Abarth was built is not entirely clear, but Boano did manage to sell a batch of ten cars to New York importer Tony Pompeo, which included the Covertible and Coupe of which only one was built each. The first example, a 207A, was sold through Pompeo to motoring journalist John Bentley, who fielded it in the 1955 Sebring 12 Hours. Although he finished second in class to a Porsche, the car was later disqualified for illegal re-fueling. Finished in bright, two-tone colours, the Boano Abarths were one by one delivered to Pompeo. The 208A and 209A were introduced at the 1955 Turin Motor Show, where they were shown alongside the 207A, which had been first shown earlier in the year.
Sadly, no further orders materialised for the Boano Abarth, and it is believed that only a dozen were built, including the Coupe and Convertible. Carlo Abarth continued successfully marketing exhaust kits and would go on to create many more Fiat based competition cars. He will have certainly run into Mario Felice Boano as he joined Fiat as head of design in 1957. A styling and packaging masterpiece, the Boano Abarth did not quite make it on the race track as it was quite antiquated compared the latest Porsches and Lotuses it faced off against. It is nevertheless highly sought after and the surviving cars are only very rarely seen in public.
Following its April 1955 Turin Motor Show debut, the unique Abarth 209A Boano Coupe was also shown in Geneva before being shipped to the United States. Here it was displayed at the Chicago Auto Show before it was sold to its first private owner, who was from the Chicago area. During the 1960s, it made a few public appearances at classic car shows. Still in remarkably original condition, it was acquired by Peter Kaus for his exquisite Rosso Bianco Museum, which, at one point, housed more Abarths than any other collection in the world. When the entire collection was absorbed into the Louwman Collection, this was the one Abarth retained for display in the new Louwman Museum that opened its doors in April of 2010.
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