The Abarth Special Series: From the Opening Edition to the 695 Esseesse

Compared with the performance divisions of other established auto companies, Abarth is not exactly at the top of the food chain. The brand’s present lineup only comprises two car families, the 595 and 695, and none of them are regarded as the pinnacle of performance motoring.

Yet these Abarth cars, based on Fiat’s 500, have something special about them, a certain allure one might not find in other cars. That’s perhaps even more so when it comes to the Special Series range, limited edition cars aiming to become collectibles.

Abarth starting making the Special Series in 2008, one year after the 500 came back into the Fiat range. It called the first car in the series the Opening Edition, and gifted it with 160 hp, 7.4-seconds acceleration time, and a special design in Campovolo Grey and Iridato White, with red highlights. 200 of these were ever made.

One year later, the Zerocento came along, as a means to celebrate the revival of the legend of Karl Abarth. It packed pretty much all the hardware of the previous version, but added a “variable back pressure exhaust system, leather upholstery with silver seams and unique details inspired by classic cars.” Just 100 hit the roads.

In 2010, as a means to celebrate the ties it had with Ferrari, Abarth introduced the 695 Tributo Ferrari, “created for lovers of the Prancing Horse and the Scorpion.” This rather larger run (1,649 of them were made) was in no way a mechanical tribute to the Prancing Horse, but a visual one at best.

The first non-500 car to enter the Special Series was the Punto, a model that is no longer in Fiat’s portfolio. Transformed into the Punto Scorpione, the blacked-out model offered 180 hp from a 1.4-liter engine, and a very lazy acceleration time of 8.2 seconds. Only 199 of them were made in 2011 and, according to Abarth, all “are already giving outstanding performances.”

Also in 2011 Abarth launched the Cabrio Italia, a run of just 150 units that offered the same 500-Abarth combination of thrills, only this time with the option of feeling the wind in your hair.

Having already tapped Ferrari on the shoulder not long prior, Abarth released the 480 units of the 695 Maserati Edition in 2012. This time too we were dealing with a visual tribute to the Trident, and not a performance-oriented interpretation of the 500.

2013 brought along the 595 50 Anniversario, and 390 of them hit the roads in a bid to honor the first-ever Abarth-tuned Fiat 500.

At the end of 2014, “the smallest of the supercars” hit the roads. The phrase was of course a gross exaggeration, as the thing, dubbed 695 Biposto, only developed 190 hp – more than enough for the 500, not nearly so for a supercar.

The Biposto nameplate lived on into 2015, and got turned into the 695 Biposto Record, a Fiat 500 tweaked to honor the 133 records Abarth claimed to its name over the years. The car was wrapped in Modena yellow and came with a mechanical limited-slip differential. 133 of them were produced.

2016 is the year when the second and last non-500 Abarth car is made. It’s the 124 Spider 2016 Edition, the precursor of the extremely expensive 124 Abarth now on the market. The production run for this one was a bit larger, with 2,500 of them made.

Having already honored Ferrari and Maserati, Abarth bowed to the might of a Japanese bike maker with the 1,390 units of the 695 XSR Yamaha LTD Edition in 2017. Again, we’re talking about visual cues meant to mimic the Japanese two-wheeler, but also some mechanical upgrades, like an Akrapovic exhaust system.

The same year saw the introduction of the 695 Rivale 175 Anniversary, a 350-units strong run packing the usual 180 hp engine, special wheels, and, of course, some visual cues meant to be reminiscent of Abarth’s partner for this project, yacht-maker Riva.

Having released two models in 2017, Abarth did nothing special the following year, but came back in 2019 with the 695 70 Anniversario, celebrating the brand’s 70th birthday. “Intended for collectors and for those who love great performance,” it was limited to 1,949 units, came with Monza exhaust, a green Monza livery, and a special body kit that makes this one look particularly good in the Special Series.

Another Yamaha tribute, the 595 Monster Energy, was released in 2020, with two thousand units celebrating the partnership between Abarth and Yamaha in MotoGP. A bit underpowered when compared to other 500-based Abarths, at just 165 hp, the car makes use of things like McPherson suspension, Koni shocks, and perforated brake discs.

The 595 Scorpioneoro also came to be in 2020, bringing to the table a total black livery, with the exception of the wheels and some detailing on the body. It packs pretty much the same hardware as the other 2020 release.

This year, so far, Abarth released the 695 Esseesse, a 180-hp tiny little car capable of hitting 62 mph in 6.7 seconds. 1,390 units are planned.

Sadly for some customers who want a taste of the Scorpion-badged car, these little machines are not available in all markets. America, for instance, can only dream about them, as it does, for that matter, about the entire 500 range, with the exception of the SUV version.

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