14 April 2010

1979 FIAT Strada: Handbuilt by Robots

The FIAT Strada (Ritmo in Europe) was introduced to the US market in the Fall of 1978 as a competitor to the highly-successful VW Golf/Rabbit... a front-wheel drive hatchback with Italian flair. The car was by any account an innovative styling exercise by Corrosserie Bertone- the famed Italian design and manufacturing firm that was purchased by FIAT earlier this year.

The Strada/Ritmo used most of the front-wheel drive running gear of the more conventional looking three-box 128, a well-developed platform first launched back in 1968- and was a fully galvanized unibody design with transverse engine and 5-speed transmission. The car was roomy and comfortable for it's class, and -although somewhat choked by US emissions regulations- great fun to drive with it's latest rendition of FIAT's famed Twin-Cam engine.

Sadly, and mostly due to FIAT's corporate ills at the end of it's last run in the US market, this innovative compact struggled to find buyers vs. fierce competition from Volkswagen -by then manufacturing in the States- and a wave of aggressive Japanese marques then building a beach-head. The manufacturing of the car at FIAT's Lingotto plant -arguably the most automated in the world at the time- gave rise to the ad campaign Handbuilt by Robots- and this UK-market TV commercial is a real classic-

And in Europe today, the Ritmo still enjoys a loyal following... like these Ritmo-World meets in the Netherlands and Germany- some really nice FIATs from these keepers of the faith! See all of them -here-

1979, FIAT, Strada, FIAT Strada, FIAT Ritmo, usa

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