Thursday, February 10, 2011

1981 Fiat Strada - How Many Can Be Left?

It hasn't been easy finding interesting cars to write about this week. I almost didn't do a post today, just because there seems to be so few interesting cars out there right now. Then this popped up...

I've been writing this blog every day for 2 1/2 years. This is the first nice Fiat Strada I have seen for sale.

I've wanted to write about one because in the early 1980s I briefly dated a girl who owned a Strada. (Looking back, I think I dated her because she owned a Strada. I figured that any woman who was cool enough / brave enough to use a Strada as daily transportation had to be fun, right? Crazy was more like it...) We took it on a number of trips and it was fun to drive. A few years after we stopped dating she called me and said she was buying a new car. She offered to sell the Strada to me. I came really close to buying it, but wound up buying an Audi Fox station wagon instead. I still don't know if I made the right decision. The Audi was practical and dependable, but the Fiat would have been more fun (and cooler looking).

The Strada was the last sedan Fiat sold in the US. It came with a 1.5 liter engine that, while no rocket, could be entertaining if you kept the revs up. The handling was decent and the ride very good for a small car.

The exterior was what set the Strada apart. The hood sloped down to meet the grille and the Strada had a pair of round headlights that were recessed into the grille and hood. The coolest touch was the door handles, which were also round.

Unfortunately, the Strada had a lot of Fiat's typical problems; poor electrical systems, mechanical problems and, of course, rust. Lots of rust.

This Strada is in amazing shape. It has been restored, or at least refurbished. It's recently had its head and 5 speed transmission rebuilt. It's recently been painted. The seller points out that it was once a Jalopnik "Down On The Street" car. You can see the article - and plenty of pictures of the car - here.

Located in Alameda, CA, click here to see the Craigslist ad.


Richard said...

Handbuilt by robots you know? haha, I think that's the only thing most people will remember about this car...even though its not really about the car rather than Fiat's new automated factory.

My uncle had a silver one and even after all the rusting horror stories, he purchased another Fiat, a Croma. They forgot to bolt the engine down correctly and after a spectacular breakdown, they refunded his money in full and he never went back to Fiat. Ended up with a nice Nissan 180SX Turbo (240SX in the US, no Turbo, not as fun).

Thinking of the Croma...I believe they started to produce them in 1985? That would mean easy (?) importation to the US, that would be a rare car to have over here.

If your stuck for interesting cars, you could checkout some European sites with cars older than 25 years. A few weeks back after I sold my RX7 (thanks for the post btw!) I nearly purchased an 1984 Citroen BX until the wife found out what I was up too.

Anonymous said...

The Strada is what killed Fiat in America. It is why it took so long for them to come back here. They had to wait for anyone who ever bought a Strada to forget about it, or beat some statute of limitations on bad product vending or something.
Let's see, rust, torque steer, overheating, lack of build quality, did I mention rust? Tacky plastic interior with lots of break-off parts.
All the Strada (Ritmo in Europe) was, was a Yugo in a larger size, more inconvenient to push home.. (An easy way to consider the car when you see one Just think: Bigger Yugo, Bigger Problem.)
Fiat needed a really, really good car right then to beat the lira/dollar exchange rate and the crop of truly good cars coming from Japan.
Don't get me wrong, I love Fiats. I've owned a dozen. I have one now. I HATE the Strada. It ruined the reputation of an otherwise viable car company here in the USA. (oh, did someone mention rust?)

Chris Keen said...

Ha! Great minds think alike... I wrote about the same car!

And, torque steer on a smog-strangled 1.5-liter car? Is that possible?

rrshadow2 said...

I had one of these about 5 years ago, I bought it from the original owner. It was a 1982 with Fuel Injection and this was her 2nd Strada. I found it oddly when I went to look at an Edsel across the street from where it was parked under a tree and the house had a Sold sign on it. I knocked on the door and asked her if she wanted to sell it. $300 and it was mine. We trailered it home, pulled the plugs, changed the fuel and it started right up! I drove this car for 3 trouble free years until the fuel pump finally went and I sold it Not running for $500!!

Jon said...

I just scrolled through a bunch of listings in France. Saw a few cabrios and a nice Abarth 125 TC.

The base models were up for grabs for peanuts.

Max Power said... Strada did not kill Fiat in the US. It certainly did not help matters but Fiat's sales were in a nose dive since their zenith in 1976 when they actually moved over 100,000 cars in the US.

The Strada like the rest of the US lineup in the late 70's early 80's suffered from an already bad reputation, a horrible dealer network, attrocious build quality (including the infamous Russian steel), a total lack of understanding (or even trying to understand) of the US market, and awful marketing.

The Strada greatly suffered by having its already weird out there looks from the Ritmo compunded by the giant US bumpers and the 'color coordinated' interior (blue exterior means you also get blue steering wheel...etc)

Anonymous said...

I loved the Fiat Strada. I drove 3 of them in the 80's. It is still the best car to get through the snow that I have ever driven! You just couldn't get stuck. My last one here in Syracuse quit on me with a bad head gasket. The radiator cooling fan lost it's electrical connection on a very hot July day, as we were leaving to go camping for the weekend down to Watkins Glen racetrack. The temperature shot up into the red, and the rest is history. Too bad that had to happen.

Barry Z. said...

I had a 1981 with big comfortable, cloth seats, brick red exterior, great interior space. It was a terrific car. At 90K miles it started having a transmission problem, so I bought a junker for parts. Swapped the trans and drove it another 60K miles. I had none of the usual complaints, just the trans. If I could buy one today, I probably would.

Unknown said...

I would have another Strada too! I had 2, and put over 300k miles on each of them. They were still running when I sold them for something bigger.