The cars we loved.
When Fiat was selling cars in America during the 60’s and ’70s, we were limited to the compact sedans and the occasional sports/GT car. As a vast company, Fiat’s European offerings were much more extensive and covered all the bases including the executive coupe class. For the ’70s Fiat’s 130 coupe was a technological tour de force, even with its flaws, it was one of the best big luxury/sport coupes. First shown in 1971 at the Geneva motor show, the 130 Coupe was a departure from the sedan from which it was based.
Although mechanically similar, its crisp modern lines were penned by Pininfarina who also produced the car. The overall look was elegant and reminiscent of future angular shaped cars that would become common place by the end of the decade. Some of those future products would be echoed in cars that Pininfarina would design later like Ferrari’s 400i. There were a few odd variations produced in very small numbers like a two door estate (station wagon).
The list of innovations was long, including a four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and the first use of a modern alternator in a Fiat. The 3.2 V6 engine was also advanced. Unlike the SOHC sedan version, the coupe featured dual overhead cams and was designed by a Ferrari engineer. There were two iterations of the engine, the first version called the 128 type A produced 140 hp. Later a slightly larger 130 type B would be introduced with 165 hp, making the 130 Coupe something of a true performance car.
The interior comforts and ride quality was the strong point of the 130. Great attention to detail was given to the control surfaces look and feel. The wood veneer console featured fiber optic lighting that gave the instruments a warm glow. Other unusual conveniences awaited the driver like a James Bond like button that allowed the passenger door to be opened from the driver’s seat. The 130 did have it faults. With no fuel injection, it was difficult to start at times and it’s powertrain did not deliver the kind of performance and efficiency that was available in the big coupes from Mercedes and BMW. Nevertheless the 130 Coupe was beautiful and raised the profile of Pininfarina to the point where it was able to gain new clients. Fiat sold around 4,000 coupes vs. 15,000 or so sedans. Fiat would never offer a large executive style coupe again after 1977, instead focusing on smaller GT and sport cars like the 124 Spider and X1/9. For Fiat proper, the big coupe was gone but the ideal was revived in Fiat’s subsidy Lancia in the form of the Gamma and Kappa coupes during the ’80s and ’90s.