1980 Fiat 131 Abarth Rally
Sold For £297,000Inclusive of applicable buyer's fee.
Documents: Italian Libretto
- Ex-Works fiat 131 Abarth
- Winner of the 1980 Sanremo Rally with Walter Röhrl
- Helped FIAT and Walter Röhrl to clinch the 1980 FIA Group 4 World Rally Championship
- Finished 11th overall at the 1981 Rallye de Monte Carlo
- Accompanied by the Abarth Certificazione Componenti Meccanici issued in 2016 and previous FIA paperwork
Please note that this lot will need to be collected from Milan, Italy.
Whereas it would be fair to describe the standard Fiat 131 as another one of many genuinely unremarkable family saloons in the Fiat family tree, the variant that was developed in partnership with Abarth to be campaigned in the Group 4 Rally Championship was anything but ordinary; bringing untold publicity and success in the forms of the 1977, 1978 and 1980 FIA World Rally Constructor’s titles, accompanied by the World Rally Drivers Championships in 1978 and 1980.
The feat of turning a bland family saloon into an all-surface racing machine fell to Abarth, which FIAT had acquired in 1971 as its official racing arm, with help from Bertone for the bodywork. The alterations required were significant and began with the chassis itself where the rigid rear axle was removed and replaced with a fully independent setup with Macpherson struts. Under the bonnet, the Abarth engineers employed a Lampredi designed twin-cam four-cylinder 1,995 cc unit, with a lightweight alloy sixteen-valve head, mated to a five-speed gearbox. In road going form, for which 400 examples were built to satisfy the FIA Group 4 homologation requirements, it produced 140bhp, breathing through the Weber double barrel carburettor. However, for the rally cars, a Kugelfischer mechanical injection setup was utilised which increased power to 240 bhp. The aesthetic upgrade was taken care of by Bertone and consisted of a fibreglass resin bonnet, aluminium doors and far larger wheel arches and spoilers to accommodate the wider track, whilst the highly tuned engine was kept cool by extra-large dynamic air intakes on the bonnet and rear wings.
Although this car is not one of the iconic Alitalia liveried cars campaigned by the FIAT factory in 1980, it was the exact car in which Walter Röhrl won the 1980 Sanremo Rally (confirmed by copies of the vehicle’s entry form to the race), which in turn brought him the driver’s championship and also gave FIAT its last ever constructor’s title. The lack of livery came about because of strikes that had meant the factory cars were unable to physically leave the FIAT premises, so in order to get to the Sanremo Rally, the car was taken out overnight without livery to avoid conflicts with those on strike. Incredibly, Rorhl managed to still win the event, despite the fact that the Jolly Club car that he was assigned was fitted with the short travel suspension that suited only the asphalt stages. The only other event the car competed in during the 1980 season was the Tour de Corse with Arnaldo Bernacchini and Attilio Bettega, where the car failed to finish.
It is undoubtedly its success at the Sanremo Rally that makes this car so special and it is suitably presented in the “no-livery” it wore that day in 1980, despite the fact that it was subsequently campaigned for the Jolly Club team in 1981 at the hands of Tonino Tognana. Raced with them throughout the 1981 season (identifiable by its Turin numberplate, TO V33681, the car managed to finish third and fourth at the Rally Il Ciocco and the Rally Colline di Romagna respectively. Prior to that, the car raced at the 1981 Monte Carlo Rally, finishing eleventh. It also participated at the Rally Internazionale di Sicilia, the Rallye Sardegna, Rally dell’Isola d’Elba, and the Rally Piancavallo, although each of these events resulted in retirements.
More recently, the car has been fully restored to its 1980 Rallye Sanremo appearance. Having also been raced in the famous “OLIO FIAT” livery in period, the next owner will have the choice to keep the car in its Sanremo or to switch to the iconic “OLIO FIAT”. It is in a condition befitting of such a significant piece of motorsport history and is accompanied by a plethora of paperwork, including period pictures, copy of the entry form of the Sanremo Rally, a previous FIA Technical Passport, vehicle appraisal which states that the car is entirely original and conforming to period regulations, as well as its Abarth Classiche Certificazione Componenti Meccanici. Importantly, the car is also acocmpanied by a spares package which includes a set of wheels, used rear bootlid, and a spare bonnet.