Whatever happened to the Fiat Argenta?

Go on, admit it – you’d completely forgotten about the Fiat Argenta, hadn’t you? Maybe you weren’t even aware of its existence. Which is hardly surprising, given that – according to How Many Left? – the last Fiat Argenta disappeared off the streets of Britain in 2010.

A victim of Scrappage? Who knows, but if so, the big Fiat would have suffered the indignity of being sacrificed in the name of something like the Hyundai i10. What a crushing blow. Literally.

First introduced in Italy in 1981, the Fiat Argenta was a replacement for the ageing Fiat 132 (shown below) and it arrived in the UK in 1982. Fiat’s timing couldn’t have been worse.

1978-1981 Fiat 132 diesel

The collective heads of the British buying public had already been turned by more practical hatchbacks, with the beamed-down-from-outer-space styling of the Ford Sierra arriving later in 1982. The saloon car was a fusty relic of the 1970s, no longer an object of desire in the UK. But that wasn’t Fiat’s only problem.

You see, the name Argenta sounds remarkably like the name of a country Britain was at war with in 1982. And no amount of marketing could get around that sort of issue. No, the Fiat Argenta was doomed from the start. The “luxury car” would sink without a trace.

Much like a 1980s Italian car on a damp morning in Basingstoke, sales of the Fiat Argenta would stutter. And much like a 1980s Italian car stood in the same damp air for a number of weeks, sales would eventually disintegrate. Unwanted, unloved, but certainly not unforgettable.

Not that it wasn’t well equipped. For £6,345, the Fiat Argenta offered power steering, a stereo radio, central locking, a multifunction control panel, dimming interior lights, electric front wheels, deep pile carpeting and hand-trimmed cloth seats. Hand-trimmed seats – ooh, the luxury.

Whatever happened to the Fiat Argenta

UK buyers were limited to one engine, Fiat’s familiar 2.0-litre overhead twin-cam. Producing 113bhp, it would help to propel the Argenta to 62mph in 11.6 seconds, before going on to a top speed of 105.6mph. Not that Mr Argenta Man would want to travel too fast in his “luxury car”.

Fiat claimed that a “luxury car doesn’t have to be boring”, suggesting “at weekends it’s a sports car”. Which was a little like suggesting Colin from accounts likes to go bog snorkelling at the weekend.

Nobody was convinced, with most buyers seeing through the marketing waffle and realising the Fiat Argenta was little more than an updated Fiat 132, a car which itself stemmed from as far back as 1972. By the time the Fiat 132 badge died in 1981, the car had had more facelifts than Joan Rivers.

1983 Fiat Argenta facelift

And a new interior and revised front and rear ends wasn’t going to be enough for the Argenta. Sales limped on until 1984, by which time it had received a facelift of its own, with the corporate front grille managing to strip away any character the Argenta once had.

Let’s not forget the original Argenta had the look of a larger, plusher version of the Fiat 131 Mirafiori, and that’s never a bad thing. It also benefited from a set of superb door handles and the best steel wheels we’ve ever seen. You could never describe the Fiat Argenta as pretty or elegant, but in much the same way as the Lancia 2000 Sedan, it had charm. Sadly the facelift simply made it charmless.

Fiat-Argenta-14-inch-steel-wheels

It was replaced by the Fiat Croma and immediately started its decline, leading to its extinction in 2005. Not that all is lost, because whilst How Many Left? suggests there are none on the road, there appears to be four cars listed as SORN. If you happen to own one of these cars, please get in touch.

So in the words of Eva Peron, “don’t cry for the Fiat Argenta”. It won’t be easy, you’ll think it’s strange, when we try to explain how we feel. You couldn’t stay all your life toe and heel. Looking out of the electric windows, staying out of the sun.

Have we said too much, there’s nothing more we can think of to say to you. So we’ll leave you with this Italian TV ad for the Fiat Argenta. If you love smoking two cigarettes at once, this is the car for you.

Further waffle you might like

Facebook Comments

comments

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.

14 comments

  1. August 14, 2014
    Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

    Left hand drive, UK-registered Fiat Argenta in Britain.

    https://twitter.com/PMozzy/status/499990213427732480

    This pleases me.

    Reply
  2. August 16, 2014
    Rafael

    Seeing the first picture (the pre-restyling Argenta) it strikes me the resemblance with the Fiat 130 saloon. That´s not bad at all, the 130 was an elegant and tasteful machine. Shame the 130 was born in the sixties, perharps Fiat didn´t realized that in the eighties people wanted something different…

    Reply
  3. August 21, 2014
    Kenny Carwash

    There was an Argenta that lived round the corner from us when I was a kid. Already a bit of a car buff at the age of about nine, I commented to my Grandad about how it was the only one he’d ever seen. Funnily enough, he blamed it on the Argenta/Argentina similarity as well.

    Reply
    • August 22, 2014
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      I bet you haven’t seen once since, either!

      Reply
      • August 28, 2014
        Kenny Carwash

        Correct!

        Reply
  4. August 26, 2014
    James Nicholson

    I own the only right hand drive Argenta Volumex that was made. It is still on the road (in the summer). Here’s a write up of a recent car show we attended – http://themotor.net/?p=9297

    Reply
  5. September 29, 2014
    Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

    Left-hand drive Argenta for sale here:
    http://www.carandclassic.co.uk/car/C538195

    Reply
  6. October 24, 2014
    Massimo Pini

    Great piece Gavin,

    I have fond childhood memories of being picked up from Milan airport at the start of my summer holidays in a Fiat Argenta by a cab driver named Ugo. He liked it so much that I remember he upgraded to the facelift model. Quite illegally, we were 6-up in the big Fiat but there seemed to be plenty of space – and the boot swallowed all our luggage. It was a bit of a barge and not nearly as well proportioned as the 132, but I agree that it still had a certain charm.

    Cheers,
    MP

    Reply
    • November 12, 2014
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      6-up in an Argenta!

      That sounds a world away from the image in the TV ad!

      Cheers for commenting, Massimo.

      Reply
  7. December 3, 2014
    David

    hi, is there anybody who have series 1 door interior carpet, for the whole front and rear doors? Colour doesn’t matter.

    like this, with the straight armrest:

    http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/NjgyWDEwMjQ=/z/nXsAAOxyOalTcK7q/$_1.JPG

    Reply
  8. December 12, 2014
    Martin

    I have fiat argenta 1982 120 ie my father says that is the only one in macedonia it has some intresting parts in it electric wheles twin cam 115 horsepowers original with everything standard in the body and outside 100% repaired everything new on it it has and full injection fuel sistem abarth engine and my father modified it litle it has about 160horspowers he just putted in him abarth parts and changed the fuel pump it has 17 inches aluminium wheles and it has 64000kilometres driven, i have pfotos of him if somebody is intrested im selling it but idk how much is his prise at this position and everything functioning right , sorry for bad english, and thanks .

    Reply
  9. March 11, 2015
    Paul Smith

    Ditto the Argentina name. The Morris Ital-esque facelift probably didn’t help convince many people. Lancia’s rust issues possibly didn’t do Fiat much good either.

    Reply
    • March 24, 2015
      Gavin Big-Surname

      “The Morris Ital’esque facelift” – now there’s an endorsement!

      Reply
  10. July 21, 2015
    Terry

    I remember the Fiat dealer offering great deals to get rid of their Argenta stock. I was told that because of the Falklands war people didn’t want a car that sounded similar to Argentina so the Falklands war killed the Argenta

    Reply

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *