Fiat 128

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Fiat 128
Fiat 128 Kent UK.JPG
Manufacturer Fiat
Also called Nasr 128 GLS 1300
Moretti 128 Roadster
Zastava 128/301
SEAT 128, Autobianchi A111
Production 1969–1985
Assembly Rivalta, Torino, Italy
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Casablanca, Morocco (Somaca)[1]
Bogota, Colombia (CCA)
Homagama, Sri Lanka (Upali)
Helwan, Egypt (Nasr)[2]
Body and chassis
Class Small family car
Body style 2-door saloon
4-door saloon
3-door estate
5-door estate (Argentina)
2-door coupe
3-door hatchback
Layout FF layout
Related Fiat X1/9
Transmission 4-speed manual
Wheelbase 2,445 mm (96.3 in)
Length 3,850 mm (151.6 in)
Width 1,590 mm (62.6 in)
Height 1,340 mm (52.8 in)
Curb weight 750–770 kg (1,650–1,700 lb)
Predecessor Fiat 1100
Successor Fiat Ritmo

The Fiat 128 is a small family car marketed by the Italian automotible manufacturer Fiat for model years 1969–1985 in two- and four-door sedan and three-door station wagon variants. (A five-door station-wagon (128-Rural) was produced in Argentina from 1971 but was never offered in Europe.) A two-door sports-coupe (128 SL) joined the range in 1971, to be replaced in 1975 by a three-door sports coupe (128 3P). Rather than a sport or convertible model carrying the 128 nameplate, the 128 running gear and engine were reconfigured for a mid-engined layout and marketed as the Fiat X1/9.

3,107,000 examples were manufactured by Fiat from 1969 to 1985,[3] along with worldwide examples manufactured under license, including those by Zastava, until 2001. The model was voted European Car of the Year for 1970.[4][5]


With engineering by Dante Giacosa and engine design by Aurelio Lampredi,[6] the 128 was noted for its relatively roomy passenger and cargo volume — enabled by a breakthrough innovation to the front-engine, front-drive layout which became the layout "adopted by virtually every other manufacturer in the world" for front-wheel drive.[7] Fiat promoted in its advertising that mechanical features consumed only 20% of the vehicle's volume and that Enzo Ferrari drove a 128 as his personal vehicle."[6]

Fiat built an entire new plant in Rivalta, northwest of Turin, specifically to manufacture the new 128.[8]

Front drive innovation[edit]

First series Fiat 128

Front-wheel drive had previously been introduced to small, inexpensive cars with the British Mini. As engineered by Alec Issigonis, the compact arrangement located the transmission and engine sharing a single oil sump — despite disparate lubricating requirements — and had the engine's radiator mounted to the side of the engine, away from the flow of fresh air and drawing heated rather than cool air over the engine. The layout often required the engine be removed to service the clutch.[9]

As engineered by Dante Giacosa, the 128 featured a transverse-mounted engine with unequal length drive shafts and an innovative clutch release mechanism — an arrangement which Fiat had strategically tested on a previous production model for a full five years, the Primula from its less market-critical subsidiary, Autobianchi.[10] The layout enabled the engine and gearbox to be located side by side without sharing lubricating fluid while orienting an electronically controlled cooling fan toward fresh air flow. By using the Primula as a test-bed, Fiat was able to sufficiently resolve the layout's disadvantages, including uneven side-to-side power transmission, uneven tire wear and potential torque steer, the tendency for the power of the engine alone to steer the car under heavy acceleration.

The compact and efficient layout — a transversely-mounted engine with transmission mounted beside the engine driving the front wheels through an offset final-drive and unequal-length driveshafts — subsequently became common with competitors[6] and arguably an industry standard.[11]

The layout was sufficiently flexible that Fiat reconfigured the 128 drive-train as a mid-engined layout for the Fiat X1/9.


The all new 1.1 liter Fiat SOHC engine, engineered by noted engine designer Aurelio Lampredi, featured an iron block mated to an aluminum head along with a belt-driven single overhead camshaft producing 49 hp.[6]

The 128 was styled similarly to the 124 and 125 and featured rack-and-pinion steering, front disc brakes, independent rear suspension with a transverse leaf spring, and a strut-type front suspension with integral antiroll bar.[6]

Second series (1976) Fiat 128 with new rectangular headlights

Initially, the 128 was available as a two-door or four-door sedan. At the 1970 Turin Motor Show a three-door station wagon model called "Familiare" was added to the lineup.[8] The car was only available with a 1116 cc engine on launch, though the two-door-only 128 Rally edition launched in 1971 used a 1290 cc unit. Also in 1971, the Sport Coupé, an all-new coupé body on a shortened 128 platform, was unveiled at the Turin Show. On launch it was available with both existing 128 engines. The 128 range underwent a facelift in 1972, featuring a revised grille. 1974 saw the launch of the 128 Special, which used the Rally engine in a four-door sedan body. In 1975 the 128 3P (3-door) Berlinetta replaced the Sport Coupe. In 1976, the range received new bumpers, rectangular headlights, taillights and dashboard as well as modifications to the engines. At this time, the wagon was also renamed the "Panorama".

Production of all 128s except that of the base 1100 cc powered model ended in 1979 after the introduction of the Fiat Ritmo/Strada in 1978. In 1980 production of the small three-door station wagon Panorama was dropped from the range and 128 production finally ended in 1985.

Road test[edit]

The British "Motor" magazine tested a Fiat 128 in April 1970, shortly after its UK launch. The car had a top speed of 85.4 mph (137.4 km/h) and accelerated from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 15.5 seconds. An "overall" fuel consumption of 27.5 miles per imperial gallon (10.3 L/100 km; 22.9 mpg-US) was recorded. This put it fractionally behind the contemporary Morris 1300 on maximum speed but usefully ahead on acceleration. The two were closely matched on fuel economy, where both were outrun by the Ford Escort 1300 Super also included in the comparison, here in its four-door version. The Fiat's £876 manufacturer's recommended price was not too far above the Morris 1300's £830 and the Escort's £838. The testers commended the Fiat's interior space and excellent performance. Wind and road noise were low, but engine noise was not.[12]

Moretti 128 Roadster[edit]

Moretti 128 Roadster was a coupe with removable roof (hard, in two parts) made by Moretti and unveiled at the Turin Auto Show 1969. The Moretti (coachbuilder) in Turin was the first to produce an open car based on Fiat 128, using the traditional engine of 1,100 cc. It was built factories via Monginevro in semi-scale and a very limited number of copies. Along with the roadster also a coupe version was also presented (with the same mechanics and aesthetics but with fixed roof) that was produced in several copies, most of which ended up abroad.

Models gallery[edit]

Licensed production[edit]

Zastava 128
Fiat 128 Super Europa, manufactured between 1983–1990 by Sevel Argentina
Manufactured only in Argentina was the five door 128 station wagon, badged as the "128 Rural" .

The 128 formed the basis of the Zastava 128 (four-door sedan) and Zastava 101 (three-door and five-door hatchbacks) ranges of cars manufactured by the "Zastava Automobili" company in Serbia. The 128-based Zastavas were available throughout Europe in the '70s. In Britain, three variants were offered: a three-door hatchback (Zastava Yugo 311/313), four-door saloon (Zastava Yugo 411/413) and a five-door hatchback (Zastava Yugo 511/513). As one of the Serbian automaker's most affordable models, production ended in November 2008.

Zastava also produced the 128 in its original, four-door sedan form. Until 2009, CKD kits were manufactured by Egypt's Nasr car company as the Nasr 128.[2]

In Argentina, the 128 was produced from 1971 to 1990 as a four-door sedan or five-door wagon, the Fiat 128 Rural, the latter unique to Argentina. Several trims and versions were available, including the IAVA sport series. In 1983 the car received a facelift with new headlamps, tail lamps and front grille, which was marketed as the Super Europa.

In Colombia, the 128 was produced by "Compañía Colombiana Automotriz" in Bogota.

In Spain, SEAT manufactured its own version of 128 3P Berlinetta model (31,893 copies).

In Sri Lanka, the Fiat 128 was manufactured by the Upali Motor Company until 1978.


  1. ^ "Historique de la SOMACA". Somaca Casablanca. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "El Nasr closure spells end to long running assembly of Fiat 128 and 131 in Egypt". Retrieved 21 May 2009. 
  3. ^ "Fiat 128: quarant'anni di trazione anteriore" (in Italian). Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  4. ^ "Previous Cars". Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 29 January 2008. 
  5. ^ "Rewind to 1970:Fiat 128.". Quicks. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Collectible Classic: 1971-1979 Fiat 128". Automobile Magazine, August 2012. 
  7. ^ Nutland, Martyn (2012). Brick by Brick: The Biography of the Man Who Really Made the Mini. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse. p. 237. 
  8. ^ a b Becker, Clauspeter (1971), "Fiat 128", in Logoz, Arthur, Auto-Universum 1971 (in German) (Zürich, Switzerland: Verlag Internationale Automobil-Parade AG) XIV: 88 
  9. ^ "Dante Giacosa". Fiat 500 USA. 
  10. ^ Becker, p. 79
  11. ^ "1969-1984 FIAT 128 Saloon". Classic and Performance Car. "It’s the recipe for technical orthodoxy that has since been adopted by the entire industry." 
  12. ^ "Fiat 128 "Once more a winner"". The Motor: p. 23–28. 4 April 1970. 

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