131 Mirafiori
sporting fiats club Monday, November 20, 2017

Introducing the 131

Model History

Buying Guide

FAQs

Types Of  131

SFC Gallery

Site Links

Register Interest


 
Family Saloon to Sporting Flyer

Introducing the 131

There's something odd about the way the 131 range was launched - especially when you consider what it became. The 131 Mirafiori range was announced in September ‘74 as a direct replacement for Fiat's medium size 124 saloon. But the 131 began life as a technical step backwards.... the 124 series it replaced had the famous 'Sports' and 'Specials' with advanced ride and sophisticated twin cam power units. In fact the Fiat 124 was the first mass production car to have a twin cam engine in Europe.

But then the 131 is launched with small pushrod engines and a side mounted camshaft. Yes the 131 was simple and practical but hardly what the motoring press had expected. You see the motoring world was trying to recover from first big oil price hike, and being the first, it had come as a nasty shock. Part of Fiat had been looking for frugal, frightened buyers ever mindful of their wallets, and assumed they would want to keep the cost of motoring cheap above all else.

Fortunately for us there was another side to Fiat in the seventies - determined to exploit a new and fast growing market for in-the-street performance. This was expressed in the rally cars and the popularity of the newly forming world rally series. Several manufactures had seized on the vast marketing opportunity of driving their products at high speed passed hundreds of thousands of potential buyers. Fiat had the will and experience to deliver truly competitive cars.

It only remained for the final choice of car to be made to carry the Fiat world rally banner. In the end the X1/9 Prototipo (and potential Stratos beater) was rejected in favour of the mundane 131. The resulting rally weapon really was awesome. And so the second part of the 131's life became everything those motoring journalists might have predicted from looking at the 124.

See also the 131 Abarth Model Page http://www.sfconline.org.uk/models/131/131abarth.asp


History
The history of the 131 is something of a Jekyll and Hyde tale. Go back to 1972 and in May Fiat launch the 132 - their new large saloon. There are three versions of the 132 produced, with different capacities of a new Twin Cam engine first seen in the 124 series. These are the 1600cc, 1800cc and 1800 Special.
Within months, the world is in the grip of a Middle East war-induced oil crisis. One of Fiat’s early responses can be seen in the first 131s (yes, the 131 was so named after the 132 was launched!).

Early 131 models had a four speed box, rack and pinion steering, rear axle and drive with a 5 link trailing arms/ Panhard rod set up, front suspension was Mcpherson strut with a lower wishbone and anti roll bar. The advanced engine and suspension designs of recent models were lacking. Few of the 132 mechanical innovations were present.
Reception to the 131 could be politely summed up as look warm. The car was ‘easy’ to drive, with no vices, a quiet comfortable ride, good maintenance access and just about adequate power for the job.
So how was this car propelled into classic stardom and World Rally Championship success?

131 Milestones
1974 October

131 introduced with 1300 or 1600cc pushrod engines

in 11 model range, 2 or 4 door, plus 1300 estate. Specials had enhanced trim & twin lights

Rack & pinion steering, limited slip diff option on 1600S.
1975
Abarth continue developing 131 prototypes including the 031 and 035 based on 131 shells
1976 March
131 homologated for Group 4 World Rallying
1977 131 Abarth wins first World Rally Championship  
1978 March

Super mirafiori introduced with 1300cc and 1600cc Twin Cam engines, 5 speed box,

Estates called Panorama

Wider wheels on all models.All models have trim enhanced
1978 May
Diesel estate introduced with 2000cc or 2500cc engines
1978 September
131 Racing (Sport in UK) introduced with twin Webers and 2.0l Twin Cam engine. Trim levels altered, twin headlights, spoiler, remote gear change

Alloy wheels optional

Sport had larger clutch

1979

131 introduced in the States as the Brava with emission controls and 2.0l engine.

Later injection added.

1980 131 Abarth wins final third World Rally Championship (1977, 1978, 1980)
1981 March
3rd series of 131 in two configurations Mirafiori & Super mirafiori. 1300cc now 1400cc single overhead cam. Superior gets 2.0l Twin Cam power
131 Sport & 2 doors discontinued. Trim levels enhanced
1981 131 sales pass 1.5 million  
1981
Limited edition Abarth Volumetrico. Fastest of the road 131s. Supermirafiori with Abarth mods.
Volumex supercharged
1984
131 production ceases

Fiat did not promote the normal 131 as a performance car. It was not until March 1978 with the Super Mirafiori that the 131 was fitted with a twin cam engine – in 1297cc and 1585cc versions, both with 5 speed manual boxes, improved seats and interior trim, and wider wheels.

In 1977 the 131 had won its first world rally crown - and yet it was September 1978 before a more serious attempt to emulate the rally cars arrived - with the 2 litre Mirafiori ‘Racing’. In the UK it was called the 131 Mirafiori ‘Sport’ in deference to concerns about the use of the term racing on a road car. The Sport was only available as a two door, with twin choke carbs, electronic ignition, remote Abarth gear Frank Church's 131 Sport at Brooklands 1999shift, 5 speed box, 115bhp @ 5800, 123 lb/ft max at 3600rpm.

It also had 5.5j wheels and alloys as an option. 0-60 10.2secs, and 112mph top speed.
The 131 Sport restored some of Fiat’s reputation for high value performance. Press and public reaction to the Super Mirafiori and Mirafiori Sport was very positive. They had much livelier performance and greatly improved grip.

From 1979, they were also marketed to the States, as the Brava, in both 2 door, 4 door and Station Wagon forms with auto box and air con. options (imports ceased in 1981). These cars either had emission constricted 80bhp or a fuel injected 102bhp engines (the latter similar to the 124 Spider 2000).

In March 1981 the 131 range was upgraded and launched at the Geneva Motor Show. The original 1300 and 1600 models now had revised 1367cc and 1585cc sohc engines. Though the Mirafiori Racing/Sport was discontinued, the 2 litre SuperMirafiori TC (twin cam) was effectively a four door Mirafiori Sport. All had new grills, bumpers, rear lights, and revised instrumentation. This final version of the Super Mirafiori was offered with 1367cc, 1585cc, or 1995cc Twin Cam engine options. After 10 years production, the 131 run was ended in 1984 when the Panorama estate car was discontinued.


The 131 Abarth Model Page looks at Abarth's development of the 131 from test bed into world beater and details the range of 131 prototypes all usually bracketed under the 131 Abarth 035 too. http://www.sfconline.org.uk/models/131/131abarth.asp

131 Racing/ Sport

Introduced in September 1978, the bodies were prepared for sports use with additional spot welds, bracing and a two-door body. The 1995cc engine derives its design and engine bay layout from the 132 series cars of similar capacity. However, in the 131 Racing, the engine is located further back.
The Racing has a new front end with revised grill and twin halogen headlights that are all installed as a single unit. The bumper and front valence has an integral spoiler, and plastic trim extends around all the wheel arches.
Mechanical changes include a larger clutch, in keeping with the 115bhp engine and the new lower profile Pirelli P6 radial tyres on 14-inch wheels. Weight was 1070kg unladen, with a quoted top speed of 113mph. Fiat claimed the Racing/ Sport could return 35mpg.

131 SuperMirafiori TC 1300 - 1600 - 2000
The third series of 131s announced in 1981 were four door models. The 2 litre replaced the 131 Racing/Sport. Top of the range offered was the three capacities of Twin Cam listed below. Series three cars can be identified externally by their large plastic strips extending to the bottom of the doors, and the matching plastic bumpers that continue the line around the front and rear of the car. Inside were new seats and cloths, a new centre console and central door locking.

131 SuperMirafiori TC Spec (3 capacities) 1981
Engine 131 C1.000, 131 C3.000, 131 C4.000 Twin Cam belt driven
4 cylinder in line, 1367, 1585, 1995cc
8.9:1, 9:1, 9:1 compression
78 x 71.5 - 84 x 71.5 - 84 x 90 bore x stroke (mm)
Output 75 - 97 - 113bhp DIN @ 5800 - 6000 - 5600rpm
11.2 - 13 - 17 mkg @ 3800 - 3800 - 3600
Lubrication: rotary pump, sump cap. All 3.6kg
Coolant: pump, thermostat & booster fan 8.1 - 8.0 - 8.2 litres
Carburation 1x Weber 32 ADF 52/250 - 53/250 - 34 ADF 54/250
or 1x Solex C32 TEIE/9 - Solex C32 TEIE/10
Ignition Coil & Distributor
Fuel Tank capacity 53 litres/ 11.66 gals, electronic d.c. pump
Gearbox 5 speed all synchro, clutch: single dry plate, split prop shaft
Final Drive Rear, Hypoid bevel gearing, 9/40 - 10/41 - 12/43 ratio
Suspension Front: McPherson strut type, coil springs, wishbones, telescopic shock absorbers
Rear: rigid axle, 5 torque reaction arms, coil springs & shocks
Brakes Front: disc, single piston & swing arm caliper
Rear: drum
Weight 1060 – 1060 - 1080kg unladen
Wheels/tyres 13ins 165/60 - 165/60 - 185/70 SR Pirelli
Steel pressing with chromed rim rings, alloy optional.

Buying Guide
The 131 ‘Racing’ is sold in UK as the 131 ‘Sport’ in deference to insurance company and authority ‘s wishes.
Notes

The 131 is badly affected by corrosion in the inner sills, floor pan, and inner wheel arches.
Panels - doors are large and prone to distortion especially at lower rear of window frames.
Front wings bolt on.
Most models sold as 4 door so ‘Sport’ 2 door is more difficult to source. Possible to use the 131 1300L (2 door) as a donor for the Sport.

Relatively cheap to buy and tune, the Sport was often used as a club racer.

Superb 2 litre engine is readily tunable with twin 45DCOE carbs, increased compression and performance cams. You can expect in excess of 180bhp.

Even in good condition, the top prices for a 131 Sport will not be much more than £2000. Although tuning and body upgrades to Abarth flared arches etc. can fetch £3-4000.
The cars are rare now. Don’t expect to find one immediately.

I'll take a bet that if you ever owned one of these Sports for any time - you're now looking for a replacement! One of the most involving and flaky Fiats ever.... And one of the worthy flag ships of the Fiat Twin Cam Register! Its time to dust then off (well more likely weld and get together again!)

Stories

Frank Church was elevated to club hero status when, at Brands Hatch in 1987 he won a round of the BRSCC Italian Intermarque (Now Le Mans Euro Italia) Championship. Frank never bothered with the racing slicks sported by his competitors. On this occasion, shortly after the race started, the circuit was deluged in a cloud burst. Frank had the pleasure of driving through a field of duck-like aquaplaning fellow competitors. One of Frank’s Alfa Romeo brethren that day reported, when later asked why he hadn’t pitted to change to wets that he aquaplaned off the camber of the circuit at Paddock Hill Bend doing little more than walking pace – “The pits can be a long time coming.”

Frank said he really enjoyed his drive, and we agree – especially as he was 72 years young at the time! His beautiful grey 131 Sport is a credit to his commitment to ownership, the FTCR and SFC!

FAQs

What's the Fiat Twin Cam Register (FTCR)? Its us - the Sporting Fiats Club - in original Twin Cam Only Mode. Only thing is I never went to an FTCR meeting that only had Twin Cam Fiats - and that included the AGMs. So I hope we're carrying the same sort of 'baton' in the same sort of way. Actually I'd like to see a web page dedicated to the FTCR on the site - but it awaits a volunteer to run it!