Wednesday, January 20, 2010

1976 Fiat 128 2 Door Sedan

This is the type of car I love finding and writing about. When was the last time you saw a 2 door 128?

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.


Max Power said...

Wow...seeing that 128 brings back memories of my mom's white 1974 4 door 128. I remember that fake splash of wood and that new 'sporty' steering wheel. Ironically enough, I hated that car beacuse we traded in a beloved 124 Coupe for it. And speaking of the huge ugly bumpers, I did manage to incur the wrath of my mom by putting a big WNBC bumper sticker (hey if the spotter saw it and we called in, we could win $500!).

I also remember being stranded in some shady area of NYC late one evening because the front wheels suddenly decided to point in opposite directions.

We traded the 128 in for a 1978 1/2Super Brava (the half year only Super Brava as the 1979's were renamed simply Brava)...but that's another story for when you feature a Super Brava :)

Dave B said...

My very first car was a brand new 1972 Fiat 128 2 door, just like this except in green. I loved that car. This particular car is STILL (as of Sept 21 2010) being listed on eBay for a starting bid of $3500 and is located in Philadelphia. I am really tempted, although it's hard to justify the price considering it was $1995 brand new in 1972. It would likely be a nightmare to maintain and find parts for too. Sigh.

Garyfotodiver said...

I had a yellow 1975 20door sedan. It was fun to drive, but got lousy gas mileage and would not run if the weather was colder than 20F. At about 40,000 miles, it died. Just after I paid off the loan.

Anonymous said...

MICHAEL 1963 - From italy .
La Fiat 128 è stata un'auto molto diffusa in Europa e soprattutto in Italia. Al suo empo era molto moderna. Negli USA è stata venduta per poco tempo e in pochi esemplari, anche perchè in quegli anni in America le auto erano tutte oltre i 5 metri di lunghezza e la 128 con le sue dimensoni compatte era sicuramente vista come "qualcosa di strano".

PECA said...

Just advice for USA lovers of this car that it also can be found in Serbian ZASTAVA FACTORY copy named ZASTAVA 128,its a 4 door version and steel there are a lot of 128 s in Serbia.Mechanic parts are the same as 2 door version and front part of body parts also.Production started in 1983 or 84 and finished few ears ago.I had during last 20 years many ZASTAVA cars but 128 models until 1991 are the best.If you need parts or car try to contact the man who is few lines up in ZASTAVA 750 comments.....

Unknown said...

Chris E
My first car was a '76 128 wagon, in 1980. Most people probably have fond memories of their first car, but I don't think that I am looking through rose colored glasses. Sure, its acceleration was not great and the front air vents leaked water. A lot. But it drove well and only had one breakdown in the four years I had it (timing belt). Those "ugly US bumpers" prevented any damage when I was rear ended, hard, by a van when I stopped for a crosswalk. No rust problems, but this was in SoCal.

I saw one on Ebay a while back and was tempted.

Rick said...

I bought a brand new 1976 Fiat 128 like the one pictured in you story and the color was a great shade of blue, very similar to the shade of blue that displays the date and time of each commenter's post. I loved the way it handled, especially around curves. Maybe this is an urban legend, but I heard that no radio was provided because a "luxury tax" was added in Italy for models with radios. Don't know if that's true or not. My only problem with my 128, and it was a big problem, was its lack of reliability. It nickel and dimed me to death and, finally, when a big problem cropped up (carburetor), I sold it for peanuts to a fixer upper guy and bought a Ford Escort, which was not nearly as fun to drive.