Why you’d want a Fiat 130 Coupé
Surely stylist Paolo Martin’s most impressive production-car shape, the Pininfarina 130 Coupé is a design classic.
Stunning styling that stops people in their tracks – arguably more aggressive than beautiful, but perfectly in tune with the ’70s – was complemented by a bespoke interior, also created by Martin whose best-selling design was the Peugeot 104.
The seats, dashboard, door trims and centre console were all styled to suit the car and all Coupés were built by Pininfarina itself. Attention to detail extended to a hand throttle – in effect an early form of cruise control – a handbrake lever that drops down once applied (a feature that would be copied for the Jaguar XJ-S), and a concealed glovebox revealed by lifting the top of the dash.
Under the skin were a bespoke, oversquare 3.2-litre Aurelio Lampredi-designed V6 and very effective suspension to make this big car go and handle as well as it looked – though the standard Borg-Warner three-speed auto took the edge off performance.
For everyday use it suited the car, but the optional five-speed ZF manual was the answer for keen drivers.
Few 130 Coupés made it to the UK when new, so right-hand-drive cars are rare and manual right-hookers even rarer.
Rust and low values slashed survival rates in the 1980s and ’90s, and most you will see now have been sourced from better climates, such as the Italian-market car featured here.
Restored for a wealthy collector, it features an improved interior (the original was trimmed in single-tone Draylon velour, with leather as an option) and red highlighting in the engine bay (originally black).
Lampredi’s single-cam-per-bank V6 was only ever used in the 130, so parts can be hard to find – that and the potential for rampant rust are the main concerns when buying a 130 Coupé.
Period road testers’ biggest criticisms were poor fuel consumption and spongy brakes.
The 130 had state-of-the-art dual-circuit ventilated discs: modern hose technology can improve the feel dramatically. Availability of bespoke parts is a big worry: the headlights, said to be the widest in the world, are unique and unobtainable – the last new one seen was priced at £1600 (for one side). A tail-light unit is £800.
You need to cast the net worldwide to find parts, and be patient.
The Fiat 130 Coupé Register believes that around 25% of these cars have survived, of which about 30% have manual transmission.
Images: James Mann
Fiat 130 Coupé: what to look for
See above for trouble spots.
Designed by the master, Aurelio Lampredi, the oversquare, sohc-per-bank 3.2-litre V6 engine was ideally suited to the Coupé.
Free-revving yet torquey, it’s also impressively durable if well maintained.
The restorer here has added red highlights to glam up the engine bay: the air filter etc were originally black.
The steering box is pricey to rebuild, so look for play and leaks.
Dampers work hard, so check they haven’t gone soft; balljoints are fairly inexpensive.
The lovely leather/Alcantara here is not original. Velour (or ‘velvet cloth’) trim was a novelty then but didn’t age well; the optional leather lasts better.
There’s a lot of unique switchgear and instrumentation, so check it’s all in good working order: replacements can be very hard to find and costly.
The Borg-Warner transmission is not too expensive to rebuild, but check manuals for signs of wear.
Bespoke switchgear surrounds the gearlever.
Fiat 130 Coupé: on the road
The Fiat 130 Coupé was loved by road-testers on its introduction and is loved by owners to this day for its superb levels of comfort, excellent driving position with fully adjustable seat and steering column, comprehensive controls and nimble handling with good steering feel and hardly any roll, while still giving an impressively civilised ride.
For its price the Coupé felt slow when new, but for today’s owner the ability to cruise all day long at 100mph is more than enough.
Check the 3.2-litre engine for easy starting and smooth running: it’s a robust unit, but a cambelt change every five years or 30,000 miles is advised, and check the water pump for play because it can fail with catastrophic results.
Look out for excessive oil breathing, rattles and knocks, indicating engine wear – service parts are available, but rebuild parts are limited.
Inspect the automatic transmission fluid (it should be red, not black or brown), and on manuals listen for good synchromesh and minimal layshaft noise; manuals are much more costly than autos to rebuild.
Although the brakes were criticised for their sponginess when the cars were new, modern reinforced hoses should improve that; check disc condition and ensure that the calipers haven’t seized due to lack of use.
Excessive steering play and leaks may mean a costly box rebuild; wear in balljoints and rubbers will ruin the handling balance but are not expensive to replace. Test the shock absorbers, which go soft with age.
Fiat 130 Coupé price guide
- Show/rebuilt: £45,000/50,000
- Average: £20,000/22,000
- Restoration: £7000/8000
Fiat 130 Coupé history
1969 Mar 130 berlina (saloon) launched at the Geneva Salon: 2866cc V6, 140bhp
1970 Engine uprated to 160bhp
1971 Mar 130 Coupé launched at Geneva: 3235cc V6, construction by Pininfarina (347 built in 1971)
1971 Berlina improved with 3.2-litre engine, steering, dashboard and console from Coupé
1972 Coupé’s most successful year, with 1746 examples built
1973 1344 Coupés built
1974 Mar Maremma estate (three built) and four-door Opera shown by Pininfarina
1974 617 Coupés built
1975 197 Coupés built
1976 Berlina build ends; 221 Coupés built
1977 Coupé production ends (19 built)
The owner’s view
Rob Menghini collects Italian classics, so a 130 Coupé was a must.
“I had one before but it wasn’t as nice as this example,” he explains. “I sold that car to Dubai when this one came up. It’s chassis 455, a 1972 model that had only had one elderly Italian owner from new when it was bought by a successful Italian suit designer.
“It was rust-free and he wanted to make the best 130 Coupé in the world, so he had the interior retrimmed in leather and Alcantara, the suspension and petrol tank were powder-coated, and the engine parts were redone in Ferrari red.
“I saw it for sale in Classic & Sports Car in 2010 and flew to Milan at Christmas to test-drive it in the snow.
“I bought it, then I flew out in March 2011 and drove it back. I love driving it, and details such as the rear numberplate that hinges down to access the boot lock.”
These Karmann-built BMW coupés rot, but great looks and performance, plus readily available parts at mostly reasonable prices, make them sensible as well as stylish. Beware past neglect.
Sold 1971-’75 • No. built 19,262 • Price now £30-70,000*
Lighter and more aerodynamic than the 130, the Maserati V6-powered SM featured DS suspension, lights etc, with variable power steering. Rust and Maserati parts make restoration pricey.
Sold 1970-’75 • No. built 12,920 • Price now £20-60,000*
*Prices correct at date of original publication
Fiat 130 Coupé: the Classic & Sports Car verdict
Elegance made metal, a good 130 Coupé offers a lot of style and exclusivity for sensible money.
But it’s worth remembering that the rarity and price of components, and the propensity to rot, mean a project car can run up Ferrari-level restoration bills without the Ferrari price-tag at the end.
So be patient and wait for a good one, with undamaged original trim inside and out, a good engine and minimal body rot.
- Eye-catching looks
- Bespoke interiors and engines
- Pininfarina construction
- The model is highly likely to continue appreciating
- The big downside of exotic construction and style is exotic repair bills, applying to the rot-prone body, unique engine and almost all trim
Fiat 130 Coupé specifications
- Sold/number built 1971-’77/4491 (plus 15,093 berlinas from 1969-’76)
- Construction steel monocoque
- Engine iron-block, alloy-heads, sohc-per-bank 3235cc V6, with twin-choke Weber 45 carburettor
- Max power 165bhp @ 5600rpm
- Max torque 184lb ft @ 3400rpm
- Transmission three-speed Borg-Warner automatic or optional five-speed ZF manual, RWD (via a limited-slip diff on manuals)
- Suspension independent, at front by struts with torsion bars on the lower arms rear Chapman struts, coil springs, semi-trailing arms; anti-roll bar f/r
- Steering power-assisted recirculating ball
- Brakes dual-circuit 10¾in (274mm) front, 10¼in (262mm) rear ventilated discs, with servo
- Length 15ft 10½in (4842mm)
- Width 5ft 11in (1803mm)
- Height 4ft 5¼in (1378mm)
- Wheelbase 8ft 11in (2720mm)
- Weight 3437-3542lb (1559-1610kg)
- 0-60mph 10.6-9.5 secs
- Top speed 116-120mph
- Mpg 19-24
- Price new £5609 (1973)