The Autobianchi A112 started its life in 1969 as the Italian answer to the Mini Cooper; a super-compact city car which was easy to drive, versatile, and elegant. Perfect for the young audience it targeted.
That is, until notorious tuner Carlo Abarth set his hands on it and transformed the little hatchback into a serious tool for fast driving. The Abarth treatment included an increased stroke, twin carburetors, a modified camshaft, a tuned exhaust, and stronger brakes. It was only a matter of time before the A112-Abarth was entered with success in various rallying events all around Europe, and it even spawned its own racing series. During its life it saw the production of seven different series—1971 to 1985—and today it’s still appreciated and used in historic racing by its many fans.
One of them is young Swiss Claudio Enz. Whether in his daily occupation as a mechanic or in his free time as a technical scrutineer at racing events, his passion for classic race cars is obvious, and more often than not he can also be found behind the steering wheel himself.
It’s not easy to find a contemporary event for classic cars that can evoke the same spirit of adventure of the golden days of rallying, when endurance played a bigger role than it does today. One that comes really close though is the annual historic version of the Rallye Monte Carlo. Organized by the same Automobile Club Monaco responsible for the WRC version of the Rally (as well as the F1 Grand Prix in the city), it takes place between January and February on the same legendary roads that made rallying history.
After witnessing it as a spectator, team mechanic, and finally as a driver with a Fiat 127, Claudio knew he wanted to participate with a car of his own, prepared by him. He went out and found a well preserved Autobianchi A112 in Genova, Italy. A rare third-series, 70-horsepower model, built only between 1975 and 1977. The manufacturing year is important because application for the Monte Carlo is only considered for car models that have participated in one of the original editions, up to 1980. No newer cars are allowed.
In addition to the period-correct entrants, the rally has all the right ingredients of the great races of the past: below-zero temperatures, long stages, mixed surfaces, night racing, and challenging navigation. It may be a regularity-event running on open roads, but trying to keep an average of 50kmh on narrow, icy forest paths is still a real challenge for man and machine, and requires great experience and solid equipment.
Fortunately, Claudio is a guy who does things properly, and his meticulous approach to this project is reflected in the stunning attention to detail in every part of his car. Inside and outside, this Autobianchi is all about functionality and safety, but in a well-executed and thought-out package. With his great knowledge, and the help of his sponsors Ravasi Corse and Maxilite, the car has been fitted with everything needed for rally racing including a safety cell, stripped interior, better brakes and tires, a complete engine and gearbox overhaul, as well as extensive electrical rewiring and the necessary instrumentation for proper navigation and timing.
The rally will start at the end of this month, and while not everything is up to Claudio’s high standards yet, he still finds time to go out and fine-tune the driving skills that he will soon put to good use. His talent is evident from the first time he sends the small front-wheel drive Autobianchi into the most precise oversteers around the tiny, snow-covered roads around his hometown in the Swiss mountains.