The 3.2-litre version of the Fiat 130 appeared in 1971. Fiat’s ultimate saloon, engineered with little thought to cost, was pretty well sorted out by this time.
The 130 had one of Europe’s most sophisticated drive trains that featured such niceties as vented discs all round and passive rear-wheel steering. It had a three-speed Borg Warner automatic transmission but could also be ordered with a five-speed ZF manual option.
The 130 felt lusty and torquey to drive, with a responsive kickdown and a surprising sense of urgency but against the clock it actually trailed behind similar cars of the 70s. Fitted with a single Weber carburettor it developed 123 kW at 5600 rpm. It was surrounded in a solid all-steel body that showed strong European features with the look of a connoisseur’s car which would have been favoured by important people, or people who thought they were important. Tall, glassy and chiselled it looked imposing and important with a roof line clearly inspired by a Mercedes saloon.
It was brisk on the road and lavishly appointed but also very thirsty. It was a popular car in Italy and favoured by dignitaries of both church and state where loyalty to one’s locally produced luxury car was a foregone conclusion, but less prevalent elsewhere. Lesser saloons appeared to be able to do what Fiat did for less money and using less fuel.
Inside the Fiat 130 was extremely lavish. It had such refinements as seat height adjustment plus vertical and horizontal movement on the steering column. The seats were described by testers as the most comfortable they had encountered. They were embracing and supportive and well loved models showed no sag. In addition their restrained cloth finish suggested a refinement from an earlier period.
Doors closed beautifully and almost everything about the Fiat 130 gave the impression that it was well made and detailed in a manner some luxury cars of the same period lacked.
Fiat killed the 130 saloon in 1977 and the last cars were reportedly sold off as government vehicles to Spain and Poland. In its lifetime the 130 developed a strong connection with the Italian underworld and some reports indicate it was a popular mode of transport for them.
These stories were supported by reports of Mafia bosses being caught whilst at the wheel of their Fiat 130. All up 15,000 of this model of the 130 were produced.