Italian stunner of

the 1970s

Fiat 132

I AM frequently accused of watching far too many episodes of classic TV series, especially those from the 1970s, but there is a high element of motor mania in this telly addiction.

For fans of cars of that era the TV is a constant source of enjoyment and sometimes you can view wheels which are as rare as hens' teeth these days or have disappeared altogether.

So, imagine my delight when, in the environs of Arthur Daley's famous car lot in an episode of Minder I spotted what I think is one of the most fabulous Fiats.

Having been launched in 1972, the Fiat 132 was ripe for the used car market when the series was launched in 1979, so it fitted in perfectly in the backdrop.

When it drove onto the world stage, the 132 was considered a replacement for the 125 and it used a twin overhead cam engine as standard.

The manufacturer had put a lot into this car with materials and a standard of finish that made it look more like the more luxurious Fiat flagship 130 model.

Bearing in mind that the car market had only just stepped out of the 1960s, the 132 came with a five-speed gearbox, optional in some markets and standard in others.

This was a rare feature at the time and tempted many into the Fiat showrooms.

A major update to the front suspension was implemented for January 1974 and press reports commended the improved handling, although poor fuel consumption at high speed continued to draw adverse comment.

There was also a mid-life restyle which was very clever. The new look gave the impression of a lowered waistline resulting from larger side windows. It included a reshaped C-pillar which had a semblance of BMW's new 5 Series.

There was a good selection of engine options including a 2.0= litre which could attain 109mph in manual form and sprint to 62mph in 10.3 seconds.

The final incarnation in 1977 saw new plastic "safety" bumpers and with the demise of the 130, the 132 became the Fiat flagship saloon.

It lasted until 1981 when the replacement Argenta was launched.

I remember the 132 with affection and drove around three examples. It always had that Italian sure footedness on corners and was never short on power. But like all Fiats of that era, the interior smelt of Castrol motor oil. I could never work out why.

The 132 is a very rare sight these days with only one or two still registered. Nostalgia TV is probably the best hunting ground if you want to catch a glimpse.

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