Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rust Free (!) 1981 Fiat Brava

Had I found this car 19 years ago, it may have saved a relationship. OK, that's not true, but it would have provided for some fun times.

Back around 1990, I went to a car show with my girlfriend. This was a big deal as she was not fond of car shows and being around me at car shows (a reoccurring theme with women in my life). The car show was outside of Albany, NY, and she agreed to go because I said that after the show we'd go to Lombardos, a great Italian restaurant located in Albany. (I have no idea if it's still in business, but if it is and you find yourself in Albany, check it out. It has the world's best linguine and clam sauce)

It's about an hour and a half drive to Albany from where I live and we got to the show around 2PM. We walked around for a few hours and as we were about to leave my girlfriend spotted a Fiat 131. "That's a nice car, I wouldn't mind having one of those", she said. OK, being surrounded by Alfas, Lancias, Ferraris, Panteras, Maseratis and a ton of other cool cars, a Fiat 131 was an odd car to single out, but it was a car and it was Italian. That was a huge statement from her.

For the next few months we searched for a Fiat 131 / Mirafiori / Bravo. We found a few. They were all basket cases. Eventually we gave up and bought something far less practical, a house. Her time, energy and considerable talent went into refurbishing, restoring, repairing and rebuilding the house. She forgot about the Fiat.

We split up in 1999. Even if we had found a Fiat 131 / Mirafiori / Bravo I doubt the relationship would have lasted. It may have made it more interesting for a time, though.

I bring that up because it amazes me that 20 or so years ago, when the car was still relatively young, we could not find one in decent condition. They just weren't around. Of course, the internet wasn't really around either (at least it wasn't like it is today) and we were stuck looking for cars in New England. Prone to rust (more like water soluble), Fiats didn't last long in New England.

The Fiat 131 / Mirafiori / Bravo was a pretty conventional car. Front engine, rear wheel drive. It was available as a boxy 4 door, a boxy coupe (like this one) and a boxy station wagon. Boxy styling was big in Italy back in the seventies when this car was created. Front suspension was by McPherson struts, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar. At the rear the live axle had inclined coil spring/shock absorber units and was located by four longitudinal arms and a Panhard rod. Nothing radical, but the 131 / Mirafiori / Bravo handled and rode very well.

The 2.0 liter engine is a gem. Free revving and powerful, it was one of Fiat's best engines. In European trim, with a manual transmission, 0 - 60 came in under 10 seconds. The car being listed on eBay has a US spec engine with a GM sourced 3 speed automatic, so I suspect 60 MPH may take around 12 seconds or more.

OK, I admit that there are many other Fiats out there that are more fun to drive. There certainly better looking Fiats available. So why am I pointing this one out? Because, like so many other cars I've written about, it still exists. I have not seen a Fiat 131 / Mirafiori / Bravo in this condition in a very long time (maybe since that car show in 1990). It's a piece of history, one that's not easy to find in the US. It deserves a good home, it deserves to be brought to shows.

This 1981 Fiat Brava is located in Los Angeles, which gave the body a fighting chance. The seller says it has a "super nice body and paint". The rest of the car looks to be in very nice condition, too. Click here to see the eBay listing. is a nice enthusiast site dedicated to these car. Find it here.

Click here to find an informational article from (a great website for Italian car fans)


Richard said...

haha, great post!

In one hand, nearly $8k for a Brava seems a bit over the top. However, as you mention, its rare. I have never seen another in the US, its probably the last one of its kind in this condition.

Max Power said...

Wow wow wow!!! Back in 1982 when I was in high school, my first car was my mother's 1978 1/2 Fiat Super Brava hand me down (for that half model year, Fiat sold the Brava which retained the old 131 interior and the Super Brava which had the new 1979, the Super Brava became the Brava and the 1978 1/2 Brava was discontinued...and you wonder why Fiat pulled out of the US? LOL).

I loved that car...a truly fantastic and weird interior with a Citroen-like uni-spoke steering wheel, huge on top of the dash glove box, push button AC (which rarely worked), etc. It was a four door 5 speed manual and was eventually traded in by my parents for a 1984 Accord LX...I miss the Fiat...and certainly not the Accord

Anonymous said...

I still hve a 1981 Brava 4 dr with an auto trans that is like new because it was a california car.It has 50k miles and is silver blue in color with a blue interior.It stays in the garage all the time when im not driveing it to shows here in Kenosha Wis.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous--

What, when, where are the cars shows you bring your Brava to. I'm up in Appleton and would love to see it. I miss my old Brava terribly and have been looking for one for some time.