Vanity Fair

Landmark design, vanity project, or just simply a pretty face? 

1971 Fiat 130 Coupé. autoevolution

There was no sensible rationale for the Fiat 130 Coupé. The market didn’t ask for it. Fiat Auto’s bottom line would not be strengthened by its presence. There was no gaping hole in the product line-up that it would fill. So why did it come to exist? Why did the normally market-savvy Mirafiori behemoth go to the trouble and expense of creating a Fiat like no other[1] – was it simply because they could?

To attempt to understand this anomaly, one must first consider the situation Fiat Auto found itself in by the latter part of the 1960s. Europe was opening up and Fiat’s previously unchallenged domestic market dominance could no longer be taken for granted. In addition, research had illustrated that the majority of Mirafiori’s business was centred upon small, cheap cars from which little profit could be derived. It was clear to Fiat’s overseers that in order to future-proof the business, the carmaker would not only need to internationalise its output, but shift its focus upmarket.

The 1961 2300 berlina and its Ghia-bodied coupé derivative had up to then been Fiat’s Sixties flagship. Sales of this model outside of Italy were vanishingly small and even within the home market, owing to Italy’s draconian taxation policies, were confined to the affluent few. In 1967 Fiat’s upmarket gambit began to take shape with the debut of the Ferrari-powered and Bertone-designed Fiat Dino Coupé, swiftly followed by a Pininfarina-bodied Spider.

1968 Fiat 130 berlina.

The following year marked the introduction of the 130 berlina, a ammiraglia intended to capture a slice of a growing European market for upscale saloons. The 130 was no half-hearted parts-bin raid either, but a serious ground-up design, carrying over virtually nothing from its predecessor. What was carried across however was something more akin to a carry-on – namely a schism within Fiat’s engineering centre where some senior engineers expressed vocal opposition to such a car – notably lead engineer, Dante Giacosa who felt it was instead Fiat’s moral duty to primarily provide affordable transport.

Placing aside his opposition, Giacosa’s engineering team went about their business with characteristic thoroughness. A new platform, new front and rear suspensions and a new, unique to the model V6 engine, designed under the auspices of Aurelio Lampredi. Clothing this state of the art rear-wheel-drive design was a body of formality and bearing. Created within Centro Stile Fiat under Gian Paolo Boano, the 130’s style married elements from concurrent Fiat saloons with a subtle nod to 1963’s Buick Riviera.

Conservative in style, it was largely overlooked upon its debut in 1968, although its chassis and ride were praised. However, sales were anything but buoyant and with reports of slothful performance, unreliability and a deep, unquenchable thirst for benzina, a series of revisions were quickly put in train.

Some accounts have since suggested that stung by the poor initial sales of the 130 berlina, Fiat management were spurred into sanctioning a more upmarket coupé – an assertion which sounds highly implausible. It is far more likely that a coupé was already in the product plan, Fiat’s ambition having been to export it widely, notably to the United States where the market for imported coupés was both lucrative and abundant.[2]

The briefing for the design is said to have taken place in 1968 with senior Pininfarina designer, Franco Martinengo leading the programme. A number of different proposals were put forward initially prior to that of designer, Paolo Martin being chosen to go forward for development. It was at this point that carrozzerria Pininfarina’s talents really shone, for it was undoubtedly the work of the largely unheralded and sadly, nameless artisans who really teased out the nuances of Martin’s initial proposal and those at Cambiano were of the very highest calibre.[3]

Paolo Martin created the two defining saloon car shapes of the 1970s at Pininfarina, yet they couldn’t have been more different.[4] And just as Battista Pininfarina’s 1956 Florida II concept would prefigure the nature of the three volume saloon for a generation, Martin’s 130 Coupé would do likewise for the coming decade – underlining just how prescient Pininfarina at their zenith were as a design consultancy. While the 130 design was undoubtedly that of Martin, it was also very much a Pininfarina design, being imbued with a good deal of stylistic influence and feeling from Florida II, which was of course a design very much in the same idiom.


The styling of the 130 Coupé was characterised by the harmonious relationship between the individual volumes, each being painstakingly located and masterfully integrated. A simple three volume shape then, but the relative simplicity of the silhouette is deceptive; there being a huge effort expended to lend the car a richness in detail, that when studied closely is breathtaking in both precision and control.

Forced by the height of the engine and radiator to maintain a linear bonnet height, Martin cleverly incorporated a dip in the bonnet and wing line forward of the radiator position, which pulled the eye downwards and allowed for the car’s distinctive linear nose treatment. The sharply cut off nose section, with inset grille and modish integrated headlamp units[5] situated within a thin slot; the grille and headlamps being read as a single entity was an innovative treatment and one which lent the 130 a distinctly modernist mien.


The unadorned bodysides, with the Pininfarina trademark dihedral crease along the beltline lent the flanks some visual heft. Keen to avoid a slab-sided appearance, Martin incorporated a deep scallop at shoulder-level, which picked up just at the point where the bonnet line dipped, running the length of the car before terminating at the tail. This had the effect of lightening the profile significantly, drawing the eye away from the distinctly tall, formal roofline.

The side glazing was a clear reference to that of the Lancia Florida – the deep and steeply raked C-pillar being exquisitely blended into the rear three quarters and semi-flush rear screen; the treatment here once again illustrating faint reflections of Florida/ Flaminia.


Aft, the tail was simple, yet elegant, with a subtle lip being incorporated into the bootlid for airflow purposes. The tail lamp units were broad wrap-around affairs, also striking a distinctly modern note. So too was the superbly laid out cabin design,[6] which incorporated elements of the 130 berlina’s interior, but with an added dimension of richness and intelligent use of modern materials.

The 130 cabin. casula

But no design is perfect. The front end, despite Pininfarina’s best efforts couldn’t quite disguise its height, and while the polyurethane bumper end-caps, while undoubtedly practical, struck a discordant note and looked a little cheap. The tail too, while elegant, tended slightly towards blandness. But nitpicking aside, the futuristic, yet deeply traditional 130 Coupé was a stunner. Pininfarina really did themselves proud in this instance.

While the 130 berlina was heavily criticised for its appearance – in fact it was as disciplined, correct and market-appropriate as anything from Munich or Untertürkheim – the Coupé by contrast elicited only gasps of admiration at its introduction at Palexpo 1971. The only downside appeared to be the rather proletarian badge upon its prow, many observers noting that such a beautiful shape ought to have been clothing something from Maranello, Viale Ciro Menotti or (perhaps more to the point), Borgo San Paolo.

Whether a more storied nameplate would have improved the dismal sales figures is moot, but is it relatively easy to imagine that prospective customers might have baulked less at an asking price in the ballpark of Citroën’s SM or BMW’s 3.0 CSI to name but two, had a more storied emblem have been affixed.[7]

Denied: Maremma and Opera concepts by Pininfarina. coachbuild

Technically, the 130 Coupé carried over most componentry from the sibling berlina. New for 1971 on both models was an expanded 3235 cc version of the Lampredi 60° V6 unit designed for the model, developing 165 bhp. Front suspension consisted of struts attached to forged transverse lower arms, with transverse torsion bars providing the suspension medium.

The rear suspension (which were subject to a Fiat patent) consisted of struts and coil springs anchored longitudinally by a lower arm which pivoted at the base of the suspension strut, aft and forward to the crossmember housing at the rear end of the propshaft. Anti-roll bars were fitted front and rear and brakes were discs all round. The Coupé’s dampers were setup for a slightly firmer response to that of the saloon.

Rear suspension design:

Fiat’s due diligence paid off, dynamically at least; the Coupé being lauded for not only for its road behaviour, ride comfort and refinement, but for the space, comfort and logical layout of its beautifully appointed cabin. But despite several vocal aficionados amid the auto press, the 130 Coupé failed to ignite.

Despite the larger capacity, the enlarged V6 engine’s performance remained below expectations and fuel economy didn’t improve either – both allegedly factors of the engine’s inherent design. This might not have mattered had the 1973 fuel crisis not placed such matters somewhat front and centre, but in its wake, sales of indulgent motor cars like this collapsed – especially in Italy – the 130’s primary market.[8] It remains unclear why Fiat never carried out its plans to export the Coupé to the American market, since US sales might have saved the car’s business case.

All matters move towards their end; the 130 in berlina and Coupé form bowing out in 1977, replaced (indirectly at least) by Lancia’s smaller capacity Gamma. Coupé production amounted to a rather pathetic 4491 cars, built alongside 124 Spiders (and others) at Pininfarina’s Grugliasco plant in Turin.[9]

The Fiat 130 range.

But even though the 130 Coupé was shortlived and unsuccessful, its afterlife proved to be more fruitful, inspiring the designs of innumerable cars and concepts, including the 1972 Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2, Frua’s 1975 Maserati Kyalmi, 1976’s Lancia Gamma Coupé, the 1977 Caprice by Chevrolet, Ford’s Granada II of the same year, and even 1981’s C126 Mercedes. Jaguar too tried reflecting the 130’s styling themes during their 8-year search for a definitive XJ40.

To this day Paolo Martin’s 130 remains a stylistic touchstone and enduring archetype of a certain classical modernism, of a style which spoke of the open road, of languid coastal journeys, of evening light on open water, a fine meal, good company, an amorous rendezvous. The 130 Coupé then was a car for a man of affairs – a man like l’avvocato Agnelli for example. Could it really be that the 130 Coupé was created primarily with him in mind? After all, when you control not only the mighty Fiat industrial group, but bestride the nation like royalty, with the Adriatic coastline your personal playground, you could probably get away with that sort of thing.

And sometimes, just sometimes, beauty alone is enough.


[1] This isn’t quite accurate, upmarket Fiats not being entirely unheard of, even in the postwar era. In 1952, Fiat introduced the 8V coupé. It was however to prove shortlived and was built in very small numbers.

[2] Lending credence to this is the fact that Fiat’s 1971 press release for the 130 states that the body was designed to meet US safety regulations.

[3] At the time the 130 was being created at Pininfarina, clay was not used by the modellers there. Instead, they used styrofoam, before handing over to the ‘tinnies’, which is where the real artistry took place. My thanks to C.B. for this correction – the text above has been altered accordingly.

[4] The 1967 Berlina Aerodynamica for BMC was also believed to be a Paolo Martin design, working closely alongside Pininfarina’s Leonardo Fioravanti. Amongst his other noted designs for Pininfarina are the 1970 Modulo concept and the 1976 Lancia Beta Monte Carlo.

[5] In a latterday interview, Paolo Martin stated that the advanced headlamp designs were hampered by the lighting technology of the time. He added that circular headlamps (which preformed better) were to be substituted for the proposed US market version.

[6] Amongst the cabin’s highlights was the beautiful ribbed roofliner, the elegant and modernist doorhandle cum-armrest and the subtle lever in the driver’s footwell which opened the passenger door remotely: Suave. The Coupé dashboard was adopted wholesale for the revised second-series 130 berlina, which also gained the same technical revisions.

[7] Given the vagaries of the Italian market, there was no way it alone could have supported the 130, even without the effects of the oil crisis. Add into the mix the charged political situation during the 1970s, the risk of high profile individuals being kidnapped (or worse) and cars like this soon became a genuine liability. 

[8] It wasn’t simply the lack of cachet in the Fiat name. Customers trading against a 130 Coupé were not only unused to the Fiat dealership experience, but the dealers themselves were inexperienced in handling upmarket trade-ins and lacked training in customer expectations at this level. Citroen dealers experienced similar issues handling the SM.

[9] While Pininfarina built the Coupé, the 130 berlina was constructed at Fiat’s Rivalta plant.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

64 thoughts on “Vanity Fair”

  1. Exquisitely penned article, if I may say so.

    I’m beginning to lean towards consensus here the whole 130 affair should’ve been a Lancia Flaminia successor instead of a Fiat in no-mans land. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the car, it just didn’t have the brand cachet to sell on its name. Opel tried to make a Chevrolet V8 powered Diplomat coupe in the mid sixties, and it only sold in the low hundreds.

    Stylistically, I’ve always thought the coupe looked slightly underwheeled and top heavy. The wheels are clearly too small for such a large car. And the greenhouse is at least 5 cm if not a whole decimeter too high. There’s too much vertical real estate in the C-pillar compared to the horizontal flanks and body sides. The sail panel can’t be visually higher than the body side, it has to be equal height or lower for a more harmonius result.

  2. The 130 Coupe existed to provide the world with its most glorious car advertisement, available on Centro Storico Fiat’s youtube channel*. It stars winding mountain roads and Wilhelm Hertel’s symphony in D major. A triumph of cool motoring while not going very fast, which modern ad directors could learn from (There is a convention that it’s no longer acceptable to show fast driving, isn’t there? Hence the glut of ads showing urban cruisin’ with a bit of freeze frame action). Unfortunately it also shows the 130 parked at the side of the road with it’s bonnet up. The context is somekind of carefully evaluated development test drive but the static image suggests lazy stereotypes about flaky Italian cars. Sorry chaps; own goal!

    *Don’t know how to embedded the link. Sorry.

  3. An exquisite car, I thought so back in the 70’s when I was a spotty little oik and I still do now.
    I’ve even still got the brochure, keep up the good work DTW!

  4. What a delightful read, and a worthy tribute to a wonderful design. I have to respectfully disagree with Ingvar, though: for me, the 130 Coupé is just perfect. There isn’t a single detail I would change. What a tragedy it (and the Opera and Maremma concepts) weren’t launched as the new flagship for a revitalised Lancia under Fiat ownership.

    Equally tragic is that Fiat could contemplate launching the 130 fifty years ago, while today they cannot even make properly competitive B and C-segment hatchbacks.

    Turning to the Florida II, it must have been just shockingly, breathtakingly modern in 1956, like Citroën’s Deesse a year earlier:

    It’s extraordinary to compare this with contemporary European and US designs. Europe was still producing staid, upright cars, while America had not yet reached the zenith of its chrome and tailfin era. I can easily see the stylistic connection between the Florida II and the 130 coupé.

    A final thought: the Lancia Gamma Coupé is often compared with the 130 coupé. For me, it is simply inferior, thanks to its FWD stance and excessive overhangs, and that terribly sited side ribbing strip:

    1. I think I like the Gamma more than the 130 Coupe, especially the front end. What I don’t particularly like about the Gamma is the weird tail – I just don’t get it. The Gamma Coupe and the 130 Coupe are also sometimes compared to the Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2/400/412. The Ferrari is IMO by far the best design of those three.

    2. In fairness, 1956 America gave us the eternally exquisite Continental Mark II. Must have been something in the air that year.

    3. Very well written article.

      The 130 Coupe is a masterpiece. The conceptually similar Lancia Gamma Coupe avd the Rolls Royce Camargue don’t even get anywhere close.

      Apparently Ford Australia had the 130 Coupe in mind when they were developing the XD Falcon.

      Speaking of Fords, I remember an Australian magazine mentioning how a 130 that was accompanying their test of a Ford Falcon GT was able to keep and, and indeed get ahead of the Falcon on demanding stretches of road despite having half the power, due to its far superior handling.

      Although the Opera 4 door looks fantastic I still love the in house designed sedan too. It has just as much presence sitting on those exquisite Chromadoras as the contemporary competition at Mercedes, BMW and Opel with a much nicer interior, as long as it is not the early 2.8 litre version with that horrific strip speedo layout.

      The only thing the 130s really needed was more power. Fiats generally punched above their weight in terms of performance relative to engine capacity. So it has always been a mystery to me why the engine outputs on the V6s were so patheticically tepid.

      It didn’t help that the 130 was a heavy car and most examples were sold with an automatic. I can only imagine how a tuned injected manual 3.2, perhaps with a DOHC head would have performed.

      Is is indeed tragic how Fiat 50 years ago were building cars like the 130, Dino, 124, 125 and 128 and now they are basically nothing more than the 500 car company.

    4. The 130’s engine has a head design similar to that of the 128. It has a wedge shaped combustion chamber but is a cross flow design where the 128 is reverse flow.
      The valves on top of that wedge are oriented towards the centreline of the engine and the exhaust duct therefore goes through a 120 degree bend within the head, which does nothing for efficient gas flow.
      This design at least made for a very compact engine as opposed to Porsche’s 928 which went the opposite way and had the valves pointing to the outside of the engine with good gas flow for the exhaust and vertical inlet ports at the cost of excessive engine width.

    5. One exquisite detail in the 130 Coupé’s design, evident in the high-angle photo of the silver car above, is the way the crease across the bonnet flows into the wings and continues as the lower edge of the bodysides scallop. (Eóin did mention this, but its worthy of emphasis, I think.) It helps make sense of the bonnet crease, which might otherwise look odd. Such attention to detail in a superficially ‘simple’ design is a delight to behold.

      Regarding the wheel size, which Ingvar mentioned, I think they would have looked perfectly adequate at the time. It’s only the current obsession with ride-destroying enormous wheel sizes that is distorting our perception.

    6. Both of them are very interesting designs. I´d hate to have to choose between them. The Fiat is clearly classical while the Lancia is very modernist (how did Lancia end up as the Italian Rover?). Where the Fiat scores over the Lancia is the instrument panel. The Lancia´s seating and interior trim is so modern and thrilling, even today.

    7. The Gamma Coupé side strips had not been part of the original design but the story goes that they are a „last minute request“ from some important decision makers at Lancia. It was repeated a few years later with the rear crome striping of the Kappa Coupé, that was not part of the original design again.

    8. Hi Thomas. It’s a relief to know that Pininfarina weren’t responsible for that atrocious detail. I’d sooner live with the car park dings than put up with that! I wonder if any owners had it removed?

      Here’s a design sketch of the car as Pininfarina intended:

    9. Pininfarina wisely left the side rubbing strip off the spider version of the Gamma coupé:

  5. The 130 Coupe is one of those cars which I could never love 100 percent. There’s just something a bit off with it for me – i think it’s the nose, the angle just doesn’t seem right in some way.

    1. Hello Eòin and all,
      I heartily join in the praise for this article on one of my favourite cars of the seventies; it’s always a joy to behold although outside of classic car gatherings the 130 Coupé has become a rare sight indeed.
      To answer Boarezina’s puzzlement with the styling of the rear end of the Lancia Gamma Coupé: it’s possible Lancia was trying to make a link to a predecessor, the Flavia Coupé:

    2. That’s interesting. But it’s not just those creases, the whole rear end looks awkard and stubby compared to the rest of the car. But I still like it quite a lot.

    3. Bruno is partially correct as regards the Second generation Flavia Coupé being an influence on the Gamma Coupé. However the initial inspiration stemmed from the lovely 1963 Flaminia 2800 GT Speciale created by Pininfarina (designed by Tom Tjaarda) which became Battista’s personal transport in the final years of his life. The tail treatment originated here – a variation on Tjaarda’s Rondine concept – and several others from the same time.

      As boarezina suggests, the 130, Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2 and Gamma Coupé all drink from a similar vessel, so to speak, but it’s worth remembering that despite being very much ‘Pininfarina’ designs, they were each designed by a different hand. The 130 as we know was Paolo Martin, the Ferrari is at least attributed to Leonardo Fioravanti, while Aldo Brovarone was responsible for the Gamma (Coupé and berlina). As to which is nicer, well – that would be an ecumenical matter.

    4. You are right, Eoin. Now that I think of it, one could add the Camargue to this line up, which was also, I think, designed by Martin for Pininfarina. It looks much more like the 130 than the other too. BTW, I’ve always liked the Camargue and I still don’t get why some people think it’s ugly.

    5. boarezina: The Camargue will feature in an upcoming DTW article.

  6. Good morning Eóin. What a great article. I can’t make up my mind about the 130 Coupe. I like the apparent simplicity of its line, but the proportions seems a bit off. I don’t like the interior, especially the shiny steering wheel is an eyesore.

    As far as I know only the LHD versions had the remote door handle to open the passenger door.

    There are two for sale in the Netherlands. A decent one and one not so decent. Seems tempting as they aren’t that expensive. Parts availability will be an issue. There was a garage specialized in classic cars in my city. One of there customers had a 130 coupe. At some point the rear window got smashed. You guessed it, no spares. One was made from scratch. I’m glad I didn’t have to pay that bill.

    1. There are strong owners clubs – also present in NL afaik. I think spares for the bigger engine are mostly available, but you should definitely stay away from the smaller engine (which also under performs anyway).

  7. Let me join the chorus praising this fine article, which also reminded me that, as lovely as the coupe is, the 130 berlina was an elegant thing too.

  8. Beautiful car. Anyone else think there’s more than a touch of the 604 about the frontal aspect?

    1. The crease in the bonnet and the scalloped sides are also used in the 305 Series I.

    2. Very much so and also the facelifted Peugeot 504 coupe and convertible which gained long shallow rectangle headlamps sometime in the 1970’s.

  9. There was an episode of a certain antique dealers’ classic car series that involved restoring a 130 Coupe. Massive rust problems, and non availability of spares. Replacement headlamps had to be custom made.
    I saw one locally 50 years ago and it took my breath away. The only things I would change are the badge and the rust-protection.

  10. Hate to cut across the grain here, but to these eyes, the Fiat 130 coupe embodies much skill and attention to detail, but is short on some major aspects. The proportions are good, but the front “tilt” seems heavy handed, and the overall face of the car (IMHO) feels downgraded, not uplifting. And the rear seems also uninspiring. The 130 coupe may come together and be elegant in its simplicity, yes, but for me there is no uplift. Compare it to the Flavia 2000 coupe of just a bit earlier – where the front gives a sense of purpose, the rear, while a bit unusual is provocatives and the whole speaks across history, reaching to traditional proportioning as well as modern formal simplicity. I may be biased, having one in the garage, but it stands up over time, still exciting viewers. Appreciate the 130 coupe as a special car in the Fiat orbit, and its role there.

  11. Wonderful article Eóin. My one sighting of a 130 Coupé was in a service station in Spain, close to the French border in 1970. Very, very elegant in metallic mid blue seen in the evening light. You refer several times to the 130 being modern or modernist and I’m sure DTW readers know what you mean but, perhaps for further discussion, are there any cars in current production that you would refer to in the same way?

    1. Please excuse me for butting in, but that’s a really good question, Barry. I would describe most current automotive styling as ‘post-modern’ because of the profusion of non-functional applied ornamentation (body creases, dummy vents, fake diffusers and such).

      Here’s a current production model that might qualify as modernist, the Honda e:

      Very functional styling with almost no ornamentation. I like it!

    2. Barry: When the 130 Coupé was in conception one could say with relative certainty that car design was still moving forward in a progressive fashion. I’m not really all that confident that we can make that statement about the current era. That is not to say that car design isn’t evolving, but that is a very different argument. I think that when I talk about ‘modernism’, I refer to a particular era, be it in architecture, industrial design, product design or automotive design. To me that form of modernism is retrospective now. Recently I returned to my vehicle and parked next to it was a brand new Hyundai Ioniq 5 – the Lancia Delta-aping EV. I’m not sure what I made of it to be honest – but what I can say without hesitation is that it is HUGE. However, without giving the subject the necessary thought, it’s about as close to answering your question as I can currently envisage. However, this isn’t modernism is it? It’s closer to retro really.

      Maybe the box really is empty?

      By the way, not wishing to be needlessly pedantic, but the 130 Coupé debuted in 1971, so perhaps your sighting was a year or two later?

    3. Is the Suzuki Jimny modernist? Or is it retro? Something odd has happened such that contemporary or “modern” styling is not Modernist. Modernist design (with a capital D) is an historical style or genre. The Honda is both modern (as in of the current time) Modernist as in bold and functional and retro because its bold functionality is out of line with the swage festival and bumper detailing carnivals most cars use. If you want Modern design, try some of the wilder kei car concepts we never see outside of Tokyo. Or the BMW i3. That´s Modernist without being retro. There. I thought of one!

    4. Richard: The BMW i3 is a good example. Chapeau.

      Sadly, in BMW’s case the i3 as now as much a design of the past as the 130 is.

  12. Erudite, illuminating and with the correct touch of romance – these apply to Eóin’s article along with what’s desperately in short supply within the car industry.

    Viva la 130 coupé!

    1. 😍!

      The Opera is even better than the Coupé. That says something.

    2. It seems yet again that the world of finance´s gain was very much a loss for the world of car design. It may interest you to know that Ford were very much looking to the 130 when they they did the Mk2 Granada; I can see a bit of that in the four door version of the 130 coupé. I don´t think it´s because you have cribbed the Granny but because you have started from the same place Ford did; however, the 130 coupé-based saloon is more Jaguar-y in its proportions than the Granada. It looks really good and uttery plausible. I presume it would be very feasible to stretch a 130 coupe into a saloon as you have shown. There might be a need for a quarter pane on the rear door; I´d use some other engine too. I am guessing a bit but I suppose something like a million euros would cover the cost. The biggest challenge is the rear door. If one used the 130 saloon door inner bits it might be more easily achieved.

  13. Referencing footnote 9: Was the 130 saloon really fully built in Rivalta? This was a plant without pressing facilities and used to complete cars using bodies from external suppliers like 124 spider, 130 coupe and 131 rally Abarth. Where did the 130 saloon bodies come from?

    1. Dave: I can only say that I found that particular piece of information in Fiat’s 130 press release. I rather naively thought it was a reputable source.

    2. Hello. The 130 saloon was entirely built at the Rivalta plant (engine, mechanicals, bodyshell). The factory started in early 1967 producing ther Dino engine and installing it on Dino Spider&Coupès coming from Pininfarina and Bertone (their factories were in Grugliasco, at a stone throw from Rivalta). Then the 850 sport (coupè and spider) and 124 Sport coupè production lines were added. In 1969 the Dino car assembly was transferred to Maranello (the Dino engine production stayed at Rivalta); in the same year 130 production was started alongside the new 128 (bodies&mechanicals). In 1976 a corner of the factory was kept 131 Abarth Rally final assembly (bodies coming from Bertone, engine and mechanicals from the Abarth factory of Corso Marche).

  14. At best Fiat could have benefited from the 130’s styling (albeit more refined IMHO – particularly at the front like the Peugeot 504 Coupe) on a smaller car of approximately similar size as the Fiat 132/Argenta and Fiat 2300 as a direct replacement for the 2300. One that is ideally equipped with a decent and adaptable V6 capable of remaining in production for almost a quarter of a century powering variety of RWD, FWD and AWD models, along the same lines as the Alfa V6 and PRV V6 if not more.

    Where did Aurelio Lampredi go wrong with the 130 V6 that caused it to have little to no applicability outside of the 130 apart from the Lancia Montecarlo-derived Abarth SE 030? It is unusual for a large company like Fiat to completely mess things up with what could have been a 6-cylinder with great longevity as Lampredi’s 128 SOHC and Twin-Cam 4-cylinder engines.

    Vittorio Jano’s Dino V6s apparently could not be enlarged beyond 2.4-litres, Giulio Alfieri’s Maserati V6 had issues that were otherwise resolvable (apart from Citroen refusing to implement the fixes on the SM IIRC), while Francesco De Virgilio’s Lancia V6 was said to have been considered for a OHC evolution on top of proposing 3.0-4.0 120-degree V6 4-cam engines.

    Any larger car would have been better off used as the basis for an alternate Maserati Quattroporte or Lancia Flaminia successor, though personally of the view the existing 130 platform should have underpinned the Maserati Quattroporte II/III and that the Flaminia successor should have been underpinned by a shortened lighter FWD Maserati Quattroporte II platform.

    1. The Jano DOHC racing V6s done at Lancia (largely designed by Zaccone Mina) started at 2.5-litres and went through various sizes, 3.1, 3.3, 3.5 to a maximum of 3.75-liters. The De Virgilio SOHC prototypes, called the B20S and B54, were 2.5 liters.
      It is odd, the Fiat evolution of the Lampredi V6. One possible read of these “upper end Fiats” is that they are put in place by upper levels of the company for a smaller audience, as funding and permissions exist. They don’t spawn ongoing lineage, but are rather exemplary efforts for short moments. One can see the 8V in that light, possibly the Fiat Dino and 130.

    2. Good question Bob, and I am still awaiting your definitive guide to European engines! I´d really like such a book – the subject is a mess, mostly handled by people interested in the cars not the motors. A motor-centric, thematic book would be super. Back to the engine: yes, what was it that made it underpowered by 20% and apparently not fixable. Even the comparatively rubbish PRV6 had a long life. You´d have thought the Fiat bosses might have licensed it? Or was it too bad to license? The reviews of the 130 saloon praise it for many good points and reluctantly point out the thirst and feebleness of the motor. Would I be right in saying there were 2.0 litre motors with more oomph than the 130´s engine?

    3. A more left-field Italian V6 option would have been something along the lines of a Ferrari Colombo V12-derived V6 as used in the Innocenti 186GT prototype, yet featuring the 78mm stroke of the later Ferrari 400/412 V12 paired with the 90mm bore of the 1756cc 4-cylinder ASA Roll-Bar (assuming the ASA RB418 engine was still related to the Colombo V12-derived 4-cylinder in the ASA 1000 GT “Ferrarina”), equating to a V6 displacing around 2977cc as well as a maximum potential Colombo V12 displacement of 5955cc. (German)

      Geoff Goldberg

      Were the outputs of the De Virgilio 2.5-litre V6 SOHC prototypes roughly comparable to the 2.8-litre Flaminia V6? Additionally was this conceived prior to the Gamma or actually one of the proposed V6 options for the Gamma during the latter’s development?

      Would be interesting to see if there was room to stretch it to 3-litres in planned SOHC evolution form as well as whether the redesign/evolution would have allowed the V6 to remain in production into the mid/late-80s, reminiscent of the Lancia Flat-4 during its production life that grew from 1.5-litres to 2.5-litres (if not in flawed Gamma form).

      Richard Herriott

      It is something that am unable to understand about the 130 V6 compared to typical 2-litre engines, speaking of which seem to recall reading claims of either Renault or PSA looking at a PRV V6 displacing about 2.2-2.3-litres and putting out about 130 hp.

      Giacosa himself in a letter to Bono (in his book on page 321) suggested the following, however it was 124 AC-derived inline-6 instead of a V6:


      – A useful measure would be to consider restyling the 2300 with only a few minor
      changes to the mechanicals as a stopgap while awaiting the completion of the 130.
      I have also considered the possibility of mounting the 6-cylinder 1800 engine (or
      better still the 2100) on the 125, but this is not possible without making the engine
      hood longer, which would be such a big task that it seems more logical to adopt
      completely new coachwork. As you know, at the Styling Centre I have already had
      studies made for new coachwork intended for the 125. I think it would be advisable
      to resume those studies, giving due consideration to the possibility of mounting a
      six-cylinder in-line engine on the same coachwork. Such an engine could be produced rapidly because it would be derived from the 124 AC engine of the coupé,
      with the addition of two cylinders.

      2. Model 125 auto
      We can be satisfied with this model as it is: minor changes to reduce vibration will
      make it even better and more attractive. I feel the coachwork cannot last more than
      another two years and should be redesigned. This should be done, in my opinion,
      in such a ways as to make it possible for an extra 10-12 cm to be added to the
      length of the engine hood so as to accommodate a 6-cylinder in-line engine (Ford
      and Opel strategy). This ties in with the previous recommendations.”

    4. Bob –
      The two SOHC prototype engines were begun as alternative simpler solutions than the DOHC efforts – for both competition (dry sump) and street use. The B20S was begin 1953, the B54 a bit later, and worked until the end of 1954. In the fall of 1953, Bonetto suggested to De Virgilio that he was going to talk to Gianni about putting it in a road car, but sadly did not survive the Carrera. Their power ranged – from an initial 127HP up to 170hp with three carbs on the B54 – but they were never fully explored or developed. A B54 engine has since been installed into a B20, and a B20S engine is in California.
      In contrast, the Flaminia V6 starts around 110hp with the 2.5 liter, and gets as high as 152hp in the three carb 2.8 liter version in the last version for the 1965 Supersport. The V6 proposals for the Gamma were simply sketches, and as far as we know, no prototypes were made.

    5. Look at the sharp bend the exhaust port makes and you see why the gas flow was far from free and why the engine was inefficient because it could’t breathe properly

    6. Geoff: 1) where in the drawing is the exhaust port? And why did they make the bend so severe? How did they paint themselves into that corner?

    7. That 130 exhaust tract – it demonstrates that in-line valves with a wedge-shaped combustion chamber are compromised in a crossflow arrangement. The reverse-flow 128 engine, which is said to have set the pattern for the V6, didn’t have the problem for obvious geometric reasons.

      A single central camshaft (for each bank) and finger rockers, in the Maybach manner, later adopted by Lloyd, NSU, BMW, Glas and just about everybody in Japan, would have allowed opposed valves and thereby avoided the hairpin bend in the exhaust port.

      Busso achieved the same thing on the two valve per cylinder Alfa V6 with short in-head pushrods. A cost-led compromise, but a good one.

    8. Thanks, Robertas. Is there an engines-for-dummies book you could recommend? I am not au fait with the secondary principles. I understand that air and fuel mix and are ignited and free-flow and good mixing are desirable. Valve principles and exhaust manifold design are not something I know about though. I also don´t understand how refinement is managed or much about how torque and speed are handled. Or engine efficiency -how some engines get less power per volume of fuel bunged in.

    9. Richard: a good starting point for automotive technology is Bosch’s ‘Automotive Handbook’. Used examples can be found for little money.

      Books on engine design are mostly literature for engineering students. Useful for non-engineers are books from Richard von Basshuysen if you can find them. An entertaining book covering a specialised topic is Jim Kartalamakis’ book on making the old Alfa DOHC engine fo faster.

    10. Geoff Goldberg

      Thanks for shedding light regarding the 2.5-litres Lancia V6 OHC proposals, it certainly would have bode well for the 2.8-litre Flaminia in terms of power. Aside from possibly building upon the earlier work of the B20S/B54 OHC, it is known if the V6 sketches for the Gamma were to carry over the 2.5-2.8-litre displacement of the Flaminia or be enlarged to about 2.9-3.0-litres?


      Thanks for the drawing of the 130 V6 engine, having originally been conceived as a 2.6-litre engine it is rather a shame the V6 evolved to be a compromised short-lived design instead of possessing the longevity of the 128 4-cylinder with a displacement range encompassing a 2-litre tax special up to 3.5-3.85-litres.

    11. Bob – The V6 proposed for the Gamma (as sketched by De Virgilio) was for about 3 liters. Its not fully detailed so that is his estimation of the size. It was to be DOHC on both banks.
      /Users/gghome/Desktop/Screen Shot 2021-10-17 at 9.12.35 AM.png

  15. AntiSuv – I can almost see the 130 relationship with the Falcon XD, but not quite.

    It’s submerged by the overarching efforts to make the Falcon – pointlessly – look like a replica of the European second-series Granada.

    This was a pity, as the original XD had good ideas of its own, principally the dropped beltline at the side windows, something which was denied to the Granada, which used the doors from the 1972 first series. In the metal the Falcon is the opposite of the 130 Coupe. The Australian car is disappointingly rough-edged, whereas the Fiat’s styling has subtleties only appreciated in three dimensions.

    1. Robertas/ AntiSuv: We know that the second generation Granada was styled very much with the 130 Coupé on its mood-board. I believe that the excellent Mr. P. le Quément said as much latterly – and he would know. Since the Falcon was styled in that idiom, one supposes that any resemblance the Falcon had to the Fiat (and not at all being snide here) was through osmosis.

  16. “To this day Paolo Martin’s 130 remains a stylistic touchstone and enduring archetype of a certain classical modernism, of a style which spoke of the open road, of languid coastal journeys, of evening light on open water, a fine meal, good company, an amorous rendezvous.”
    Probably, our motoring dream. I couldn´t have said it better myself.

    Thanks for another fantastic read. The Beta, the Alfasud and now the 130 Coupé…DTW is on a roll!

    1. Eóin, Daniel and Richard, thank you for your very thoughtful replies on the concept of Modernism. Eóin you are of course right to correct me on the year of my sighting of a 130 Coupe. It was 1972 but after so long recollections are not as accurate as they should be.

  17. If the Cybertruck were produced using the radical structural engineering concept and methods Tesla have touted, it would hew closer to the ideas of van der Rohe than Gandini.

    The difference between these two vehicles is that the Cybertruck will ostensibly be supported by its bent stainless exoskeleton, not by underlying pressed forms like a monocoque, nor by a space frame, or anything familiar to autodom. Cybertruck in prototype form is as different from the Ascot as the Seagram Building is from the Empire State Building. Still, I suspect that the production Cybertruck will adopt a DeLorean-esque compromise, despite Tesla unlike DeLorean exhibiting the nous to fashion the CT’s exterior in deference to the limitations of structural stainless steel. It is still I think, a valiant stab at Modernism, and not just in its outward form.

    But Modernism wasn’t the final progression of architecture. We have covered post-Modernism here as well (Robert Venturi in particular). Beyond Post-Modernism, Gehry among others have created “deconstructivist” buildings that exceed even what science fiction of the mid 2oth century had conjured, yet I can only think of one automotive concept which brushes up against such boldness. Perhaps also that is no coincidence that it originated at the same company which was bold enough to produce the i3: I refer to GINA. Is that all there will be? Are we done evolving the automobile, even in our dreams? I hope not.

    (Sorry for the excursionary ranting, perhaps I should have posted this on the Countach thread, if at all? but the relevant discussion has taken place here. I was going to post something like this days ago, but balked to evoke such controversy in the shadow of a subject I greatly respect, the genteel, Modern, progressive 130. Forgive me please. ).

    1. No apologies necessary, gooddog. I would agree as regards GINA concept by the way. Incidentally, Mr. Warming has returned to the OEM sphere, having lately been appointed Rolls Royce Design Director. Maybe he likes the misery?

    2. I was quite disappointed myself when his own site touted “mobility solutions”, thus I suspect he will adapt well to an environment where tradition dictates the creation of timeless icons. He must feel comfortable under the auspices of BMW to have returned to the mother ship, and they certainly are in need of his calibre of talent post haste. Not to mention the mirage of empty promises that seemed to comprise and compromise his purpose at Borgward.

    3. gooddog: There is little question that his talent is sorely needed, but given how difficult it has been of late for BMW to hold on to its senior design talent, one has to hope Mr Warming’s political skills are as good as his design skills.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: