In what appears to be a transcript of a period review, legendary motoring scribe Archie Vicar offers some thoughts about the Fiat 132.
The article first appeared in the Peterborough Herald and Post, 8 December 1979. The original photograph was by Douglas Land-Wibblemere (sic). Due to poor storage conditions, stock photos have been used.
It is a sign, perhaps, of Fiat’s confidence in its engineering nous that the 132 is still on sale, a good seven years after its first appearance at Peterborough Fiat dealers. With the demise of the largely excellent 130, the honour goes to the 132 to take the crown as the flagship of Fiat’s range. To help the 132 undertake this considerable challenge, for the 130 was largely excellent, the 132 has undergone a selection of updates to keep it up to snuff in these increasingly competitive times.
Among the welcome alterations to the Fiat 132 are attractive new plastic bumpers, a revised dashboard and improved seat trims (Austin, take note). The steering ratio has been adjusted and lent the support of servo-assistance. These mods are in addition to a re-styled exterior (a few years ago) and thickened rubber mats for models in the upper range.
In usual Fiat style, the 173 inch car has a commendable selection of engines and almost none are available: a 1.6 litre petrol, a 2.0 litre petrol (I drove the twin-carb 2000 with revised rubber mats), a 2.0 petrol with fuel injection and a 2.5 litre diesel which Fiat UK refuse to let out on loan to anyone except the chap from the Express. It’s that slow but in London you’d never find out.
The product of much revision, the 132 is now even more a car for any man interested in motoring. The Fiat sports fine Pirelli P6 tyres and modern alloy-like rims, offsetting the flowing lines (which seem to have inspired BMW, some suggest).
The car is rear-wheel drive.
To test the car, I took it from Peterborough to King’s Lynn via Holbeach St Johns, on some challenging back roads. The seating was satisfactory – the product of intensive research by Fiat into synthetic foams – but the rubber sealing strip at the base of the window came loose and fell off as I rolled into the pub for lunch and some refreshment.
In between lunch and tea, the other strip fell off as well but, to be fair that might have been something to do with a kerfuffle over a parking incident (I was watching this in amazement as I had a Craven “A” in the beer garden). The Fiat got a bit of a dent to the rear wing.
The 132 has a top speed in 3rd of 79 mph, which is very good for the local roads hereabouts. The 2.0 twin cam is flexible and can show many of its peers a clean heel, running the 2.3 litre Cortina Ghia a very close second, actually. The engine has four-cylinders, with five main bearings (something that ought to give Rootes pause for thought), a bore of 3.3 inches and dohc valve gear.
Fiat have laboured over the suspension, with coils and a double wishbone up front and a live axle with lower radius arms at the rear (coil sprung). This lent the car decent roadability even on negative cambers with November leaves. The ponderous steering is alright – Fiat reckons a recirculating ball set-up is good enough. It is.
After a night in King’s Lynn I motored down to Felixstowe and took the ferry to Rotterdam, thinking it’d be a good chance to have a long-weekend (it was Friday) and stock up on Jenever while about it.
It was a foul crossing and the rolling waves caused a toilet bowl to drop from a truck, leaving something of a dent in the roof so Land Windermere had to sit on the left side of the car for the remainder of the trip. After some trouble starting up, we were off into Rotterdam’s busy streets.
The ergonomics don’t impress: the driving position is not Italian enough (it is a Fiat) and the rake-adjustable steering does not move down enough. The long-travel of the foot pedals also got a bit wearing in heavy traffic. Sticky like a toffee cake is how you’d describe the reverse gear, and the others are recalcitrant too. Good job the engine is flexible.
A headlamp bulb blew on the way out of Rotterdam and, luckily the Fiat dealer in Aachen could help replace the disc brake pads (with some helping encouragement from Fiat’s UK press wallah) – they were about to close for the day when I rolled in with squealing brakes at lunch time.
After a spot of something German (small noodles with mushrooms), I set off again towards St Vith in Luxembourg or Belgium, keen for some mountain driving. The washer motor failed and something in the noisiness of the suspension led me to suspect rubber-bushes in the front-roll bar’s body clamps had slipped a bit. I had to have this seen to on my return. The mechanic advises fitting Ford bushes.
St-Vith has one good hotel. The other ones aren’t so good but the breakfast improved my outlook as I charged onwards to Luxembourg (in Luxembourg). The 132 managed 23 mpg, overall. The brakes vibrated quite a bit on the mountain roads. The front tyres seemed rather worn.
On high revs (Luxembourg is hilly) the 132 misfired and the fuel gauge failed. I had a look under the forward hinging bonnet which had to be held in place by Land-Windermere’s tripod because it would not stay up. And it would not stay closed – the striker pin had sheared. I jammed it shut with some cable. I found out how to re-attach the bottom radiator hose during lunch- Luckily not much coolant had leaked before I spotted the drip. The radio had a good treble sound to it.
Getting back to driving, the under-steer is not bad and I liked the velour seats but they got grubby with ash and apple cores.
We finished the third day in Nancy, beginning to suspect we might never get back to England. The handbrake light kept blinking and the window winder mechanism failed while the car tended to pull to the left. If you
(Part 2 of the article was published in the Skegness Standard in Jan., 1980. Coming soon).