The 128 used to be everywhere. It's hard to believe now, but Fiat used to sell a lot of cars in the US. In 1975 alone, Fiat sold over 100,000 cars here. That's about the same number Honda sold.
On paper, 128s were brilliant little cars... FWD, great handling, lots of room, rev happy engine, good fuel economy and a relatively large dealer network.
Yes, the 128 had all of the above, but it also had iffy electrics, timing belt issues, lousy trade in value and, of course, rust. Lots of rust. No one thought about preserving these cars. When a 128 died or outlived it's usefulness, owners junked them and bought a new car. Probably a Honda. By 1982, Fiat's US sales were down to 14,000 cars (over half were Spiders and X1/9s) and Honda was up to 366,000 cars per year in the US. In a couple of years, Fiat would be gone from the US completely.
It's great to see a car like this in this condition. Other than the seller swapping out the ugly US bumpers for European ones, this is the same car that drove off a Fiat lot in 1976. This was what you got in 1976 when you went out to buy an "economy car". Skinny tires and a thin steering wheel. Bowl shaped hubcaps on steel wheels. No power windows or locks. No cup holders, center console or radio. No glovebox or door bins. You did get a little splotch of fake wood on the dash though, which I find pretty amusing.
The Italians are, rightly, known for beautiful car designs. The design of the 128 is beautiful, but not in the drop-dead gorgeous way we expect. Its design is completely and totally practical. It has lots of headroom, a large trunk and enough interior space for 4 people to be relatively comfortable. Back in 1974, you didn't often see that on most small, inexpensive, 2 door cars.
I have nothing but respect and admiration for the owner and previous owners of this car for keeping it in such great, stock, condition. I hope its new owner does the same.
The bottom end cars being sold today are 100 times more reliable, safer and come standard with amenities that weren't even dreamed of in 1976. What they don't have is soul. The Fiat 128 has soul.
Located in Los Angeles, CA, click here to see the eBay listing. This is a no reserve auction with an opening bid of $2500.00.