A touch of Porsche magic gives the unique 1982 Seat Ronda its special allure.
Only die-hard Porsche fans and Seat connoisseurs know the secret of the Ronda’s appeal after all these years. For most people the Ronda is merely an attractive front-wheel drive car. For anyone conversant with the magic of Zuffenhausen, the Ronda is almost a Porsche in disguise, invisible to thieves and the law alike. What precisely was the Ronda? The Ronda had an efficient five door body, front wheel drive, rorty petrol motor and all-round disc and drum brakes. There is more to it than that though.
The Seat Ronda had other significance in addition to its clever engineering and distinctively Spanish styling. More than any other Seat until its inception it epitomised Spanish manufacturing capability and the country’s strong wish to
take its place among the top-tier of Iberian vehicle-producers.
As such, the Ronda is notable for being the car that made manifest Seat’s wish for independence from Fiat who for so long had provided some of the engineering and – some say – even the design expertise for their cars. In 1982, after 30 years of co-operation, Fiat parted company from Seat and went its own way.
What of the Ronda’s genesis? Rayton Fissore, the renowned Italian stylist and coachbuilder, created the singular, clean, modern lines of the Ronda. So individual were the looks that in 1983 the Arbitration Chamber of Paris judged the Ronda was an entirely different car from the Fiat Ritmo.
For example, the Ronda had rectangular lights whilst the Ritmo had round ones (ditto the door handles). Thus the Ronda can claim to be the first of a whole generation of Seat car where sporting ability and eye-catching design would be at the forefront. From this stem came the sprouts that were the Ibiza, Malaga, Toledo, Alhambra and Cordoba, among many notables.
The cream of the cream of the Ronda crop must be the exciting 2.0 litre Crono model, top of the Ronda range. This version had a 2.0 litre four-cylinder engine equipped with a Porsche-designed head. Just 800 of these remarkable cars were built and that makes them rare, even in Porsche’s rarified circles.
Perhaps only Buick’s enigmatic LeSabre Grand National has a greater claim to rarity in the world of under-the-radar sports cars (112 made, or 117). The fairy dust of Porsche promised the Ronda more powerful and responsive engine-characteristics, faster driving and even improved economy. Today these are highly sought after among Porsche/Seat enthusiasts.
And what of Fiat? Since 1982 Fiat has struggled to find its way, with financial disasters and a string of disappointing models: Ritmo, Regata, Ulysse, Bravo Mk2, Marea, Seicento, Croma 1 and Croma 2, Punto Mk3 … a failed marriage with GM, and not to mention Alfa’s near death, Lancia’s actual death, alongside a problematic take-over of Chrysler. The irony is intense.
Editor’s Note: [Owing to the effects of intoxication, the author originally referred to Sindelfingen, when he of course intended Zuffenhausen. This error has been amended in the text.]