The Fiat 131 Abarth Rallye

grp4 fiat 131 abarth rallye A car which had such a forgettable start to its life on the road, the Fiat 131 Abarth went on to become one of the most memorable historic rallying cars from the era.

From humble beginnings as a medium-sized family saloon, the car underwent a dramatic transformation to become the rally sport legend that it now revered as today.

Not content with re-modelling the exterior, Fiat gave everything from the chassis to the brakes a complete overhaul, eventually producing a machine that would go on to win the World Rally Championships three times in a four year period: 1977, 1978 and 1980.

The creation
The Fiat 131, also known as the Fiat Mirafiori, may not have seemed an obvious choice to become a top rally car but at the time, it was the only model which had a rear wheel drive, an essential in the days before 4WD became widespread.

With a design originally intended for practicality on the road, Fiat had to rip out the heart and more or less start from scratch. The chassis was the first thing to receive attention, with the rigid rear axle being entirely replaced by an independent suspension, complete with McPherson struts. The distinctly average gearbox was ramped up to 5 gears, and all-wheel disc brakes were installed.

A twin cam unit was put to good use in the engine which also featured - for the very first time - a 16 valve cylinder head. These changes meant the car was now capable of producing 140bhp at 6400 rpm, a growling beast ready to eat up the tarmac.

The bodywork underwent wholesale changes too, with the help of Italian car styling specialists, Bertone. Out went the plain and sensible exterior and in came widened wheel arches, boot and roof spoilers and a large air dam, as well as extra air intakes on the sides and the bonnet. The new parts were made from ultra-light fibre glass whilst the windows in the side and the rear were made from Plexiglas, giving the Fiat 131 a much more lightweight feel.

These changes allowed the previously humble family car to be homologated by the FIA for entry into Group 4, subsequently blasting away all the others in the field.

A winning formula
In order to get the Group 4 classification needed in order to take part in the World Rally Championship (WRC), the FIA required that at least 400 models were produced. This was a deliberate move in order to encourage manufacturers to adapt road cars rather than develop a new model from scratch.

Only a tiny fraction of the cars produced for regulation purposes ever saw racing action, with the vast majority being used either for testing or as prototypes.

However, of the cars whose wheels reach the track, a remarkable number of successes were notched up, with more than 20 WRC events, including the three titles in 1977, 1978 and 1980.
A number of well-known and prestigious drivers were to climb behind the wheel of the Fiat 131, including Markku Alen in 1978 and Walter Rohrl in 1980 (read more about Walter Rohrl on our News Page). Other drivers who recorded successes with the Fiat 131 were Sandro Munari, Michele Mouton, Attilio Bettega and Timo Salonen.

But although the track record of the Fiat 131 was phenomenal, its time at the top was brought to a halt with the introduction of the first four wheel drive rally car, the Audi Quattro.

The unthinkable had happened: the Fiat 131 Abarth was no longer the invincible racing machine.

It became clear very quickly that a rethink was needed and production of the winning rally car was ceased. The Lancia 037 and the Lancia Delta 038 were the subsequent successors but neither ever enjoyed the status nor the performance of the Fiat 131.

Although its time at the top was over long ago, the Fiat 131 Abarth remains one of the most loved rally cars, still topping polls all around the world. Fusing unmistakable style with squealing engines, the Fiat 131 has its place amongst the legends of this sport.

The Fiat 131 Abarth rebirth
The Fiat 131 Rallye is now reborn at Rallysport Development. The project started after the team at RSD acquired an original 131 Abarth Stradale and many original works group 4 parts. These items where studied in great detail then reverse engineered so brand new parts could be re-manufactured.

The cars and parts that are now available from RSD are exact reproductions of the WRC winning originals. Every effort has been made to engineer the car and parts so they are as authentic as possible, this is now backed up with all of our cars being supplied with FIA homologation papers to appendix K, of which we are very proud.

Bodywork moulds, casting patterns, engineering drawings and fabrication templates have  been produced so that the car can now go into a production phase. Complete 16 valve cylinder heads are now available as are the 5 speed dog box and rear differential and associated components. Group 4 uprights and Bilstein suspension units are now in stock as is an extensive parts catalogue.

With all our products having been hand built in our UK based factory you can be assured of great service and unrivaled quality, our track record of rally results is testament to this.

Experience the 131
from the inside!

Roger Albert Clark Rally, 28-30 November 2014 SS12 Hamsterley 2 - 5.13 miles

Thanks to Mad Bob Media



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