Abarth Simca 1300 GT…

Posted: February 13, 2018 in Obscurities, Sports Racers
Tags: , ,

(M Feisst)

Gay Cesario gives the engine of his Abarth Simca GT 1300 a final tweak with an admiring crowd checking out the lines of the car at the Sandown Tasman round in February 1967…

Australia is a country of immigrants, even the Aboriginals, our indigenous people arrived here some 25,000 to 40,000 years ago.

As a ‘Skip’ (Anglo Australian) the travails of migrants are not something I ever thought much about. But having gone out with three post-war sixties/seventies migrant kids in the last decade- a (crazy) Croatian, Scot and an Italian I am now highly aware of the guts it takes to jump onto a ship staking your entire future on a faraway land they knew bugger-all about in those pre-internet times.

The reason most of them have so much zip is that they left with nothing and arrived with lots of drive and ambition, their legs spinning at 100mph well before their disembarkation at Station Pier. Look out ‘Skips, we are coming through, you lazy buggers!

The Italian Cesarios were one such family. Gay Cesario packed his family of five into the little Abarth Simca 1300 for the trip from Rome to Naples and embarkation from there before the long voyage to Melbourne, where they arrived in the mid-sixties.

Lucio Cesario recalls, “Dad bought the car just out of Rome at a hillclimb on-the-spot and drove it straight home that day. Some time later he decided to ship the family and car to Australia so we drove from Rome to Naples, a four or five hour drive. There was my mum, dad, brother, sister, me and all our belongings crammed into the racecar, including some spares as we were shipping it out from Naples on the same ship. Boy I wish I knew where the little car is today!?”

Gay Cesario raced the car in Australia, its whereabouts as you can see from Lucio’s comment above unknown. Gay raced on, I can well remember him running a Fiat 124 Abarth in Victorian production sportscar races well into the mid-seventies at least. Lucio was a well known racer during Australia’s Formula Pacific era, he parlayed immense Ralt RT4 speed into a season or so with the works Lancia Team during the Group C era, that is an interesting story for another time.

(automobile sportive)

Abarth Simca 1300 GT…

Simca was founded by Italian entrepreneur Enrico Teodoro Pigozzi in 1935 to build Fiat’s for the French market. After WW2 Simca continued to produce the cars but they were given more unique character by fitment of different grilles and engines. In 1961 the company launched its most successful model, the Simca 1000. It was the concern’s first rear-engined car, a neat four-door saloon powered by a Fiat 600 derived 944cc four-cylinder engine giving circa 35bhp in standard form.

Carlo Abarth’s old Viennese sparring partner, Rudi Hruska, became a technical consultant to Simca and regularly brought Abarth’s successes with its Fiat-based cars to the company hierachy’ attention. The idea of competition success appealed to help build the brand so Abarth were invited and engaged to produce a GT car using Simca 1000 components. The Simca-Abarth or Abarth-Simca names are interchangeable, the 1300 GT was the result.

Abarth designed a new engine using the tried and tested broad architecture of the 1961 1000 Bialbero of 1288cc, with the new car’s floorpan, transmission, steering and suspension from the Simca 1000, while the body was of the latest Fiat-Abarth Coupe configuration.

The Simca Abarth 1300 was launched in February 1962. The 1288cc, DOHC, twin 45 DCOE Weber fed four- cylinder engine produced over 90 bhp @ 6,000 rpm. The cars proved capable of running rings around rival Alfa Romeo Giuliettas during 1962. The two valve engine specification included dry-sump lubrication, a rev limit of 7,200rpm and a claimed power output of 125bhp at 6,000rpm – more like 90 – but certainly more than enough. The little car weighed 630kg/1388lbs and did 142 mph.

The subsequent 1600, 138bhp at 7,800rpm variant stopped by Girling discs all round was capable of 240km/h – 149mph, fast cars indeed.

Abarth’s 1963 racing record is said to have achieved a staggering 535 victories, 90 of which were agged by the Simca Abarth 1300s.

The body design of the GT Coupe – influenced by the latest small capacity GTs – was styled in-house by Mario Colucci at Abarth’s famous Corso Marche factory, and was built ‘just around the corner’ by Odoardo Beccari’s specialist carrozzeria.


Mike Feisst/The Roaring Season, Lucio Cesario/Thunder 427 on The Roaring Season, Bonhams, Ultimate Cars, Automobile Sportive, Robert Davies

Tailpiece: Cesario, Sandown 4 May 1969…

(R Davies)

Photographer Robert Davies recalls this as the Sandown weekend that Allan Moffatt’s Trans Am Mustang made its race debut. Lucio Cesario, eight years old also remembers that day, his Dad won the Toby Lee Trophy (family still have it) in the wet with Peter Brock starting the race from pole his famous Austin A30 Holden.

Sandown 1967 (Cesario)


Its back in the family, the car that is!

In early July 2019 I had a meal with Lucio and a few other racing coves via ‘me mate, historic racer Andrew McCarthy.

During the course of a good chat Lucio told us he had negotiated to buy his Dad’s old car, paid the dollars and was off to collect it the following weekend, checkout the photos of the car tucked up in his Melbourne workshop. Doesn’t it look wonderful?



Lucio had been talking to the long-time Sydney owner of the car (he acquired it in 1974) on and off for decades but they had never been able to agree a price. “Your article got me going though, I felt I needed to buy the thing quickly as I was fearful your piece on it would stir up interest and send others off on a search for the car, rare as it is,” he said.

Happy to be of assistance my friend!

We will get together soon to document Lucio’s racing career and I will post updates as the Abarth’s restoration progresses.

Unfortunately Gay Cesario, Lucio’s Dad, “he sold an apartment at one stage to help me progress my racing career y’know,” died some years back but his Mum is happily still with us, no doubt a tear or two was shed when the car returned back where it belonged…





  1. denislupton says:

    I thought Lucio’s car was a Ralt RT3 ??

    • markbisset says:

      Hi Denis,
      His Ralt list was a long one.
      His first was Graham Watson’s RT3 VW, you are right. He raced the ex- Charlie O’Brien RT4 Pacific after that and some while later, after he had retired from the serious stuff an RT30 or thereabouts F3 car. And now he has an F Holden- RT21 or similar.

  2. john cavallaro says:

    HI Luciano my name is John Cavallaro , You father sold the car to my brother Tony Cavallaro if you like you can contact me, my Email is

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks John,
      I will see if I can find an email address for the Cesario family to forward on your contact details.
      Thanks for getting in touch.

  3. […] The speedy Italian acquired the car in his native country and then drove it from one end of Italy to the other, both car and family migrating to Australia in the mid-sixties. Click here for the story; […]

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