Obscure and Extinct: 1980 Fiat Strada

Yes, this unusual Fiat was sold in the U.S. for several years as the Strada, a hatchback that was built on the aging Fiat 128 platform. Featuring styling that even today remains quite avant-garde (or polarizing, depending on how you look at it), there are very few of these cars left on U.S. roads. I know of two that are nestled in a junkyard together, but they’re the only ones I’ve seen in a good ten years. Find this survivor-grade Strada here on eBay with an $8,500 Buy-It-Now.

One of the first things I notice about the Strada is how well the unusual design helps mask the ugly U.S.-mandated bumpers. Although they’re still a visual deterrent, the eyebrow over the rear taillights and the striking front end both help mask the protruding safety bumpers. More impressive is how well this car has been preserved, likely at the hands of a retiree given its Florida location. Glass and original wheels all look good here, as do the door panels.

The interiors were stark affairs, a quality about the Strada that it was quickly criticized for upon introduction. This was likely a cost-cutting measure, but things like bare surfaces without any fabrics drew consumer ire. The Strada here looks largely original, right down to the radio, though the shift knob seems out of place. The dash isn’t cracked (yet) and good luck finding a replacement if it does – I would imagine spares are nearly non-existent. The seller says the seat fabric is brand-new.

The engine bay remains quite tidy, and gives a nod to Subarus of the era with a spare tire mounted up front. The engine in this example is the range-topper 1.5L four-cylinder, which was good for about 74 b.h.p. and paired to a 5-speed manual, also the top option for self-shifting. Is it odd? Sure. Will it ever be worth much? Likely not. Would it get a ton of stares and circle of curious onlookers at Cars & Coffee? Oh yes, and that kind of fun is certainly worth making a best offer on.

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Comments

  1. Stang1968

    Wasn’t this the car that Yugo licensed from Fiat to make their infamous product?

    • Mike

      yes! i have a 1988 Yugo GV. it is 128 based!

    • Charles J Ortíz

      Nope, it wasn’t………

  2. FordGuy1972 Fordguy1972 Member

    $8,500 for a Euro-econobox? I don’t see it being worth anywhere near that. Good luck if you need parts. Anything north of $3,000 and you over-paid.

    • cyclemikey

      Since the Ebay auction is a “make-offer” option, I doubt that he really expects to get the $8500 for it. But I really don’t know what it’s worth, and neither do you. You gotta find someone (or, hopefully, two) who is/are interested in owning it.

      Other than model-specific trim, parts aren’t a problem. Most mechanical parts are off-the-shelf Fiat, and still available. And as Jeff said, you’d be the only one at Cars and Coffee, so there is that….

      • FordGuy1972 Fordguy1972 Member

        I may not know what it’s worth, but I think I know what it’s not worth. There weren’t a lot of Stradas sold in the U.S. to begin with, and with the departure of the dealer network after Fiat left the country in 1983 it was tough to keep one running. Rust took care of the cars not lucky enough to be based in northern California. By the end of the 1980s, it was seriously tough to spot one. So my guess is that parts are scarce here; any vintage Fiat parts.

        Where can you find a Strada today? On the European internets with asking prices firmly in three figures.

        Like 1
  3. Dave

    Really don’t see struts – especially fronts, with only two upper mounts these days…doesn’t exactly scream safe and secure. My friend had a Fiat back in college and she says it meant Fix It Again Tony!

  4. Derek

    That was a 128 copy, I think.

    These were quite nice – my aunt had one – but they rusted like a very rusty thing on a rusty day in Rustyville. One day she went to open the door and pulled the handle out. Fiat’s advertising made much of the robotised construction line (Figaro music, driving on a banked track), which in turn led to a Not The Nine O’clock News sketch about Allegros.

    The European bumper treatment actually looks quite nice in comparison to this one.

    Very few survive here, and I suspect that most of those are 130 Abarths.

  5. XMA0891

    A tip of the hat again to BF for featuring a car I haven’t seen in-person since probably about 1981. Neat obscure find!

  6. Tiki Vegas

    Why does everyone freak out about parts? Many parts for my 99 Ford are NLA. I do have a Renault too– hint: when you need a foreign part, they have em in Europe. They ship stuff over the ocean now.

    Like 1
  7. Ensign Pulver

    Ahh the Strada!! I even remember the commercial with people waving a hand in the air. All the fit and finish of garage sale Tupperware and to ability to go from A to ….god willing B…..in euro style. My friend’s mom bought one new exactly like this in high school and challenged us to find a piece of metal. Four of us could lift an spin it around to confuse her. And with all of that, I am the proud owner of a 2014 Fiat 500L Trekking that I bought new and 70k “mostly” trouble free miles although I know it will implode in dramatic fashion one day.

    • Pat A

      Why do you have to bad-mouth Tupperware? There’s probably a far higher percentage of Tupperware made in 1980 still around than there are Fiats,

      Like 1
  8. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    Competition for the Rabbits back in the day.

  9. KVL

    I think it was called Ritmo in Europe.

    • Daymo

      Yes it was the Ritmo on the Euro mainland but was also the Strada here in the UK…

  10. jdjonesdr

    A guy gave me one for a bar bill.

    They got a bad rap for quality and looks issues, but it wasn’t a bad car.
    Like all Fiats, it had electrical issues from time to time, mainly burned fuses with no idea why.

    • Beatnik Bedouin

      I think Marelli was competing with Joseph Lucas as to who could make the most unreliable electrical system, back then.

      The Euro-spec Ritmo was a far better looking car than the battering-ram equipped US-market Strada, and suffered the same quality issues, especially rust.

      • Ralph

        The Prince of Darkness vs The Count of Darkness……

      • Concinnity

        Better looking, and more modern/futuristic at the same time.

        And yes, you can say based on the 128. But you can also say, ‘shares a platform with the Lancia Delta of Delta Integrale rallying fame’.

  11. arizman2

    I had one, metallic silver, bought it new in Dallas, the dealers were practically giving them away. I drove the hell out of it for two years and sold it for about 500 bucks less than I paid for it. I liked it quite a bit.

  12. Pat A

    Does anybody here remember what an Italian tuneup is?

    • Rube Goldberg Member

      Yep, my old man did that with his Oldsmobiles, rev the heck out of it in neutral to clear it out,,,

  13. Jamie Pawlicki

    If you look really close, it’s got the lines of a Plymouth Horizon/Dodge Omni. Interior dash is almost the same too

  14. Classic Steel

    Found in the wild as either a 3 door or a 5 door hatch, the Omni was very much running in the same tyre tracks as the Rabbit. One of it’s engines was even built by VW.

    Probably just another brother from smith mother 🤡

  15. Eric Z

    In Europe it was sold as RITMO.

    And RITMO was short for:

    “Rostlaube in Turin montiert”
    (Rust bucket assembled in Turin)

    These cars could be seen rusting in time lapse (thanks to the russian steel), so I am surprised that it still exists!

  16. Steve

    I very nearly bought a bright orange one new in 1980 , to replace my 4 year old and very rusty Alfasud ti , but common sense got the better of me and I got a very first off the production line Escort XR3 , it still rusted , didn’t all cars of the 80’s bubble under the paint, squeek and just fall apart ?

  17. David Miraglia

    saw a few here in NYC way back when.

  18. dave

    Yea, I give a lot of our customer’s Chryslers the old Italian Tune-Up on a weekly basis.

    • Ensign Pulver

      I’m missing the reference! Dare I ask?

      • SubGothius

        An “Italian tune-up” is flooring the throttle and revving it out to redline in every gear over an extended session of spirited driving; this burns off carbon deposits and generally gets all lube and fluids circulating well enough to flush out any other deposits that may contribute to uneven running.

        Reminds me of a Lancia Beta enthusiast I know who drove his Beta on a roadtrip following a lead-footed friend, which with the Beta’s gearing meant he wound up cruising along at over 5k RPM for hundreds of miles, which he swears for some time afterward made the car run better than it ever had before, even under his expert care.

  19. Beaver Member

    My wife and I bought a new one in Ogden Ut in 1980 and were driving home t Texas that Christmas I went to start it one morn and it would not start. I had a friend help me tow it home to Ut and the dealer I bought it from said it did not have any antifreeze in it and the block was cracked Antifreeze was not installed at the factory and that it was the customer’s responsibility to install it! And they would not repair it!!

  20. Craig Kingsbury

    Ah the Strada, remember it well my parents bought one brand new in I think it was 1979. At the time it was between this and a Chevy Citation. We ended up with the Strada. It had fantastic traction in the winter which we had plenty of up here in Alaska. Plus the fact we lived up some fairly steep hills. One thing it definitely lacked was a good heater. It did ok till it got real cold then it was basically luke warm. Also got really great gas mileage, some where around 40 on highway and seems like around 25 in town. I thought was big step up, before this we had a Vega station wagon that had quite a few problems even though was bought new also. Parents held on to this car quite awhile and it never gave any big problems always ran great. I haven’t seen one in person in forever definitely a rare site these days. Also was car got my drivers license in, it had to been fairly tough at 16 I was bit rough on things especially shifting in those days.

    Like 1
  21. Oilyhands

    To see the true wonder of this car the British TV advert is a masterpiece. Google “Fiat Strada hanbuilt by robots*. Add to that the parody of the from the show “Not The Nine O clock News” and you have two gems from the 80’s.

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Did what you said, and LMAO! Imagine a 2 minute car ad that wasn’t stupid or boring at all.

      Hand built by…… Roberts. LOL! Never heard of that show, will now have to seek it out.

  22. mallthus Mallthus

    Had a friend who had one of these back in high school. His sister had a Fiat Spider and mom drove one of the large Maserati Quattroportes.

    Unsurprisingly, his sister also dated a mechanic at the local Italian and exotic car repair shop.

  23. Royal

    Strada was its own car here in the States several years before the Yugo came. I recall going with my Dad to see the Strada as I loved its round head lamps. The Yugo came in winter 1986 at least to the Hudson Valley where my friend took me on a 35 round trip to look at it on the dealer floor. I thought it was okay and liked it was very basic, but he hated it. History was the judge of that car and the Strada slipped into obscurity as well.

  24. Rube Goldberg Member

    Where to start? ( pun intended) Hard to believe it’s the #1 selling car in Europe. What’s the deal with that? Don’t they have better cars in Europe? I’d take a VW bug anyday over this.

  25. Riton

    In France, Fiat stands for Ferraille Invendue A Turin (metal unsold in Turin).
    The EU spec versions look better (bumpers) and we got the 105/125 and last but not least 130 hp Abarth version here. A very good performing car.
    2L, 2 cams, 2 double carbs for the 130 Abarth.

  26. LD71

    Who knew that so many Barn Finds commenters we’re closer FIAT (and Strada!) owners!! 🙀 never owned one myself but had other FIATs, and I’ll bet I’m the only one here who used to race against a Strada at Lime Rock BITD!!! I always liked the quirk styling and they were pretty fast for an econobox, rusted in realtime but good revving motors. $8500? Way off the charts LD71 😁

  27. Pat A

    Also re the “Italian tune-up”. I was taught that you drove down a steep hill in low gear, revving the snot out of the motor. That was supposed to suck carbon off of the valves on heavy decel. Then, follow that up with a high speed freeway blast to further blow out the loose crud.

  28. Rabbit

    My boss from a couple jobs ago had one, an 81, i think. By 88, when I started there, it was a real bucket. Good thing he was off the boat & traveled regularly to the old country. That car had a voracious appetite for door handles…and about everything else. Picked them up while he was over there. Finally, the front strut towers cracked, & nobody’d weld them for him, thus putting the little car out of it’s (and his) misery. Never had the dubious honor of driving a Strada, but I did get to drive a couple Bravas he’d had.

  29. Marty

    Everyone is comparing it to other ugly cars or cars without any style. Barn find what a joke. It should stay out of sight. Most of the Pintos were crushed maybe someone should put a clean one of them on here, not. Rare doesn’t make collectable by itself but then there is someone for just about anything now.

  30. Miguel

    I would have liked to be a fly on the wall at the dealerships when the salesman talked so many of you and your parents into this car.

    I wonder what was said to make somebody buy this car.

  31. marco

    Although hard to tell if there is hidden rust, if there isn’t, this is a keeper (one of only a couple in the US in this condition I suspect). I have owned 20 fiats in my life, side from it being a FIAT, it actually was a lot of fun to drive. If I hadn’t just purchased a 75 spyder, and/or if it was 1/2 the price, I would be all over this in a second.

    Like 1
  32. Patrick
  33. Dennis

    The Strada was not at all based on the 128 platform (witness the different track and wheelbase). It was a completely new design that was actually done on a supercomputer optimization process, one of the very first cars to do this. (I believe only two very high end cars did this before the Strada). It had a similar transverse leaf spring rear suspension though.

  34. Steve

    I bought a Strada new in 79. Bright lime green with brown and gold stripes. I was in need of a basic car for driving a long distance each week while returning home each weekend. The salesman took my offer to the manager and said, “you won’t believe this, but some idiot has bought the Easter egg”.
    It was very bright. I was standing behind him and told him that would be me.
    I drove it for over 200,000 miles . Only replaced the tires and heater controls.
    I sold it to a friend who kept it for a long time afterwards who said he did have electrical issues.

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