3ma 2016

  131 story






By Kevin Doyle

The Series 2


The Fiat 131 model was one of Fiat’s success stories remaining in production for in excess of 10 years by Fiat themselves and to this very day (2007) in various versions around the world. Over 1.5 million Fiat versions were produced over 3 iterations of the car. This is the story of the Fiat produced, series 2 model.


In 1978 and after the success of the series 1 version, no doubt fuelled by the early successes on the world rally stages of it’s Abarth rally version, Fiat followed the example of car manufacturers the world over by launching a refreshed and updated 131 range. A range of changes to styling, construction, engines, trim, options and performance as well as an expanded model range lifted the image of the car above the worthy but somewhat dull image of the first version, dull because the car had been conceived during the oil crisis and had lost many of the performance features of it’s forerunner (Fiat 124) such as twin cam engines and rear disc brakes. Although the changes touched many aspects of the car the new version was immediately recognisable as a 131 retaining as it did the same body shells.


Body Styles


These were carried over from the series 1 car and meant that the series 2 was again available in 2,4 & 5 door (Estate – Now called the Panorama) forms. Changes to the construction led by computerised laser measurements led to a quieter driving experience as exterior noises were reduced.







Larger rectangular headlights and a new grill with 4 horizontal chrome bars replaced the old frontal treatment. At the rear, similar changes were made to the lighting with a larger rectangular lighting cluster replacing the old sideways and very distinctive T shape. Twin rear fog lights were incorporated into a Fiat light design for the first time with this car. Door mirrors were changed to matt black and the previous grooves on the bonnet and boot lid were gone to leave a flush finish. Inside a designer dash with a unique glove box design was standard on all models except the basic L version. The new dash also supported a completely re-worked heating and ventilation system that incorporated side window demisters. The Fiat quoted drag co-efficient was 0.40.




At launch the range consisted of 3 trim levels. L (Lusso), CL (Comfort Lusso) and the excitingly sounding Supermirafiori. The range was expanded later in the same year to include the Mirafiori Sport (aka Racing in some markets).The L version came with a 1300 engine while the CL was available with a 1300 (65 bhp), 1600 (75 bhp) or 2000 (60 bhp) diesel engine. These petrol engines were pushrod and did not really live up to Fiat’s sporty reputation. Instead this role fell to the Supermirafiori which came with exotic twin cam engines in 1300 (82 bhp) and 1600 (96 bhp) capacities.


A larger capacity 2500 (72 bhp) diesel engine was also available in Super trim while the range topper was the Sport/Racing version with a 2000 (115 bhp) engine.



A limited run of a supercharged model based on the Sport/Racing version was sold in 1981 –It had a 2000 engine producing 140 bhp and was badged “Volumetrico”.





The standard L & CL versions were pretty basic in their equipment levels. Over and above the minimum one would expect, the CL provided a clock, front headrests and a 5 speed gearbox. The real advantages of 131 ownership came with the Super and Sport trim levels.


The Supermirafiori was the flagship model for a short period after launch and was specified as both a luxury and a sporting version. The following items were fitted as standard equipment:

  • Twin Cam engine fitted with a weber twin choke carbuerretor.

  • 5 speed gearbox.

  • Sports steel wheels.

  • Matt resin bumpers.

  • Front & rear headrests and a rear arm rest.

  • Velour seat coverings.

  • Rev counter

  • Tinted Glass


The Sport/Racing version offered all of the above plus:

  • Quad quartz halogen headlights

  • Front bib spoiler integrated with matching wheel arch coverings and side trim.

  • An aggressive chip cutter grill with the new Fiat laurel wreath badge.

  • Matt black trim eliminating all bright-work.

  • Twin sports door mirrors.

  • Air horn

  • Dark anthracite sports wheels – Fitted with Pirelli P6 tyres in some markets.

  • Luxury interior.

  • A stubby gearbox with remote Abarth shifter.

  • Speedometer calibrated to 140 mph (In imperial markings)

  • Top tint on the windscreen

  • Unique colour schemes.

A special edition version of the Sport was marketed in Germany. This was called the Walter Rohrl after their world championship winning rally driver. In addition to the standard equipment it included twin rear spoilers (roof and boot lid mounted), twin colour side stripes widening as they approached the rear of the car, different paint treatment on the steel wheels and additional driving lights.


The diesel versions of the 131 were distinguished by having an oil pressure gauge instead of a rev counter, twin round headlights with vertical elements in the grill and a large accommodating centre bulge in the bonnet. A commercial version (The Marengo) was also available with a diesel engine.





Power Output

Top Speed (Fiat Auto)


0-60mph (Source Motoring magazines & Fiat Auto)

1297 OHV

65 Bhp

150 Km/h

16 secs

1301 DOHC

82 Bhp

160 km/h


1585 OHV

75 Bhp

160 Km/h

13 secs

1585 DOHC

96 Bhp

170 Km/h

12 secs.

1995 DOHC

115 Bhp

180 Km/h

10 secs

1995 DOHC Vx

140 Bhp

190 Km/h

9 secs

1995 Diesel

60 Bhp

140 km/h


2445 Diesel

72 Bhp

150 km/h





At UK launch the colours available were: 

  • Kent Green

  • VIP Green

  • Paper Blue

  • Turtle Dove

  • Champagne yellow

  • Metallic Blue

  • Metallic Green

  • Dark Blue

  • White

  • Silver

The Sport colours were almost unique as follows: 

  • Black

  • Silver

  • Gun metal grey

  • Racing Orange

Some of the body colours had a choice of exterior trim, seat belt and interior upholstery colours.


Prices at launch in the UK


1300 L 2 door : £2597

1300 L 4 door : £2748

1600 CL 4 Door : £3220

1600 CL Estate : £3515

1600 TC Super : £3595

2000 TC  Sport : £4636


Optional Extras (on some models)

  • 5 Speed gearbox (L version)

  • Air Conditioning

  • Inertia reel seat belts

  • Limited slip differential

  • Tinted Glass

  • Halogen headlights

  • Alloy wheels

  • Headrests (L version)

  • Wider tyres

  • Energy absorbing bumpers

  • Adjustable seat backs (L version)

  • Sun Roof

  • Automatic transmission (1600 versions)

  • Hinged rear side windows (2 door versions)

  • Rear wash wipe (Panorama)

  • Metallic Paint

  • Anti theft system

  • Rev counter




Some of the marketing for the series 2 ranged from inspired (the caged Supermirafiori growling like a cornered animal) to cheesy – The Fiat brochure of the time associated the L with a busy salesman, the CL and Super driven by ”busy” Executives. The Super driver describes his car as being very hard to catch – “Not unlike himself” his wife tells him. Obviously in those days Fiat were ignoring the female purchasing power!


What was the flagship model like to drive…?


The UK motoring press very were very complimentary about the Fiat 131, particularly the sporty versions. The following quotes related to the 131 Sport, when the car was available new and some when the car had achieved classic status.



Article Title

Negative Quotations

Positive Quotations

What Car

A Sporting chance for the family man – A group test of the BMW 316, Alfa Giulietta 1.6, Escort RS 2000 and 131 Sport.

“The Fiat is a little temperamental until fully warm. The Fiat suffers from excessive noise from all quarters”

“The Fiat is probably the most successful shoe horn job there has ever been, managing to have the feel of a racer and the appeal of a sensible family saloon. As a driver’s car it is every bit as good as the RS2000 and yet is eminently suitable for weekend trips to the supermarket.”


Giant Test between the RS2000 and 131 Sport

The steering could do with more sensitivity at the straight ahead, the engine noise can be a real problem at times and needs to be reduced, and the dashboard has just as many internal buzzes and sizzles as every other 131 we have driven.

“Fiat’s refined 131 Sport tangles with Britain’s top hot shoe special and proves that back street brawn Italian style is the thing to beat.”

“As far as hotshoe saloons Ford have been building the best for upwards of 5 years and it is probably time they were bettered, this Fiat have duly done.”


Road test comparison with Giulietta 1.6, BMW 320, Escort RS2000, Triumph Dolomite Sprint & Cavalier Coupe.

Suffers from excessive noise.

“The Mirafiori is a clever package which deserves and is almost certain to achieve great success. It is a most enjoyable car to drive in all respects but one – The interior noise level. If Fiat can only put that right they will be on to a real winner.”


Road test comparison with Giulietta 1.6, Datsun 180B, Cortina 2.0 Ghia, Lancia Beta 2000 & Cavalier Coupe.

“A sporting thirst” “The most horribly crude biscuit tin of a car” “Cold running spots made it difficult to drive smoothly”

“If the buyer is after entertainment then the Fiat comes out clearly on top. The Mirafiori sounds sporting in the most pleasing ways backing up it’s somewhat ostentatious looks with very good handling and steering thanks partly to those excellent tyres, and good enough performance.”


Long Term report

The wipers are ridiculously slow,  Above 4000 rpm the really starts to hum. The clock has the loudest tick in the motoring world

Handling & Grip – What the 131 Sport is all about – “I shall miss the phenomenal handling coupled to Pirelli P6 grip.”

Cars & Car Conversions

Short test

“The sound level is tiring on a long day’s march. The dipped headlamps are feeble”

There can be no arguing with the excellence of the road-holding and handling.

Classic & Sportscar

Review of 131 Sport & Abarth.

“Rust – surprise surprise – is the biggest killer of Mirafiori Sports”

On the move it’s the sort of car you quickly feel at home in, airily glazed and with an air of chic plushness you don’t usually find in this category of mass market road burner.

A fine drive, lots of sporting pedigree, period appeal by the bucket-load, rarity – The Mirafiori has plenty going for it…Can the RS2000 really be worth double the money?


Sports Saloon competition.

Remarkably uncomfortable seating and is surprisingly unrefined with busy, buzzy behaviour.


The Mirafiori Sport manages to be a car in demand among our number for it is satisfying to drive. This can be attributed to a responsive engine, slick gearchange, quick rack & pinion steering with just the right amount of built in compliance, brakes that thrive on frequent use, and suspension conventionally but competently executed to provide handling to a high degree.


Car Comparison

“The TC engine provides rapid acceleration but is noisy in the process, the low gearing doing little to keep sounds levels down.”

The handling is excellent yet the ride dosen’t suffer. The Sport has one of the best comfort/handling compromises we have come across. The twin cam engine provides rapid acceleration but is noisy in the process.


Road Test

The steering is heavy until you get the wheels rolling, the rather harsh gearbox requires quite a bit of expertise and not a little effort before you can play it smoothly.”

You get a lot of car for your money, It is tough, well built, well equipped and offers the sort of performance which comes only in more expensive models.






Kevin Doyle