Fiat produced the 128 from 1969 through 1985. 3,107,000 examples were built by Fiat with another 1,031,671 produced under license by Zastava until 2001.
The 128 was a front-wheel drive vehicle with a transverse-mounted engine and unequal-length drive shafts. Another unique feature on the 128 was the clutch release mechanism originally developed for the Autobianchi Primula. This allowed the gearbox and engine to be located side-by-side.
The Fiat 128 was the first car to be fitted with the all-new Fiat SOHC engine that featured an aluminum alloy cylinder head with a direct overhead camshaft driven by a rubber-toothed belt. The engine was designed by the famous Ferrari racing engine designer Aurelio Lampredi.
When introduced, the 128 was available as a two- or four-door sedans, or station wagon. The powerplant was a 1116cc unit. The 2-door Rally Edition, introduced in 1971, had a 1290cc unit.
At the Turin Motor Show in 1971, the Sport Coupe body style made its introduction. It could be ordered with either engine.
In 1972, the Fiat 128 went through several minor changes including changes to its radiator grilles. 1974 saw the launch of the 128 Special four-door sedan which used the Rally engine. In 1975 the 128 Berlinetta replaced the Sport Coupe.
The Fiat 128 was overhauled in 1976 with several interior and exterior changes including bumpers, new taillights, rectangular headlights, and changes to the engine.
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2012Designed for families, the Fiat 128 was the Italian car company's first front-wheel drive car designed by engineer Dante Giacosa. A nice alternative to many of the smaller models Fiat produced, the 128 was introduced in 1969 and continued in production until 1985. Though it looked similar to both the Fiat 124 and the Fiat 125, the 128 was set apart because of its engineering. Pioneering the way, the 128 was the first to premier the front-wheel drive design revolutionized by Fiat. It featured a transverse-mounted engine like the Mini though the biggest innovation was the use of uneven-length drive shafts. The Fiat 128 engine was designed by Aurelio Lampredi. This design allowed the gearbox and engine to be alongside each other in a layout that would continue in popularity with small cars even after the launch of the Fiat 128.
Receiving the auspicious European Car of the Year in 1970, the Fiat 128 was incredibly popular and received rave reviews from automotive fans. The 128 also received a higher rank from Road & Track magazine from the Subaru DL, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 808 and Datsun B210. The VW Golf and the Honda Civic beat out the 128 on the ranking scale. With a top speed of 85 mph, the Fiat 128 could reach 0-60 mph in just 15.5 seconds.
Also incredibly innovative for its time, the 128 was the first car by Fiat to feature the 1.1 liter Fiat SOHC engine. Featuring a direct overhead camshaft and a cylinder head in aluminum alloy this engine design was quickly adopted by many car manufacturers in the 1980s. When it was introduced in the 1960s though, it was quite a new concept. Engineered by famous engine designer Aurelio Lampredi, the engine featured an iron block joined to an aluminum head along with a belt-driven single overhead camshaft producing 49 hp. Due to this creative design the Fiat 128 was well known for its roomy passenger and cargo volume. The 128 running gear and engine were reorganized for a mid-engined layout instead of a sport or convertible model carrying the 128 nameplate was dubbed the Fiat X1/9.
At its introduction, the Fiat 128 was offered as a four-door sedan, a two-door sedan with a 1116 cc engine and as a station wagon. In 1971 the two-door 128 Rally Edition was launched and featured a 1290 cc engine. At the Turin Motor Show this same year a sport coupe on a 128 platform was introduced. At its debut it was available with both existing 128 engines.
In 1972 the 128 went through a total redesign that included changes to both the interior and the exterior. Radiator grilles separated the different 128 versions. Two years later in 1974 the 128 Special Edition was debuted with the body of a four-door sedan and the engine of the Rally. One year later the Sport Coupe was replaced with the three-door Fiat 128 3P Berlinetta. In 1976 the entire range was once again completely redesigned with changes that included the headlights and bumpers, the dashboard and even various engine tweaks.
In 1979 the entire production of Fiat 128 models, except for the 1100cc version was ended once the Fiat Strada/Ritmo was debuted. Production of the mini 3-door station wagon Panorama was deleted from the range in 1980. In 1985 all production of the 128 was completely stopped.
In 1969 the Moretti 128 Roadster rolled into the Turin Auto Show. A coupe with a removable hard roof; in two separate parts, the 128 Roadster was designed by Moretti (coachbuilder). A brand new concept, this was the first open car based on Fiat 128 that still utilized the traditional 1,100 cc engine. Only a very limited number of units were produced and it was built in semi-scale. A coupe version was also produced alongside the roadster in very small amounts, most of which ended up in Europe.
A four-door sedan, the Zastava 128 was an international version based on the Fiat 128. The three and five-door hatchback versions were dubbed the Zastava 101. The company was known as 'Zastava Automobili' in Serbia and offered 128-based vehicles throughout Europe. Three versions were offered in the UK and included a five-door, a four-door saloon and a three-door hatchback. Today Zastave continued to manufacture the five-door hatchback under the name of Zastava Skala 55. One of the cheapest cars in the entire world, the Zastava 128 is also the most affordable of the Zastava line.
The original 128, four-door sedan was also manufactured by Zastava, but it has not been sold as a whole since 2001 though CKD kits are sent to Nasr Car Company in Egypt to be assembled and sold as Nasr 128s. This is the most popular model.
The 128 was also produced in Spain as the 128 3P by Seat. A total of 31m893 units were produced. Until 1978 the Upali Motor Company in Sri Lanka manufactured the Fiat 128. And in Columbia, the 128 was produced by 'Companía Colombiana Automotriz' in Bogota.
The 128 was produced in Argentina from 1971 until 1990 as either a five-door wagon or a four-door sedan. A variety of trims were available and included the IAVA sport series. The car underwent an overhaul in 1983 that included new tail lamps, headlamps, and front grille. It was marketed as the Super Europa.By Jessica Donaldson