Rare Rides: This 1987 Fiat Is Ritmo, Abarth, 130, and TC

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Today’s Rare Ride wears a lot of different badges. The most important ones are Fiat, Ritmo, and Abarth. Come and check out the sportiest version of the final evolution of Fiat’s replacement for the long-lived 128.

By the late Seventies, Fiat’s 128 was getting long in the tooth. The company needed a new small family car to take the brand through the Eighties. Hatchbacks seemed to be the wave of the future, as Volkswagen paved the way with its new Golf in 1974. Fiat’s own hatchback design was ready early in 1978, debuting at the Turin Motor Show.

As the Ritmo went into production, Fiat implemented a new robotics system at its factory in Italy. Construction of the body shell and welding was automated, allowing Fiat the fun new tagline “Hand-built by robots.” Said robots put together three- and five-door hatchbacks. A convertible version was added in 1982, but was designed and built by Bertone and branded as such. North Americans knew the hatchback versions as Strada.

With the first run of hatchbacks a success, Fiat began designing a revised model known as “series two.” On sale for 1983, the second album had improved NVH levels, and was intended to take on the Ford Escort and Opel Kadett. The Abarth version also appeared in 1983, and Fiat wasn’t finished with Ritmo developments.

There was one more revision in 1985; this one focused on visual changes rather than engineering ones. New door handles for the five-door hatch joined reworked bumpers. Engines were shuffled as well, with a smaller displacement diesel joining other gasoline offerings. Depending on market, engines ranged from 1.1 to 2.0 liters of displacement, the largest of which featured twin cams.

At its debut, the Abarth was the hot hatch of the Ritmo range. With the largest 2.0-liter twin cam engine, horsepower measured an impressive 128. Top speed was about 121 miles per hour, and acceleration to 60 took just 7.8 seconds. All transmissions in Abarths were five-speed ZF manuals. Though performance was considerable, the tech underneath was a bit behind the times (the Ritmo Abarth was the only European Eighties hot hatch to use carburetors throughout). The Ritmo kept its carburetors until 1988, when the model was phased out in favor of the Tipo.

Today’s rare graphite beauty is located in New York and contains a charming glove box flashlight for when your Italian car breaks down. It asks $13,000.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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4 of 18 comments
  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Apr 17, 2019

    Nice-looking car, and it would have been a worthy successor to my former 1974 128SL. This copy looks exceptional, but no old Fiat is worth $13k unless it's a Dino.

  • Stuckonthetrain Stuckonthetrain on Apr 18, 2019

    Curious where people get these maintained and serviced, if you don't self wrench. Even within 100mi of metro NYC (which used to be Italian car ground-zero), I think I can count the number of recommended vintage Italian car specialists on 3 fingers. I bought my '14 500 Abarth from a guy in north NJ who had a handful of old Lancias and Fiats, and even he basically just farmed out different aspects of repair/rebuilds all over the place, as his budget, time and interest level saw fit.

  • Redapple2 Another bad idea from the EVIL gm Vampire.
  • Daniel J Alabama is a right to work state so I'd be interested in how this plays out. If a plant in Alabama unionized, there are many workers who's still oppose joining and can work.
  • ToolGuy This guest was pretty interesting.
  • NJRide So this is an average age of car to be junked now and of course this is a lower end (and now semi-orphaned) product. But street examples seem to still be worth 2500? So are cars getting junked only coming in because of a traumatic repair? If not it seems a lot of cars being junked that would still possibly worth more than scrap.Also Murilee I remember your Taurus article way back what is the king of the junkyard in 2024?
  • AMcA I applaud Toyota for getting away from the TRD performance name. TuRD. This is another great example of "if they'd just thought to preview the name with a 13 year old boy."