Home » The Fiat 128 Kicked The Cadillac Eldorado’s Ass By 0.4 Inches In A Very Specific Way: Cold Start

The Fiat 128 Kicked The Cadillac Eldorado’s Ass By 0.4 Inches In A Very Specific Way: Cold Start

Cs Fiat128 1
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I’ve always liked the Fiat 128 because they’re about as close the the actual realization of a simple icon of a car into a real metal-and-blood car as you can possibly get. It’s literally three boxes fused together with some wheels, windows, and lights. And somehow, perhaps as a result of this aggressive simplicity, it has tons of charm. It also has tons of front legroom, it seems, and Fiat was very excited to crow about that in this commercial that I’m about to show you.

I love when carmakers highlight some terribly specific advantage of one of their cars, especially when that advantage gets measured in tenths of an inch:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

So the whole point of this commercial is comparing front passenger seat legroom; the Chrysler Imperial had 42.8 inches, the Lincoln Continental had 43.3 inches, the Cadillac Eldorado has 43.4 inches, but our little Fiat? 43.8! That’s a whole inch more than the Imperial, and 0.4 inches more than the next closest competitor! Wow!

I may be mocking a bit here, but the truth is that actually is very impressive from a packaging standpoint. Each of those big American luxo-barges absolutely dwarfs the Fiat in every external dimension, yet the fiat is packaged so well, it has more front passenger legroom! That’s an achievement!

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Is that why Enzo Ferrari drove one?

I guess Enzo had a lot of long-legged friends.

Cs Fiat128 Hatch

I also liked how the Fiat 128’s different body styles were really, really different. Like the hatchback version up there, seen in US-spec guise with huge bumpers and bumper guards. I also really like the hatch’s taillights, those three lozenge-shaped things. They do violate a personal Rule of Taillights for me, though, which is that the reverse lamp’s lens should be the smallest, if the lens areas are not all equal. Here, I would have put the red retroreflector on the clear reverse lamp instead of the amber turn indicator.

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You only reverse at low speeds! It doesn’t need as much visible area!

Cs Fiat128 3p 1

They’re still very cool looking, though, and sleeker than the sedan.

 

 

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William Doucette
William Doucette
13 days ago

Transverse FWD gives way more legroom / interior volume (relative to footprint) than longitudinal RWD. It’s a big part of the evolution to FWD dominance. Now EVs are sort of the newest/”Third” way to maximize volume relative to footprint.

Beached Wail
Beached Wail
14 days ago

Does anyone know how legroom is measured? Is it from the floorboard behind the pedals to the base of the seatback? From the accelerator to the back of the seat cushion? Straight line or following the articulation of a leg? And what about rear seats: how is underseat space taken into consideration?

William Doucette
William Doucette
13 days ago
Reply to  Beached Wail

The way it’s measured and the level of regulation regarding how is ever changing. It’s like a “make sure they’re being measured the same way” caveat. Which usually means vehicles of similar vintages to make an apples to apples comparison.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
15 days ago

My first purchased car was a ’71 Fiat 128 two-door sedan, Artic Gray (a puky green color). My 6’5″+ cousin and I took a kayak/surf trip along the northern California and southern Oregon coast. Great couple of weeks overall. However after a couple of rainy nights our gear was soaked, we decided to sleep in the car. Big cousin got the passenger side and I got the steering wheel side of the front seats as gear filled up the back seat. All in all not that bad of a night’s sleep. More room that we expected.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
15 days ago

The 128 “station wagon” was also more of a big hatchback since it was a two door with a bit of a rear bustle.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
15 days ago

By circa-1970 Italian standards, this was a mid-size car so by definition it had to be usefully roomier than the 127 it was launched before but started on after.

Logan King
Logan King
15 days ago

Since they were so famously terrible, I assumed that this was going to be about the Eldorado’s brake sizes

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
15 days ago

My mom had a 128 2-door sedan when I was kid. It was unkillable, contrary to stereotypes. I loved it because it had great visibility and I could see over the dash.

Fiat has always been a master of space efficiency. The modern 500 is surprisingly roomy given its diminutive exterior dimensions.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
15 days ago

The first “foreign” car I ever rode in at age 4 or 5 was a 128, belonging to one of Dad’s coworkers. I liked it for the same reason you did and its’ non-carsick-inducing qualities.

I drive a Honda Fit now so an appreciation for good visibility and clever space utilization must’ve imprinted on me.

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
13 days ago

In my experience, the modern 500 is a much better car than most people give it credit for. The interior durability is weak, but aside from that it’s great, fun to drive, space-efficient and has the ride quality of a much larger car.

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
15 days ago

You know you’re insecure when you start measuring in units less than an inch

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
12 days ago

TIL 8 billion people outside America are insecure

EXL500
EXL500
15 days ago

I owned a 1971 128 SL in the middle seventies. It was the most fun of all the cars I owned (all four of them), but it dissolved onto rusty within a year.

Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
15 days ago

I’d wager that Enzo Ferrari’s taste in cars had absolutely nothing relatable to the average American land-barge buyer of the 70s. The old man appreciated clever, lightweight engineering and that 128 he drove probably had more in common with a race car than with any of those cars in the commercial.

Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
15 days ago

What’s striking about that green hatch is the greenhouse. I know that pillar-bloat has resulted in better roll-over protection, blah blah, but that roof practically floats above the body.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
15 days ago

The look and the visibility of old greenhouses is just amazing, and new cars are so much worse.

I refuse to believe that with all of modern materials science, manufacturers couldn’t make pillars thinner than they are now. Like most things, this is a case of manufacturers not caring more than a technical impossibility.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
15 days ago

I wanna know what the respective rear seat leg rooms are with the indicated front seat values. Somehow I doubt Fiat is going to win both.

SCJeff
SCJeff
15 days ago

The results might be surprising. In high school a buddy of mine had a Monte Carlo (1974 I think) and the rear seat leg room was atrocious.

AlterId
AlterId
15 days ago
Reply to  SCJeff

Yeah… the Fiat wouldn’t match the rear legroom of the Imperial or the Lincoln, but it wouldn’t be far behind the Eldorado.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
15 days ago
Reply to  SCJeff

The Monte’s very existence was a crime against space efficiency.

It was literally developed by taking a normal GM A-body coupe body (meant for a 112″ wheelbase) and putting it on the 116″ wheelbase 4-door chassis, lined up from the back bumper to the rear wheels so the extra rear-seat space built into the sedans could be reallocated to a longer hood.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
15 days ago

My brother’s first car was a 1970 Austin America that somehow made its way to the NJ suburbs. We were shocked at the rear leg room.

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
15 days ago

I do bet that the Fiat can beat them all, they were brilliantly designed. My ’87 Super Europa was far more spacious than suspected.
If anything, it may be narrower, but not so much as it might look from the outside.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
15 days ago

“You only reverse at low speeds! It doesn’t need as much visible area!”

At the risk of trouble from the Taillight Illuminati, I must disagree with this point. A good reverse lamp should light the path into which one is reversing when it’s dark as well as provide warning for others, which means the size shouldn’t be determined by the need for others to see the lamp itself, which may very well be satisfied by a small visible area, but by the requirements of effective illumination of the surroundings. If that means a larger lamp, so be it.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
15 days ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Further to your point and specific to the Fiat, backing into a tree, pole, or folding aluminum-framed lawn chair would cause significant damage to those Fiats, possibly totaling them. So rearward visibility is quite important.

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
13 days ago

Not with the beefy US-Spec bumpers! They were rubber covered small I-beams! Weighed about as much too.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
15 days ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Ooh you’re going to be in trouble. But I agree light up the night in reverse.

Hamish48
Hamish48
15 days ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

fully agree … let there be light!

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
15 days ago
Reply to  Hamish48

The motto of my university is lux sit which is supposed to mean “let there be light” but it doesn’t. The verb for “to be” is in the subjunctive form, so the phrase actually means either “if only there were light” or “there really should be light” or “light would be a good idea.”

Some say it’s an error but I’m convinced it was deliberate. I like our motto.

To tie this back to the topic at hand, the correct form of the verb for the allegedly intended meaning of “let there be light” would have been fiat.

Mall Explorer
Mall Explorer
15 days ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Maybe because fiat lux was taken by a different university?

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
15 days ago
Reply to  Mall Explorer

It was indeed already taken and this is part of the official story for our motto but I still think it’s reasonable to read between the lines and that the truth is that the person given the task of coming up with our motto knew exactly what thought should be expressed and exactly how to express it.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
15 days ago
Reply to  Mall Explorer

Fiat Lux certainly would’ve been a better model name than128. Fiat’s project-number era may have been its’ corporate peak but it still led to a confusing lineup.

Last edited 15 days ago by Nlpnt
Harvey Park
Harvey Park
12 days ago
Reply to  Nlpnt

OTOH they were all shit so that made the numbering unnecessary.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
15 days ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Agree 100%. Too many times I’ve wished for more light when reversing.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
15 days ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Fiat may have also been concerned by competition from DAF – they can go faster in reverse than a 128, but if you want to win the Variomatic 24-hrs of Zandvoort, optimal lighting is crucial.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
15 days ago

That does explain the substantial factory reverse light on my 66, below the bumper on the right:

https://live.staticflickr.com/4480/38088486496_f8be1e3461_c.jpg

Mrbrown89
Mrbrown89
15 days ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

I have to turn on my rear fog lights at night on my Polestar 2 since the reverse lights are useless tiny LED lights. As soon I move forward, the rear fog lights I turn them off.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
15 days ago

Fiats weren’t all that common in the rusty area where I grew up, or maybe they vanished into reddish puffs of dust before I could see them. I definitely never saw one of those hatches. There was one dealer in town that sold Fiats, Subarus, MGs and the like out of a space that would barely accommodate a modern Jiffy Lube.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
15 days ago

And this does also demonstrate how GM was able to cut so much length and weight out of the B-Bodies in 1977 and the E-bodies in 1979 without really noticeable changes in interior room (or, really, much compromise at all in their appearance and “presence”)

Jim King
Jim King
15 days ago

I owned a 1976 Fiat 128. It was a VERY bad car.

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
15 days ago
Reply to  Jim King

I could never keep the timing correct on my 128. I’d still have mine if I — and others who worked on the car for me — could have.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
12 days ago
Reply to  Jim King

I grew up in one. It was awful.

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
15 days ago

My dads first 2 cars were Fiat 128s. IIRC a 72 and a 75? He said he liked them but they rusted something fierce in Southern Ontario. He mentioned using bits of cardboard to patch some holes to keep the trunk dryer in one of them. At the end of the seconds one life he would rotate the tires using the spare to eke that extra few months out of it. When I was about 2 months old he went to lift it and it went up a bit then settled right back down. When he tried to trade it in on his 1980 Rabbit the dealer wouldn’t take it was a trade in and he had to find somewhere else that would take it off his hands. Scrapyards weren’t something he knew of I guess, or didn’t think of.

Oh, he also hit a dog with one of them. Dog was fine (he still saw it running around on his way to work for years after) but it put a pretty big dent in the car. They weren’t strong cars by any means.

Hamish48
Hamish48
15 days ago
Reply to  IanGTCS

also Southern Ontario. We covered in the floorboard rust holes by screwing on aluminum cookie sheets (usually Betty Crocker). Also worked great on Beetles. A used license plate worked great under the rust beneath the Beetle’s battery, too.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
15 days ago

Just give me the Lada. Yes, yes, I know what I’m saying. Give it to me.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
15 days ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

Yes. I don’t know how they did it (Other than potentially via consumption of epic quantities of cheap vodka…) but somehow the Soviet designers managed to take the 128’s charm and inexplicably ratchet it up another notch.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
15 days ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

The Lada was adapted from the Fiat 124, not the 128. My grandma had a Lada and yeah it was awesome for what it was. It handled surprisingly well in a high speed emergency braking situation packed to the roof with kids, old people and cargo.

I was DD a Fiat X-19 back in the states at the time which shares the drive train with the 128. The Lada didn’t handle quite as well as that. Shocking I know. Still both were fun in their own ways.

Last edited 15 days ago by Cheap Bastard
Harvey Park
Harvey Park
12 days ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

> Fiat X-19 back in the states at the time which shares the drive train with the 128

Talk about all hat and no cattle! It’s a bit like the 56hp Karmann Ghia.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
12 days ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

75 EFI with a similar weight made it a Ferrari compared to that VW.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
15 days ago

That was one of the selling points for my 6’3″ father, actually.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
15 days ago

I like to imagine several Fiat engineers entering various vehicle dimensional data into a CDC 8600, carefully analyzing green-bar paper printouts and finally bursting into the marketing office exclaiming “Well, it took a long time and we had to pull funding from our rust-proofing research but we finally did it. 43.8 inches!”

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
15 days ago

Why were all 70’s European cars saddled with the most dismally unattractive steel wheels? And I say that as a lover of a good steel wheel – for instance I think the Oldsmobile Super Stock II wheels, with the trim rings and painted body color, are more attractive than most aluminum wheels made since. But the European steelies all somehow managed to be fussy, bulbous, and plain, all at once.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
15 days ago

How have I never noticed the 128 hatch before?
Do want!

Fawgcutter
Fawgcutter
15 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

College mate had an SL model that he used for off-roading. He had to replace the head gasket. Room mate of his was able to pull the engine out without a winch.

SAABstory
SAABstory
15 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Same here, I had no clue. Would be a great hobby car, as aren’t there approximately 4000 versions of this still being made?

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
15 days ago
Reply to  SAABstory

There were indeed.

Apropos that, I’ve just done a bit of a Google on old 3-box Fiats, cos an old friend had a 131 supermirafiori, which was tons of fun, and I found out they did a 2.0 supercharged one called the Abarth Volumetrico, which I now want very much, because why wouldn’t you want a 50 year old supercharged Fiat econobox?

EXL500
EXL500
14 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Had one. You don’t.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
15 days ago

Oh, I thought it was something with front wheel drive..

The makers of your wonderful Yugo, Zastava in Yugoslavia, inherited the 128, when Fiat didn’t think much of it any longer, and paired it with the strange inwards bulging hatchback of the Simca 1100, and got a sure 1980ies hit out of it, the One-oh-one

Last edited 15 days ago by Jakob K's Garage
Nlpnt
Nlpnt
15 days ago

FWIU that body was developed in Italy simultaneously with the sedans, it’s just that Fiat themselves thought the market wanted a traditional sedan. There was also a 5-door wagon made only in and for Argentina while the Italian wagons were always 3-door.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
15 days ago
Reply to  Nlpnt

Very interesting, thanks a lot (thumbs up emoji) 😎

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
15 days ago

Is Jason Torchinsky THE definitive expert on automotive taillights? If not, who does the Torch go to for information?

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
15 days ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Asking questions like that is a surefire way to get yourself a visit from a taillight illuminati black-bag team. Watch your back.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
15 days ago
Reply to  Gilbert Wham

The Torchinsky Code

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
15 days ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Paging Daniel Stern…

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
15 days ago

Fun for buzzing around the Strada in Tuscany, on your way to a wine picnic. Not so fun at crushing 1,000 miles in a day.

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