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    Matthew Hayward

    Buying Guide Fiat 130 Coupé

    Posted in Cars on Tuesday, February 04 2020

    Rectilinear or ravishing? This capable and overlooked GT is both.

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    / #Fiat-130-Coupe / #Fiat-130 / #Fiat

    I got the call in June to take the Fiat over to Mark Devany at Dino Twenty Four Hundred for new struts. That happened fairly quickly, but no word on improvement yet because Mark is also sorting the handbrake, rear flexi hoses and pads. Meanwhile, I’ve ordered a set of engine hoses and I’m looking forward to getting it back any day now.
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    FIAT 130 COUPÉ

    / #Fiat-130-Coupe / #Fiat-130 / #Fiat /
    RUN BY Martin Buckley
    OWNED SINCE 2009

    I want to make #2019 the year in which I get everything – and I mean everything – sorted on the 130. It is 90% there but, as usual, the final 10% is proving the hardest. The problem with getting a car up and together piecemeal and ‘on the hoof’, as it were, is that as soon as you get one item right it tends to highlight all the other issues. What seemed acceptable last year now irritates the hell out of you.

    Top of my list for quite a while has been the suspension; every time I drive the Coupé, my overriding impression is that it wallows like a pig if driven with anything even approaching enthusiasm. Standards have moved a long way in 40 years, but these cars were fairly highly rated for their cornering capability. Yes, they rolled – everything did in the ’70s – but not quite as dramatically as this.

    It can only be dampers, really, but the odd thing is that when you bounce the car on each corner it feels rock-hard. I have mentioned this to Mark Devaney at Dino 24 Hundred several times, but we have now decided to galvanise ourselves. Mark has found a set of donor 130 Coupé struts and sent them off to Gaz Shocks in Essex which, as the name implies, builds custom gas shock absorbers. These take about four weeks to do (they are busy), so hopefully by the time you read this I’ll have a 130 that doesn’t want to scrape its doorhandles on the floor.

    Depending on how successful this proves to be, Mark is talking in terms of a thicker front anti-roll bar as well. The dampers will be adjustable, so hopefully we’ll be able to tweak them to best advantage without losing the good ride quality.

    The brakes are pretty decent, other than the fact that the vacuum in the servo disappears overnight so you have a solid pedal for the first minute or so; maybe it’s time to look at the booster. I still like the idea of finding an alternative disc and/or caliper to future-proof the car a little, because certain parts are getting rare and pricey. The way forward here may lie in the realm of the Stratos replica, because the genuine cars used a variety of 130 bits, possibly including the hubs and wheel bearings.

    I spent some time at the end of last year cleaning the engine bay with fairly good results. It was just a matter of some laborious elbow grease in every corner, making good use of the Polti steam-cleaner and the Gunk, then going over it again until you either get bored or realise you can’t get it looking any better unless you want to take the engine out – which, to be honest, is probably the only real way of doing the job properly. But still, it looks better than it did.
    As for the rest of the car, visually the only things I find irksome are the tired and faded window channels. I now have some samples of possible replacements from trim specialist Woollies to look at.

    Ace mechanic Gus Meyer sorted the fan-switch issue that cropped up on the Le Mans Classic trip, but we still need to look at the wipers (there’s only one speed when there should be two), the driver’s-side door lock (it won’t unlock) and fit the correct Marelli air horns: the Fiat’s American Edelweiss ones really should be on my #Oldsmobile-Toronado .

    It seems the 130 is going up in the world at last, because I’ve been contacted by two separate parties looking for parts for ground-up rebuilds; one the subject of a car restoration programme on the TV. This indicates that they are either climbing in value (they are, but only a bit and it’s never been about that with these cars for me) or, with the youngest now more than 40 years old, there just aren’t enough really nice ones to go around.

    This is true in the case of the right-hookers, but I seem to get offered left-hand-drive Coupés all of the time. Most are described as ‘rust-free but in need of recommissioning’ – an estate agent-style euphemism for ‘knackered’.

    Mark Devaney, Dino 24 Hundred: www.dinouk.com
    Gus Meyer

    Plenty of elbow grease has got the 130’s engine bay looking a whole lot more presentable.
    The Coupé looks good, but now Buckley wants to get it driving just as well; once rebuilt, the replacement dampers (right) should help.
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    Fifty years almost to the very day I’m writing this, Fiat announced its new 130 saloon at Geneva

    Posted in Cars on Saturday, April 06 2019

    Fifty years almost to the very day I’m writing this, Fiat announced its new 130 saloon at Geneva. Few details were given, and the single car on display kept disappearing into the floor – probably so that people couldn’t linger on the wonky pre-production panel fit.

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    CAR #Fiat-130-Coupe / #Fiat-130 / #Fiat /
    RUN BY Martin Buckley
    OWNED SINCE April 2009
    PREVIOUS REPORT March 2018

    Given its left-handidness and the fact that it is now reasonably dependable (I took it on a photoshoot in Swansea with no problems in March), I decided that the Fiat 130 Coupé was the natural candidate for a forthcoming trip to the Le Mans Classic, organised by my friend John Holland. With all fluids checked, the appropriate wind in the #Michelin-XWX tyres and the air horns mended by mechanic Gus Meyer (using an Edelweiss compressor, not Marelli, strangely), we set off three-up with wife Mia in the rear – which was no hardship because there are big armchairs and loads of legroom – and my pal Merrill as a 6ft 5in front-seat passenger. It was the longest trip I had tackled in the car, certainly since the gearbox conversion was done.

    In convoy with our host John in a borrowed Datsun Fairlady, we drove from my shed on a perfect Thursday evening. Chaperoned by Leslie and Chris Marsden in a modern, we had a cracking back-roads trip to Southampton in the twilight, skirting Salisbury Plain.

    The Fiat is now a nicely high-geared car for long trips and I was happy enough that its various drive train wobbles had been suppressed to a point where they would no longer drive me daft. In fact, with the wheels balanced the car is extremely smooth at speed and very competent on narrower, twistier roads, taking a wide variety of surfaces and cambers in its stride. Certainly it rolls a lot and feels under-damped at the back, but I can’t decide if this is age/wear or just what a Fiat 130 feels like.

    Our subsequent adventures are worthy of a column (see Backfire) so I will say no more, other than that the Fiat only disgraced itself by somehow deciding it didn’t want to put its engine fan on in the roasting heat. That was fine on the move, but not so good when we were lining up to get off the ferry.

    We made it without further incident to our lodgings at St Pierre De Lorouer and, as luck would have it, there was an Englishman called Simon living a mile up the road with a garden full of old Jaguars who was more than happy to rig up a remote switch for the fan. The heat also caused a couple of bits of trim on the seats to come adrift.

    I don’t really want to think about the fuel consumption, although in view of the fact that we were rarely overtaken on the péage on the way back, it wasn’t unreasonable.
    I ran around in the Fiat for a week or so, and then put it away for a month with every intention of sorting the fan switch and flushing the radiator, which was full of dark-brown coolant. I didn’t get a chance to do either before a trip to London for the Concours of Elegance, but I managed to get into the middle of Twickenham before I shattered the suave GT Man illusion by having to jump out of the car in a traffic jam and flick the switch.

    I heard what sounded like the limited-slip diff growling when making tight turns in a multi-storey car park, then became more alarmed by a grumble when braking. I decided that it needed front pads and ordered them on eBay, but when Gus investigated upon my return home the pads all round had plenty of meat on them – and the diff is only slightly low on oil – so that one is still a mystery.

    I’ve yet to give the Fiat another try because it is still up on axle stands in the shed, after I got all enthusiastic and started wire-brushing the rusty suspension bits and painting the inner wheelarches with Waxoyl stone-chip.

    The Fiat’s electrics are still a bit eccentric. Somehow I get hazard lights when indicating left or right if I have the headlights on, and the drivers-side window switch works the wrong way round.

    I sometimes feel as if I’m running hard to stand still with this car. But I can’t give up now: with its engine nicely detailed, wiring tidied and the majority of the electrical gremlins resolved, I think I am in danger of having a truly sorted Fiat 130. Having gone through a dozen of them over the past 25 years it’s about time, really.

    1 Gus Meyer
    2 Jeremy Nash
    3 John Holland
    4 Sarah at Le Chaton Rouge: www.lechatonrouge.com

    The Fiat certainly looked the part on its trip to the Le Mans Classic. Wire-brushing the arches is making a mess. Pads are fine, so grumble is still a mystery.
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    Adam Towler
    Adam Towler uploaded a photo in the album 1971-1978 Fiat 130 Berlina 3200 .
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