Classic car book reviews: Fiat 131 Abarth – 220

Fiat Abarth book

The boxy but, to my eyes, handsome Fiat Mirafiori is the subject of the latest in Veloce’s Rally Giants series. And it certainly deserves that description, having won 20 world series rallies and being driven by some of the top drivers, especially Rörhl and Alen.

The book follows the usual format for this series; a 128-page soft-cover. It kicks off with the 131’s cousins, the 124 Rallye and the dramatic Lancia Stratos. But the 131 was much more like Fiat’s mainstream sellers, though it was always underpowered compared with primary rivals such as the Escort and also had a few reliability issues.

After describing the car’s development and the key figures behind the scenes and at the wheel, Robson summarises each season. He also throws in some fascinating snippets, such as putting Rörhl’s co-driver in the middle of the car’s back seat in the 1978 RAC, to try and improve traction. It wasn’t a great success and the practice was immediately banned. There was also an early 135 model, a be-winged V6 with a motor from the Fiat 130. Trying to develop the Ritmo was a bit of a blind alley, too.

By 1981 development had stopped, and the vehicle’s Group B successor was the dramatic Lancia 037. But the car developed by Abarth on the 131 family saloon had certainly made its mark, with driver and manufacturer titles.

Very well illustrated with black and white and colour photos, this is another good addition to an interesting series.

Fiat 131 Abarth by Graham Robson
Review copy supplied by the publisher
Review by Mark Holman

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