Whatever happened to the Fiat Strada

Remember the Fiat Strada?

If not, let me jog your memory…it was the car that bridged the gap between the 128 and the Tipo…built between 1978 and 1988…called the Ritmo everywhere other than the UK, US and Canada?

Not remembering it? Maybe the ad above will help to jog your memory:

Undoubtedly a classic ad – maybe up there with the most iconic car ads of all time with the famous line of “built by robots, driven by Italians“. In the UK, this immediately became rich fodder for the comedy circuit, with “driven by idiots” fast becoming the sign-off. Cruel.

This wasn’t the only joke the Strada had to endure. The name Ritmo translates in Italian to Rhythm. Nothing funny about that I hear you cry. But unfortunately it was also the name of a sanitary towel sold in the US. Oh dear.

Fiat Strada Ritmo
Rhythm is a dancer…

Still, at least all of this took the attention away from the Strada’s rather oddball looks. I could never quite come to terms with the front end, looking, as it did, like a pre-cursor cousin to the Fiat Multipla. Many hatches from the 70s and 80s have grown old gracefully and like Gary Lineker, actually look better today than they did then. But not with the Strada. The mild facelift in 1982 brought with it twin headlights which certainly improved things, but it was still no looker. And those alloys? For me, they’re a close second to the Fiat Panda’s Italia 90 efforts when it comes to crassness. But there’s no festival of football to excuse these wheels.

That said, there’s something effortlessly cool about the Abarth version. Sold between 1984 and 1987, the twin carb Strada Abarth was quicker than the iconic, fuel injected MK2 Golf GTi. It was also well received by the motoring press. Unfortunately, years of reliability and corrosion issues had dented the Strada’s reputation, so sales suffered. Fortunately, enthusiasts have kept the Abarth version alive so there’s probably more hot versions around than the lesser models. I could only find one for sale, this left hooker, one owner from new finished in grey http://www.carandclassic.co.uk/car/C141251/ The only problem? It is currently sat in Italy. But look on the bright side. You’d have an epic drive home and it looks exceptionally good on original Italian period number plates.

Fiat Strada Ritmo For Sale Italy
Just think of the journey back home

But like any self respecting hot hatch of the 80s, it looks much better (and somewhat faster), when finished in red!

Fiat Strada Abarth in red
Red adds another 10bhp…allegedly

Picture courtesy and copyright of Tony Harrison of www.betaboyz.co.uk

The Fiat Strada is perhaps another example of a car that left me cold when it was available new. I never liked the standard car’s looks and even as a nipper, I somehow knew that the car’s lack of corrosion protection would see the cars meet their maker long before their German rivals. But if I saw one on my way into the office tomorrow morning, I know for certain that it would bring with it a feeling of glee and admiration. For an original Strada to still be alive in 2010, it means it has enjoyed life with a number of careful owners and is therefore one of the great survivors. Even better if it doesn’t have the kudos of the famous scorpion badge on the grille and rear end.

But all things considered, I’ll take the Abarth thank you. In red. With Italian plates. Thank you.

Update 15th November 2010:

Delighted to say that James Coghlan has been in touch with pictures of his rather lovely Fiat Superstrada Cabrio. Both photos taken at Westonbirt this year. Thanks for getting in touch James. Lovely example.

Fiat Superstrada Ritmo cabrioFiat Superstrada Ritmo cabrio

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

32 comments

  1. April 7, 2010
    James Clark

    Now this has made me come over a bit thingy. I loved my Strada back in the day. I knew it was rubbish, but it was willing, fun and, crucially, cheap enough to wreck without too much (financial) pain. Many happy times in it, usually involving understeer and ZZ Top.

    Reply
    • April 7, 2010
      MajorGav

      The uncanny and strange thing is that I was singing Give me all your lovin’ as I wrote the blog post. Very strange!

      Reply
  2. October 17, 2010
    James Coghlan

    I own a 1984 Superstrada cabrio in red! A fun summer runaround and it turns heads! I get comments when I am out in it. People fondly remember these cars from the 80’s that have all but disappeared from our roads now

    Reply
    • October 17, 2010
      MajorGav

      Thanks for reading and commenting James. Glad to read about a survivor!

      Would love to see pics if you have some?

      Reply
    • June 22, 2015
      Cliff

      Hi mate I’m currently restoring a strada cabrio, where do I get parts??

      Reply
  3. November 11, 2010
    Jamie Sadler

    Thanks for the write-up and pictures. I got a great deal on a new Strada in 1981 due to faded paint (Hawaii); practically no one wanted the cars. I think I paid about $3,000 brand new! The warranty covered many things for several years – including rust. Got thousands of dollars worth of work done under warranty. Kept the car until 2000 putting over 130K on it; then donated it!! Five door hatchback with sunroof. I once took a REFRIGERATOR home in the hatchback of that car! In 1990’s I lived in DC area and many, many junk yards had Stradas – so parts were no problem and very, very cheap. I do most of my own repairs – the Strada held up well and was very useful. Fun too – but yes, ugly!

    Reply
    • November 11, 2010
      MajorGav

      What a great story! One of my favourite comments ever posted on PetrolBlog! Paid next to nothing, ended up costing Fiat thousands of dollars in repairs and then went on to do 130k miles in the thing. Brilliant! Such a shame there are so few left on the road today. Do you have any pictures of your Hawaiian Strada?!

      Reply
      • November 12, 2010
        Jamie Sadler

        No pictures. Silver car. Fun too!

        Cheers!

        Reply
  4. November 12, 2010
    Jamie Sadler

    Here’s another topic for your consideration – while we’re chatting:

    Ferrari Mondial. Wait a minute – don’t just dismiss the car — hear me out!!

    1. Let’s say someone can work on MOST of the items on a given car and has the time to do so. Start there.

    2. Let’s say that same person begins looking for a Mondial in good shape NOTICING that the price of Mondials is at an all time LOW. Check it out! They are selling for $15,000 and up. Mondials are V8s, mid/rear engine. Not much room for hands, though. Engine and transmission are on a drop-down frame, though – for those who can do that level of work.

    3. Let us further say this person has a few dollars/Pounds/Euros they can use for gambling purposes…; and room in the garage for a Ferrari.

    4. Join Ferrari Chat website and read all the hundreds of threads available telling us how to fix Mondial problems …. OK. So what is the primary problem with Mondials? The fuse box. Updated fuse boxes are available for $1,000; and a second, smaller fuse box is available (to get the high temperature wires OUT of the main fuse box) for another $1,000.

    5. Let’s face it – most of us could NEVER take care of our cars without the web.

    6. Mondial’s are being parted-out all the time – so parts are available fairly cheaply. [Similar to my Fiat Strada experience – cheap original parts available.]

    7. Get the Mondial in good shape and enjoy it. It’s a very, very fun car to drive and many folks can’t take their eyes off of the car.

    8. Put some money aside to pay for major maintenance as necessary; I’m NOT going to say it is a cheap car to take care of – but it’s not THAT bad – especially considering the low price paid to buy the car.

    9. The gamble is – it might go up in value over the years if it is dependable. [Key point – the fuse box MUST be redone (affects cooling fan/fans, fuel pump, and a few other critical systems) – or all bets are off.]

    10. Mine is 1983 QV (four valves per cylinder) Grigio (Grey) Cabriolet.

    11. A high quality supercharger is available for those who want more power. I don’t need it — but perhaps one day I will….!

    12. Hmmmm. Fun to work on, fun to drive. A Ferrari that doesn’t cost me that much is still a Ferrari to most people on the street.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  5. April 1, 2011
    James Coghlan

    Sadly, my red Superstarad cabrio is up for sale, hope it finds a loving home, if you think you could care for this wonderful underdog, please go to
    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/1984-FIAT-SUPER-STRADA-85-CABRIO-/190518031885?pt=Automobiles_UK&hash=item2c5bc2760d

    And bid money!

    James

    Reply
    • April 1, 2011
      MajorGav

      Good luck with the sale James. Hope it goes to a good home.

      Reply
  6. May 6, 2011
    Jerry

    I picked up a Fiat Strada last summer for $50 from the original owner. It hadn’t run for many years, and was a struggle to get going, but now is running great. My son drives it in college, and gets a lot of comments on it. I think they like its’ retro appearance.
    The car is surprisingly rust free, and the interior is in excellent shape. It’s been fun bringing it back to life. I have yet to ever see another one.

    Reply
    • May 6, 2011
      MajorGav

      $50?! Sweet. Great to see a Strada saved from oblivion.

      Do you have any pics?

      Reply
      • May 7, 2011
        Jerry

        I have pictures, but don’t see where I can upload them with my comments.

        Reply
        • May 8, 2011
          MajorGav

          You can email them to be if you like? If you send the comments too, I can add a footnote to the main section. Any good?

          Reply
  7. August 1, 2011
    paul

    had a white hand me down strada back in the early 80’s, bought in MA then taken to Ohio for college…then down to Ft. Lauderdale a couple times….and many trips to montreal, it was fun to drive and only replaced the clutch once, brings back a lot of memories..the rust factor was undeniable, and the only thing holding the rear window in place was probably the multitude of windsurfing related stickers ( big, back in the day)- thx for sharing…

    Reply
    • August 1, 2011
      MajorGav

      Ha! I love the comment about the stickers holding the rear window in place! You simply don’t get that sort of thing with modern cars! Shame.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  8. September 8, 2011
    Joel

    I loved my strada it was the best dogone car. Four wheel indenpendent suspension I also got 45 miles to the gallon with it and it was wind tunnel tested to 120 miles an hour. I never felt a thing in high winds. Wish I still had it. Strada lover forever. Joel

    Reply
    • September 8, 2011
      MajorGav

      There’s a whole lot of love out there for the Strada. Such a shame there’s so few left now…

      Reply
  9. October 15, 2011
    steve

    Like to get one more

    Reply
  10. March 14, 2012
    kevin

    I had 3 Fiat Strada super 1500cc, they were all reliable engine wise, but electrics were crap the brake lights would fill up with water. Nippy for their day with a 5 speed gearbox, Its a shame you don’t see any around any more.

    Reply
    • March 14, 2012
      MajorGav

      Three of them? Good effort!

      As you say, a real shame there are hardly any left. Cracking cars.

      Reply
  11. January 12, 2014
    Scott Hume

    My first car was a Y reg Strada San Remo which I bought from my folks in 1989.

    It was biege with silver go faster stripes on the bonnet running from the air vent and “San Remo” on the rear pillars.

    Served me well for 2 years going to and from college.

    Only rust was in the boot where the screen wash filler was.

    Reply
  12. February 26, 2014
    james

    I am the editor for a magazine here in America called the Auto Glass Journal. It is one of the oldest magazines in America and was first printed in 1954. I am writing an article on the 1982 Fiat Strada and need some high resolution photos. Do you know where I could find these or know anyone who would like to have their car in a magazine? I only need one or two photos that are high quality. Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    • August 26, 2014
      markymark

      I have a 1982 Mk1 fiat strada 105tc which I’m doing up at the moment, believed to be only a hand full left in the UK.

      Reply
  13. February 23, 2015
    Virtue

    There was a Strada Abarth parked in the car park where I practice with my band. Its an old industrial site and I believe theres a car workshop somewhere on the site so i’m guessing its a project of theirs. It was parked for a few weeks but has disappeared now, I hope it wasnt stolen! It wasnt in the best of nick but looked like it could still drive, and it was in silver like that Italian one!

    Reply
  14. March 18, 2015
    Fatty Two SAAB’s

    Had both the Strada 105tc 1600cc & the Abarth 130tc 2000cc versions, in the mid eighties.
    Both great fun to drive,
    Many happy memories of ripping around the streets and country lanes of southern England. Not a speed camera to be seen in those days!

    Reply
    • March 24, 2015
      Gavin Big-Surname

      Those were the days! Two own a Strada when it was relatively new must have been joyous.

      Reply
  15. May 20, 2015
    Garrison Ranger

    I bought a 1986 black 130TC early last year for around £4000 – had at around £3000 work done on it so far – makes no sense at all but I love her!. …my wife thinks im made – the neighbours think I have lost the plot but I have to say that its a real joy to drive and I have been stopped so many times by people asking me about it – wouldn’t sell it for anything but I know that its going to cost me a small fortune in the coming years and still be less than what I paid for it….sad but true………who cares?

    Reply
  16. October 17, 2015
    Bombhead

    Yep the mk1 strada 105tc had a sound all of its own & were a far better looking car than the mk2 or any of the other ‘hot hatches’ of the time.
    Anyone got any photo’s they can post on here?

    Reply
  17. December 1, 2015
    Sean

    I had 5 stradas in the 80’s my mates in there escorts and cortinas used to try and catch someone in a xr2 and i would sit and laugh this went on for a few weeks and i had a go in my 65cl i , i caught it much to my mates amazment but was nicked by the police in a 2.8 granada the copper said i dont know how fast you was going i had a job to catch you… not bad for a 1.3 engine eh ?
    This happened in salisbury uk.

    Reply

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