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  • Writer's pictureFred Schlabach

Fiat is a four letter word...

Updated: Jan 8, 2019

I had finished a year and a half of college and had changed my major from undecided to computer science to marine biology and finally to art. Not really sure of which path to pursue, I decided to take a semester off to figure it out. My sister was going to school in Harrisonburg Virginia, so I decided to move down there for a change of scenery. For whatever reason, I decided that I shouldn't take the Mustang, but instead look for a cheap beater car to take with me.

Somehow my mothers cousin got wind of this and mentioned that he had a 1976 Fiat 131 for sale, cheap. This little Italian beauty was located in Chambersburg, PA which was a couple hours from where I lived. My parents and I drove out to look at it on a sunny, cold winter day. This being well before Google images were available, I really had no idea what to expect. The only Fiat I new about was the 124 Spider convertible which was designed and built by Pininfirina and a nice looking sporty car. What I found waiting for me was at the other end of the spectrum from that. A Fiat 131 is basically a small rectangle with a smaller rectangle plunked on top of it. But, this one is a 2 door which is a good thing. It's pale yellow which is fine. It has a manual transmission which makes it "sporty", right? It has orange, brown and white plaid cloth seats which are quite hideous. It's only $400 which makes it cheap and totally affordable. Everything works on it except this one minor mechanical issue... The ignition coil is bad, so it starts up fine when it's cold, but won't start after it's warmed up (with the ignition key). However, it will start if you park on a hill and roll start it by popping the clutch. Of course I ended up buying it and the bad coil made the trip home interesting. Stop for gas, find a station with an inclined parking lot. Stop for food, back in to the parking space. Try not to stall the engine at stop signs or traffic lights. Upon arriving at home a new coil was purchased and installed. The Fiat was ready to head south.

1976 Fiat 131 2 door, manual transmission. $400

This is the only photo I have of this car, because thankfully I only had it for a few months.

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