The Fiat 132 - An Overview

By Martin Clapton


The Fiat 132 was launched in May 1972 for the Italian market and although the British public could see the car at the Earls Court Motor Show that year, the first RHD cars were not available until early 1973.

Its predecessor, the 125 saloon, proved in some ways to be a very radical car. In the late 1960's there were very few twin overhead camshaft cars about, let alone family saloons. Only the Alfa Guilia range and Lotus Cortina comes to mind. However, Fiat produced this car with the new Lampredi engine of 1608cc driven by a cambelt and not the customary timing chains. The cambelt idea was originally pioneered by a company called Glas of Switzerland, but Fiat was possibly the first to use it in full-time production.

The 132 was originally available with 1592cc and 1756cc capacities. This was achieved by lengthening the original block by 70mm so larger bores could be used safely. Lancia, a Fiat acquisition in 1969, had played an engineering role in this to use the engines in their up and coming Beta range. The engines are commonly thought to be idendical but , in actual fact, only the crankcases are shared due to the Lancia having valve timing and oil feed differences and being a transverse front wheel drive installation.

Martin Clapton's 132 1800 ES at Shelsley Walsh HillclimbThe 132 also had suspension changes from the 125. At the rear, gone were the leaf springs to be replaced with coils and a four-link panhard rod location for the rear axle. The front wishbones were retained but now with two large bump -stops either side which Fiat claimed did the job of an anti-roll bar. All round disc brakes with separate circuits and a five-speed gearbox was standard on the 1600 and 1800 Special models with an automatic available as an option for the 1800. The standard 1600 had a four-speed box. The interiors, typically early 1970's, included brushed nylon seats, deep pile carpets and wood trim dashboards, all of good quality and executed very well.

Despite the 132's enviable mechanical specification, it was not meant to be an all-out sports saloon , more a quiet comfortable touring carriage. The early brochures conveyed this at the time.

The motoring press still probably expected the former. Praise was given to refinement , comfort, roominess, of sound contruction and performance. Reservations were made as to the low-geared heavy steering when parking, body-roll if cornered hard and over servoed brakes- a common Italian practice at the time and of course, the famed Italian driving position [long arms, short legs] - very Nuvolari!!!!

Although Fiat were very happy with the sales of the 132, they did not rest on their laurels. Almost as if answering to the motoring press they released a revised 132 at the 44th. International Motor Show at Geneva in March 1974. These were the new 1600GLS and 1800GLS models.

Outwardly, changes included deeper windows for even better visibility, revised grill design and larger rear light clusters. Wider low-profile tyres were also used. Interiors were upgraded with new seat patterns, and more comprehensine instrumentation. New suspension geometery at the front complemented the anti -roll bar but still included the two large bump-stops on each side.. The 1600 engine remained unchanged but the 1800 gained a new compression chamber design increasing its power from 105BHP to 107BHP and the maximum torque figure, although unchanged, now occurred at a lower engine range to give better overtaking ability, coupled to the new gear ratios.. It's interesting to note that this engine produces 94% of the available torque at just 2500RPM in 1600 form and 97% at 2500RPM in 1800 form.

132 Bellini

Autocar magazine expressed the view that the changes had given the 132 better driving qualities including stability in corners as well as increased performance. The excellent ride remained unimpaired.


Fiat's smart new brochure aimed the car very much at the middle class buyer with some very romantic Italian scenery and architecture. "You can change up to a 132 from a smaller car, and you will be astonished if you do. You discover comfort of a new order. made. of space, light and silence at all speeds."


"But nowadays there is much to be said in favour of buying the 132 after experience with a bigger car, one of the big European grand touring or sportscars for example. In132 Bellini this case the astonishment is even greater.. You have not gone back on your tracks with a 132, on the contrary, a more intelligent type of motoring in line with the times."


Here Fiat felt the 132 was the answer to offering comfortable transport within modest dimensions, indeed it possessed the largest passenger compartments for its size. This was important as increased fuel costs, traffic congestion and speed regulations were being made apparent at the time.
[This was the mid-1970's-ring any bells today!!!]

There was a further power increase , up to 111BHP, in the 1800 engine from chassis number. 208001.The last in the line for this series was the 1800ES-Equipaggiamento Speciale [Special Equipment]. Some kept the GLS badging, some had new stick-on ES badges. Available in three metallic colours-silver [code 620], light blue [code 400], champangne [code 577].

The 1600 and 1800 versions made way for the new 132 2000GLS in 1977. The new 1995cc capacity, essentially an 1800 with the Group 4 crankshaft taken from the 16 valve 131 Rallye was rated at 112BHP. Many external changes occurred with less chrome brightwork and more matt black evident with steel wheels painted to look like alloys.

Fiat dropped the all-disc arrangement in favour of rear drums for better handbrake operation, although withMartin Clapton's 132 1800 ES at Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb the new 14 inch wheels a larger diameter disc brake of 251mm was used on the front, as against the 239mm used all round on previous models..The gearbox had higher ratios- especially important due to the fuel crisis at the time and power steering was standard.

The new 132 was Fiat's flagship now the 130 Coupe had been dropped and the interior was suitably upgraded to a class act. Deep plush velour seats looked incredibly inviting. The same material used for the headlining with novel blinds that retracted inside.

The 132 2000 was the first production car to use the Pirelli P6 series tyres which endowed it with excellent roadholding for the time whilst still retaining that excellent ride quality.

Fiat's advertising slogan at the time was , "a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing", which donned the brochures as well as the TV advertisment for the car with the Lampredi engine soundtrack in the background. Oh Happy Days!!!.

Martin Clapton.


Click here to go back to 'Cars'


Site constantly under construction!

If you have questions or comments about this website, please e-mail


Web DesignClick here to visit www.thotos.comBy Thotos