Bella Brava! 1980 Fiat Brava

As much as I love me some curvy cars, there’s just something about 1970s and 1980s boxy designs that gets to me. This one is a classic three-box design if there ever was one. It’s a 1980 fiat Brava, also known as a 131, and it’s on Craigslist in White Plains, New York with a $3,500 asking price. Bella!

This is one nice car, whether a person likes Fiats or not. I’m hoping to not hear the ubiquitous F.I.A.T. “definition” that we hear every time a Fiat is mentioned, but it’s hard to avoid that. The Series 2 Fiat 131 was named the Brava for its two-door debut in the US in mid-1978 and they were here until 1981. They offered a two-door coupe, a four-door sedan like this one, and a slick four-door wagon, which was dropped for the US market in 1980, unfortunately.

Arrgg.. I know, most people have automatics, but this car begs to have a 5-speed manual transmission. An automatic was an option. You can see the unusual sliding-door glove box on the top of the dash, that’s an interesting feature. Volvo and Saab weren’t the only companies concerned with safety, Fiat was serious about the safety of its cars and its customers. Here’s a YouTube video showing some 1970s crash tests of Fiats.

This is one clean car. It has a mere 51,600 miles on it and it’s a two-owner car. The current owner, the seller, bought it from the original owner in 1993. It has been maintained throughout its life and four years ago it received a total repaint. The seller says there was very little rust at that time as the car was rust-proofed when it was new. This “interior is original and in very good condition…..a seam on the driver’s seat is open, the headliner sags a little due to loose weatherstripping around the doors, the rear sill needs to be recovered.”

That is one clean engine for being 37-years old. By mid-1980, Fiat offered more power in its 2.0L twin-cam inline-four by adding fuel injection which brought the horsepower to 102. This appears to be the early-1980 carbureted version with 80 hp, unfortunately. I think I may see a little “Rosso” (red) overspray on the left side there? This car “starts and drives well and has a perfectly running automatic transmission.” The seller also mentions that “in recent years, many mechanical parts were replaced such as brakes, hoses, etc.” This car isn’t for anyone looking for a used, silver Camry. This is a car for the adventurous person who likes to have a generous dose of soul in their vehicles.

Fast Finds


  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    “I’m hoping to not hear the ubiquitous F.I.A.T. “definition” that we hear every time a Fiat is mentioned”

    As an unabashed FIAT fan, how about a substitute: First In All Thoughts!

    • Scotty Staff

      Well done, sir!

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Remember, one is my daily driver now (and I’m very, very, very happy with it!)

    • Kevin

      Jamie Staff

      “I’m hoping to not hear the ubiquitous F.I.A.T. “definition” that we hear every time a Fiat is mentioned”

      As an unabashed FIAT fan, how about a substitute: First In All Thoughts!

      I’m hearing ya Jamie.

    • bob

      Finest In All Things :-)

      • bob

        Or, for a Spider; Fast Italian And Topless

  2. Sam

    Crisp sharp lines like a well tailored Italian suit.

  3. Mark

    I can vouch for how tough these were…friend of mine back in the early 80’s slid off the road on a rainy night…..rolled over a 150 feet down a ravine where it landed on its top in a creek….sadly his passenger was thrown out and killed but my friend survived. Found them the next morning ….would never walk again but a miracle he wasn’t crushed to death.

  4. L.M.K. Member

    Former girl friend had the same car, right down to the same color combination, in the mid 1980’s and it served her well….

  5. Howard A Member

    What saying? Oh, you mean Fix it aga,,,,( I know, it’s as old as the Lucas jokes), never been a fan of Fiat, not sure why really, aside from the old man WW2 thing, they always seemed like half a car, like the toy in a cereal box, fun, but broke right away. Got all the right stuff, probably cart 4 adults around just fine. Are Fiats really as bad as most people ( me) think?

    • Blyndgesser

      Yes and no. They were full of good engineering well before their competition, but they were definitely built to a price. If you had the time to stay ahead of maintenance, they were a delight, but treat them the way American drivers did in the 1979s and they would fall apart pretty quickly.

  6. jwinters

    Fix It Again Tony

    • Keruth

      Actually, for the malaise era, these were quite good, rotted like anything else back then. As Dad would say, VW or RR, salt gets them all!
      And Fling It Around Turns works too!
      I’m putting a 131 AB 5spd in my FI.Spider, bulletproof!
      This slush box is a TH180, by the way.
      I’d take it.

    • bob

      just had to do it, huh?

  7. SubGothius

    My family had a metallic-green ’79 Fiat Brava wagon that served us well for 7 years or so. It was still on the dealer’s lot by mid ’80, so Dad knew they’d be pretty motivated to get rid of it by then and drove a hard bargain. Stuck firm to his final offer and was on his way out the door when the owner of the dealership finally relented and called him back in to accept the deal.

  8. jdjonesdr

    Had one of these in the 2 door model. Great car!


    Now, I have to wonder why would someone invest money in a paint job for this car? If it’s a good job, wasted money to me. Otherwise, its a Maaco or Earl Shieb? job. Nah, more trouble than it’s worth at any price. I do like it though. And I think the automatic takes away from it.

    • duaney

      51,000 miles, virtually a new car. Why not paint it? You might not believe it but at many car shows this Fiat will get 10 times the attention of your Camaros and Mustangs.


        I don’t doubt that. I like the car too. But, with collectables, unless it’s your actual first car and you have the money, choose your battles. It cost’s as much to paint and or restore something (correctly) worth $100K as one worth $5K is my point.

  10. Ernie the Dancing Weasel

    My very first car was a FIAT (1100D) and I’ve owned my share of examples of the marque, but my love of the driving experience doesn’t extend to the gawdawful slushbox in these things…

  11. Graham Line

    Still not hard to find a five-speed that will fit. Worst aspect of Fiat in the US was the dealer network.

  12. Gazzyp

    I had a Fiat 128 3p berlinetta back in 1981 it was a fantastic car great fun . I now have a bravo 1.9 multijet 150 and this too is an awesome car nothing wrong with Fiats at all

  13. N. Moquin

    I’ve had 2 ’76 131’s,(a 5 speed and an automatic). A ’79 Brava(5 speed manual) wagon for a period of about 10 years. My first 131 was purchased new and drove it until it was taken out by a Datsun 200 SX, at least there wa s one less ugly Datsun taken off the streets! I replaced it with another two door 131 with an automatic. The price was right but the auto wasn’t much fun. The only problems that I had were the plastic hose clamps would age badly needing replacement, the short rubber hose under intake manifold would self-destruct and was replaced more than once, and the only major problem was replacing an engine starter in one. They were quite problem free and wouldn’t mind having another 5speed two door.

  14. That Guy

    Ha! A nine year old Fiat Brava was one of the few cars I’ve made a profit on. In 1988 I bought it for fifty bucks, running well but rusty as heck, badly smashed in front, and unable to pass smog. I drove it six months as my daily driver until the registration expired, then sold it for $125 as a parts car. It was actually a great car to drive, and I never had to fix a thing.

  15. Brian M Member

    When I was stationed in Spain in the mid 1970s these cars, as SEATs were the staple of the taxi fleets. They were about four years behind their Italian brethren as FIAT sold the tooling when they did a redesign. They were practically indestructible and some had Mercedes 180 diesels put in them to even further extend their lives. When I was working in Turkey in 1991/92, I had a rented Tofas sedan, more of the exported tooling. Mine was an 82, I think. The Turks reinforced an already sturdy body shell to accommodate some really primitive roads and raised the ride height about 2 inches, a real necessity. One of FIAT’s most enduring designs. This one is a beauty.

  16. bob

    I am now on my 8th Fiat; a 2012 500. Number 3 and 7 were 124 Spiders. But, number 6 was my favorite of all; a 1976 131 4-door. Had some rust, but very solid. I liked it so well that in 1982, I went out looking to buy a brand new one. And we all know what happened at that time.

  17. John

    I had an injected ’81 coupe 5 speed, great car

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