All Sound and Fury

Today’s Andalucían postscript is Seat’s shortlived Fura. What, if anything can it signify?

When Seat parted from its Italian benefactor and fell into the arms of Wolfsburg, it was necessary to place some distance between the two former partners. So while prior to the severance of connubial relations, all Seat models simply took the equivalent Fiat nameplate (or number), from around 1981/2, Seat products would have (to varying degrees) their own, distinctly Spanish identity.

The Seat 127 had been a staple of the Spanish market since 1972. Essentially a rebadged version of the Turin bestseller, its primary difference being that it uniquely could be purchased in four-door form; retaining the familiar Pio Manzù penned silhouette, but with the provision of two additional doors – a spiritual successor to the Spain-only Seat 800 model. [A larger four-door version of the immortal Seicento].

In 1981 however, in line with the new policy, the Seat Fura was introduced as a 1982 model. Identical visually to the third-generation 127, which was introduced shortly afterwards, the restyled car exhibited the template Fiat Charter® facelift in all its polypropylene vainglory. It is perhaps a mercy that poor sainted Pio didn’t live to see such vandalism inflicted upon his best known design.

Since the booted bodyshell had been discontinued in Turin by then, all Furas, be they 2, or 4-door models were hatchback-only offerings. Engines were confined to the familiar Fiat 903 cc unit, although a 1438 cc engine would appear in the short-lived, Fura Crono model, its 75 bhp exhibiting a little more of what its nameplate might have implied.

In 1983, the Fura received a mild facelift, perhaps to distance itself further from its origins, but also by way of stop-gap prior to the advent of the 1984 Ibiza, which would combine some Fura/ 127 chassis hardware with new ‘system Porsche’ engines and Ital Design bodystyles. Fura production ceased in 1986.

The Southern Spanish climate, despite the proximity to the Mediterranean tends to be kind to older cars, meaning their bodies last longer than they might do in more Northern climes. Despite this, the example pictured here was the only Fura encountered in the wild over the fortnight your correspondent was domiciled in Marbella.

Resplendent in its faded red paint, the body seemed in reasonable fettle, with few of the expected 127 weak-points showing signs of rot. Apart that is from the scuttle area beneath the windscreen, which displayed evidence of judicious, poorly applied (and it would seem), futile application of body filler. Hardly a cared-for example, but clearly a runner, whether it survives to re-emerge into the roseate embrace of nostalgia however is questionable.

But these cars are hard to kill – a matter this former 127 owner can attest to, so this one will probably keep smoking on until something significant gives. But what then does our unicorn Fura signify? Not much perhaps, but surely survival itself is something worth marking?

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

7 thoughts on “All Sound and Fury”

  1. This is a hum-dinger with more character than a Marvel comic. It’s a streetwise rogue. It’s splendid. It also appears to live outside a Marbella Kwik-fit type establishment. Perhaps then it’s a mechanics hack, not doted on, not lavished just the bare minimum spannering to keep the old girl running? Just what was required for an otherwise routine Saturday morning; a character driven episode. And is it just me or can I see a hint of Saab 900 with the topmost picture? The lamppost does a fine job of framing the scene.

  2. Good morning, Eóin. The 127/Fura is indeed a rare find today. As a regular visitor to southern Spain and Tenerife, I cannot remember the last time I saw one. The 127/Fura was the model most besmirched by Fiat’s unfortunate obsession with plastic cladding in the early 80’s, possibly because it was such a neat and delicate design in the first place.

    I imagine that the attraction of using plastic cladding to update the appearance af numerous Fiat models was that it was cheap in that it required no changes to be made to the underlying metalwork. Seat attempted to dial back on the cladding with a further and final update to the Fura in 1983:

    Whether this was an improvement was questionable, but it did reveal that the bonnet was unaltered from the old Mk2 127 and just used a plastic strip affixed to its leading edge to fill the gap previously occupied by the taller grille:

  3. Hi Eoin,

    Thank you for sometimes risking your life taking those pics, that story with the guy staring at you and you bravely scuttering away gave me the chills. On Halloween night of all nights !

    I was pretty sure Fura meant ‘Fury’ in Spanish, probably because of the article’s title and I thought that was a funny name for a tiny inoffensive car. But I just checked and apparently it means a ‘Ferret’ ? ?

    It’s a name that seems to exist in many languages with different meanings: a cart in Polish, in Icelandic it’s a ‘Pine tree’, in Galician it’s a ‘Mortise’, in Sardinian it”s a ‘Theft’, in Swahili it means ‘to swell’.

    You’re welcome.

    1. Thanks for the clarification NRJ. There goes the painstakingly sourced title – and all those royalties to the Yeats estate. But yes, the privations I suffer on you, dear readers’ behalf – you simply don’t know the half of it…

      I had a (circa 1981) 127 when I first arrived in London. Purchased from a friend for a pittance, it was the same colour as the Fura featured above and finished in a similar flat, faded hue – one I made no attempt to ameliorate. It was a curious hybrid, that car, having the grille, headlamps and front bumper of the third series (see Fura above), but the metal bumper bar of the 127 Special shown by Daniel in the comments. In truth it probably didn’t leave Turin thus, but why someone went to the trouble of doing this without finishing the job I cannot imagine. Perhaps it was the result of a prang. Needless to say, I wasn’t prepared to throw good money after bad by returning the poor perforated heap to factory specification – I had enough problems.

      On the subject of perforation, the doors would have made for excellent sieves, to the extent that no member of the London constabulary could believe that it was road-legal. I became quite used to explaining its merits to the traffic police. Yet it served me faithfully for about three years, but years of abuse to its once willing little 903 cc engine (not at my hand I must stress) saw the main bearings give up the ghost one rainy afternoon on Wandsworth bridge. It went on a flatbed to a scrappy for £20.

  4. Thank you for this series of articles – quite a few cars I recall encountering in my teen years, including the 127. It was great to drive – peppy engine, practical size and not likely to overheat. If memory serves, some even came with a driver door mirror – chrome!

    When I was a teenager in 1970’s Jerusalem, a friend’s parents had an original 127 – as per NRJ’s photo but in a shade of beige. He was setting off from my house and coming out of reverse gear, when the gearlever started going round in circles without engaging anything – something had snapped. A crawl under the car revealed two metal rods, each with a flattened end and a hole. A connector – I guessed a split pin – had obviously failed and the gearlever was floating in a world of its own. I had one split pin to hand – of great sentimental / superstitious value and hard to part with. It was attached to the pull-ring of the first grenade I’d ever thrown in my National Service basic training (not quite as far as I’d hoped to because, well, my arm was shaking). I hesitated but friendship won. The pin (with the pull-ring still attached) fitted perfectly and at least one good thing came from a chapter that left me with lifelong nightmares of detonating grenades!

  5. From 1983 Italians had the choice of the Uno, the Brazilian Fiat 147 (possibly re-badged as a 127), and the SEAT Ferret, the last somewhat to Fiat’s irritation.

    The relationship of SEAT’s products to those of their ‘technology partner’ and sometime part-owner is complex and a challenge to work out. The 1975 ‘Bocanegra’ 1200/1430 Sport, their first stand-alone product, is said to be based on a 127 platform, but the dimensions suggest it’s closer to the 128 coupe, which makes more sense given that SEAT started making their own version of the 128 3P from 1976. SEAT never made the 128 engine or gearbox. The Bocanegra and Spanish 128 3P used the pushrod 124 engine and the 127/A112 gearbox, a lighter-duty component than the 128 transmission.

    The Fura Chrono seems to be the first Spanish 127 to use the 124 engine, rather surprising given that the Brazilian FIASA ohc engine in the Italian-built 1050cc and 1300cc 127s is also a 124 derivative.

    The 124 engine was used in SEAT Ritmos right up to the System Porsche era in 1982. The first generation Ibiza used the Ritmo / Ronda platform virtually unaltered. That platform is little changed from the 128, apart from an increase in width of around 90mm – the 128 was so sparingly engineered that it was rather narrow by the standards of its competitors by the mid ’70s.

    Closed markets and IP turmoil make for some interesting engineering.

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