Carlisle Import Nationals Preview: 1978 Fiat 131S Supermirafiori

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As it has been pointed out to me many times, Sittrons and Poozhoes are all nice and everything, but what about all the cars for everyday people, ones who don’t wear birkenstocks over loud socks and who don’t have Italo-Czech-Swedish accents? Well here’s your answer to that, in the form of another Carlisle Import Nationals preview, a 1978 Fiat 131S Supermirafiori. A common enough car at the time, I’m sure we’d agree. Obviously, not common everywhere in America. But a common car, driven by everyday folks just like yourselves who collect parts for German cars that they don’t actually own but may be planning on acquiring one day. It’s smart to plan ahead, so who could fault you for purchasing an engine for a Puch-manufactured G-wagen, right?

All kidding aside, this 131S Supermirafiori is one of my annual favorites at Carlisle Import Nationals, and happens to be in great shape inside and out. Sold in America from 1974 till 1981, the 131 was available with a range of 4-cylinder engines making just under 100bhp, and managed to disappear quite quickly from our roads. Since this 131S is a regular visitor to Carlisle, you may just see it there again this year.

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The 131 was the top of the line Fee-at offered in America, yessir! Granted, it didn’t have a vinyl roof or opera windows, but it did have the ability to make a U-turn in less than 5 lanes of traffic and without listing 45 degrees. Obviously, being an import the car did have some drawbacks, such as the driver being able to notice objects when he or she drove over them. But experienced owners who mounted bigger tired reported that that tended to fix the problem. Other drawbacks included the lack of a trunk-mounted luggage rack and cursive font badging. The Fiats also tended to dissolve quite quickly if used in parts of the country where it occasionally rained. But on the plus side you did get a decent horsepower rating without resorting to V8 engines.

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The 131 was essentially made in three series of facelifts, this being an example of a Series II car. A station wagon was offered alongside a sedan, though I have yet to hear of any surviving examples in the US (presuming any were sold at all). And the 131 was one of the few Fiats that wasn’t licensed out to some Socialist-bloc factory, the 132 being the largest Fiat sedan that was made in Eastern Europe by FSO.

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The 131 was only sold in the US through 1981, though elsewhere the car continued until 1984. The Series III cars had rectangular headlights, not too dissimilar in design from those seen on the VAZ 2105 or the Volvo 240. I can’t say they suited the car’s design well, but the 131 had aged noticeably by the early 1980s anyway.

The Fiat contingent at the Carlisle Import Nationals has never been especially big, most Alfas and Fiats preferring their own single-marque gatherings (where are those gatherings anyway?). Carlisle is always good for a couple dozen Fiats, most of them predictably being the cabrio variety such as the 124. But every year it’s the bread and butter sedans that I enjoy seeing the most, and unsurprisingly it is those cars that receive the most attention from showgoers.

[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]

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14 responses to “Carlisle Import Nationals Preview: 1978 Fiat 131S Supermirafiori”

  1. Spring-heeled Jack Avatar
    Spring-heeled Jack

    These make up the bulk of the taxi fleet in Istanbul, and man, can those guys wheel these things. And, they all sport a plaque on the dashboard with a word which my Turkish sis-in-law says means God help/save/protect me.
    With one driver we were zooming down Ataturk Cadessi at about 110KM, he pulls right to pass a bus and there's another bus stopped in the lane to pick up passengers. What followed was the best display of lock-up threshold braking I have ever seen. we ducked back in behind the other bus and foot to the floor.

  2. dukeisduke Avatar

    I've always liked the 131, especially the styling. What about those wheels? Are they original? They look awfully like the ones that were offered on the E21 3-Series:
    <img src=""&gt;

    1. kingcrowing Avatar

      Ha! I was thinking the same thing!

  3. Alff Avatar

    Dad bought one of these new as he was tired of the frequent repairs required by his late model 911s. It was not his most prudent decision but a nice looking car.
    Given that these were delivered with factory installed iron oxide, I doubt there are more than a handful left.

  4. krazykarguy Avatar

    Even more amazing is the Vermont plate being displayed. Winter salt use + awful roads + lack of dealer distribution means that most FIATs dissolved or were crushed before the turn of the millennium if not sooner.
    I'd guess this is one of two registered pre-2010 FIATs in Vermont.

    1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

      Yeah, that's what a lot of people thought, but I'm pretty sure this one isn't native to VT.

    2. kingcrowing Avatar

      With an F** plate it was registered recently.

      1. krazykarguy Avatar

        I noticed that, too. Within the last 18 months or so, for sure.

  5. CherokeeOwner Avatar

    For a conservatively styled Italian sedan, that looks really good. Mid-'80s BMW 3-Series good. I want one.

  6. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
    Dean Bigglesworth

    Always liked the 131, and the 131 Abarth is a serious contender for the awesomest factory flares.. Sadly they cost an absolute fortune, and regular 131 are pretty rare too.
    <img src="; width="600" </img>
    <img src="; width="600" </img>

    1. e46christopher Avatar

      I really, really like that car.

  7. miki Avatar

    "And the 131 was one of the few Fiats that wasn’t licensed out to some Socialist-bloc factory, the 132 being the largest Fiat sedan that was made in Eastern Europe by FSO."
    According to wiki, the 131 was licensed to FSO, among many others, and sold as Polski Fiat 131p.

  8. needthatcar Avatar

    Jim, your lede images are always so damn cool. I love them. How do you do it?

    1. Jim Brennan Avatar
      Jim Brennan

      I'd love to take credit, but I think Jay is the author of these posts…
      By the way Jay, let us in on the secret of these images… filters, editing, whatever…