Something Rotten For Sunday

Remember the Chrysler K-car? It helped save Chrysler until the next crisis. The Fiat Tipo played a similar role, at least in underpinning a lot of models. Here’s one of them.

1991-1996 Fiat Tempra
1991-1996 Fiat Tempra

Another Fiat, a 125 behind glass, made me stop at the location. When I stopped looking at that I wandered further. In the otherwise empty lot nearby this Tempra crouched. Looks good from afar, but it’s far from good. Although the body had galvanising, rust is biting the doors and the handles are seized. It’s not for sale anymore and evidently wasn’t worth taking to the dealer’s new location 10 km away.

Fiat Tempra interior - where's the joie de vivre?
Fiat Tempra interior – where’s the joie de vivre?

As ever, the interior is in decent condition so anyone wanting stock with which to refurbish their beloved Tempra restoration project need look no further (though I notice the plastic film is coming adrift on the driver’s door top-roll; Renault 25s, Volvo 940s and Peugeot 605s also have this). In comparison with its peers the Tempra’s interior lacks conviction. When people talk of “plasticky” this is the reference. Is that a huge ashtray below the HVAC panel?

Among its peers, the Bora/Jetta/Vento (delete as appropriate) may have lacked any slight charm but it compensated with quality. Ford’s Orion (two generations!) could be Ghia’d up and coated with a certain charm.

Funnily, the Tempra was less spacious than a Tipo in the rear too. Look at the cramped rear footwell.  It does have a wide centre-armrest but so does the roomier and vastly more attractive 306 sedan, the second-best looking small saloon of the time.

Basic, grey: Fiat Tempra interior
Basic, grey: Fiat Tempra interior. The head restraints look okay.

More significant than its inherent inadequacy, the Tempra was cousin to the Fiat Coupe Fiat, the Alfa Romeos 145, 146 and, alas, 155. It also flimsily served as an approximate basis for the Lancias Dedra and Delta 2. As a 145 and 146 it just about managed but as a Lancia it struggled. The Lancias were at least as dismal inside as this mortally oxidising turbo-diesel, Zegna cloth notwithstanding. Fiat improved things for the AR 147 which now makes me curious as to why they didn’t think to do a Lancia equivalent. The Lancia mid-range went from Dedra to Lybra to Delta 3 and in so doing by-passed the Tempra’s successor, the Bravo/a and Stilo.

1991-1996 Fiat Tempta turbodiesel
1991-1996 Fiat Tempra turbodiesel

Fiat did offer lots of engines for this car: the range is delightfully stepped: 1.4.,1.6.,1.8 and 2.0 litre L4 petrols and three diesels. Maybe the Fiat family 5-pot would have fitted?

Is that device more valuable than the car?
Is that device more valuable than the car?

The lucky Brazilians got a 2-door Tempra. It appears quite attractive in photos. The downside might be that the assembly and trim could be even worse than the Euro car. Swiss customers could have a 4×4 Tempra wagon: is that a cult car now? The Swiss get 4×4 everything, it seems. I bet there was a 4×4 Ford Fusion, just for them.

Here’s an idea: put the 4×4 running gear into the Brazilian two-door body with the 5-banger… Now that would be interesting.

Fiat stopped selling the Tempra in western Europe in 1996, a while after customers stopped buying them. The car here still has its price tag: 50,000 kr. Interested?

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

8 thoughts on “Something Rotten For Sunday”

  1. I enjoy these ‘Something Rotten’ pieces. Like TTAC’s “Junkyard finds”, but without the grim finality.

    Is there a zero missing from that price, or is the seller so fond of the car he doesn’t want to let it go?

    I make that £5700, or €6700 (ouch!). Probably more than was paid new for the 1992 office hack I drove in the mid ’90s, a 1.4S in white turned chalky, bereft of powered anything, even steering. Considering that so much was new about the Tipo / Tempra platform, it shouldn’t have felt like a car from the end of an era, but it very much did. After five years it also felt like a car at the end of its life.

    In the previous order of things, the Tempra’s destiny should have been decades of production somewhere in Comunist Eastern Europe. Instead it went to free-market Turkey, where customers may have considered a new Mirafiori a far more appealing prospect.

    I’m trying to think of something nice to say about the Tempra. Well-loaded, with a 1.8 and the right colour and wheels, it might have kindled a mild flame of desire, but who’d choose one over a Sierra, Cavalier, 405, or Primera?

    The wagon, at least, was a useful thing. Who’s heard of a Marengo?

  2. I’ve now discovered that there were also Marengo versions of the 131, Regata, and Marea, and a similarly configured Stilo wagon. What’s more, the 131 version had a three-door version of the Panorama bodyshell.

  3. That interior has just made my eyes water a bit… It’s been quite a while I don’t see one of those.
    If I´m not mistaken the Marea/Brava/Bravo shared most of the underpinnings with the Tempra too, so that wasn’t a short lived platform after all.
    Well, the article mention the Brazilian Tempra, so it would be rude not to say a few things about that.
    First of all, the Brazilian-made Tempra had different rear suspension, ditching the trailing arms layout for McPherson struts, just as Fiat did with the 127 (147 here) and the Uno when decided to make them down here. As for the Tipo and the Tempra SW, however, as they were imported from Italy for most of their lifespan, they decided to keep the original rear suspension layout, with no noticeable drawbacks compared to the “national” McPherson option.
    Engine wise, the Tempra was initially offered only with a 2.0 liter (8 valve) twincam unit producing a meager 80 hp, because at that time Fiat had severe reliability issues and thought the downpowering would reduce the chance of failure. A few years later Fiat launched a 16-valve version with 127 hp. Further down the line, a turbocharged was added to the 8-valve twincam, ~160 hp. The 2-door version was really unique, developed only for the Brazillian market because of a national prejudice (stupid, and dead after the 90’s) against 4-door cars. Yes, the fit and finish (in all versions) was considerably worst than the italian siblings, but it did carry some technical breakthroughs, at least for the Brazillian market.
    The Tipo was offered in 1.6-liter and 2.0-liters versions, later joined by the Sedicivalvole (sigh). The Coupé, only for a few years and with the 2.0-liters 16v from the Tipo.
    As for the Tempra SW, it was only offered with a 2.0 8v (109 hp) but as it was imported it didn’t share parts with the sedan’s. In my fading memory it had the most glorious engine note this side of a supercar, with really no place in a family’s daily beater. My dad bought one new in 95 and served us daily until it died in my hands in 2003, totaled after being hit by a red-light offender. I learned to drive in that car, and it had the heaviest clutch pedal and the chunkiest gear lever I can remember, which was all too good if you really like the driving stuff. Once I reached 188 km/h (digital precision!) in it…
    A lot of memories spring to mind, more than I knew I had. Thank you for that!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing those details. Am I right in guessing that McPhersons allow more wheel travel? And that to use them means a very different floorpan in the wheel arch towers?
      Is that product mix not very complex? The Fiat mechanics must have loved struggling to recall which spares to dial up, depending on whether the car was local or not.

    2. Yes, most of the rear floorpan was indeed different, but each model, saloon, SW and Tipo, was committed to only one suspension type, so it was either a saloon with McPhersons or the others with trailing arms. The idea really was to give the suspension more travel to deal with the rough (best of cases) Brazillian tarmac. The downside of McPhersons was it needed alignment from time to time, which most owners didn’t really know or care about.
      As for the mechanics, they were struggling with Fiats since the beginning, so it just reinforced the prejudice they acquired with the 147 (127 for Europe) due to its “unique features”. From late 70’s to the early 90’s the Brazillian market was closed to vehicle imports, so there were really just a handful of engine types to master. Fiat came and made every mechanic’s day significantly worse. And it got even worse in the following years, as 5-cylinders, 20-valves Mareas were being produced… That was a nightmare for most mechanics (even Fiat’s own) at the time and it still is for some.

  4. I am a happy owner of a Tempra, the Brazilian model uses front seats with electrical regulation of the Alfa Romeo 164, independent rear suspension similar to that of the Alfa Romeo 164, a 2.0 16v of 127 horsepower, a great car for the year of 1995, the Brazilian Tempra was developed to be a luxury car at the time, it was faced with the Opel Vectra A, VW Santana (a remodeled version of the German VW Santana of the 80s, GM Monza (a resized version of the Opel Ascona of the 80s) and Ford Versailles (a variant of the restyled VW Santana that was made by Autolatina which was a partnership between VW and Ford at the time). At the time Fiat made several mistakes with the Brazilian Tempra, first put in the instruction manual an exchange very extensive oil, at the time in Brazil had only mineral oil for engines and this oil required a change of 5,000 KM, Fiat recommended the exchange of 10,000 in 10,000 KM making with which many engines would break, or Trouble solved at the time was also the temperature sensor that took a long time to be triggered, this was enough to stain the image of a car that by Brazilian standards of the time was very advanced.

    1. Thanks for that. I had no idea Fiat used Alfa Romeo parts in that way at all. Also, that the Alfa parts fitted too is a surprise as well. Was there a larger engine or a turbo available? The EU version is much less special machine, seemingly produced by a firm uninterested in trying too hard. I think even then the small saloon market was fading so Fiat saw the writing on the wall. It would have been up against the Escort saloon, Astra saloon, Vento/Jetta and Megane and 306 saloon. Apart from the Escort, most of them very nice cars in one way or another. Did you get any of those? I have a suspicion Peugeot is not or was not a big player in Brazil. Or Renault. Am I right?

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