If you like your rally cars, you will know the Lancia Stratos. It was mad, a car built from the ground up to rally, an amazing feat of engineering which won from 1974 to 1976. However, Fiat didn’t see much marketing value in the spaceship wearing a subordinate brands badge, so after 1976 Fiat pulled the plug on the Stratos factory team project. And if you love your rally cars, you will know what replaced the Stratos.
The Fiat 131 Abarth.
In 1974 Fiat had replaced the well-received 124 with the 131, and Fiat wanted to get it in front of the world, and in the 70s that meant rallying. After letting the Stratos shine its time, fiat got to work homologating the 131. Taking the 2 door body style fiat fitted box-flared fenders and a massive ducktail spoiler to the back of the car. Offset bonnet vents and rear quarter vents helped keep all key components cool while the double-barrelled exhaust expelled all the used up fuel and air with a peppy engine note.
Under the bonnet, Webber carbs were mounted to the standard twin cam 4 banger to the tune of 138hp in road-going trim and were eventually swapped for mechanical fuel injection on the rally stage, making 237hp. But even with all this, could the 131 really keep the fiat group’s winning streak going after the dominant Stratos?
Well, The Abarth won in 1977, 1978 and 1980, matching the 3 WRC wins the Stratos brought on. It also came in 3rd in 1979 and did help fiat shift more units of the 131. In 1982 to keep up with the group B rule set fiat handed the torch back to Lancia who brought the 037 to the table, only completing one race that year with the 131.
But now, 40 years after that final race, Fiat has decided to honour the old 3 box rally racer with a special edition of its 695 hot hatch.
The 695 has been outfitted with the 131’s signature blue but modernised with a more glossy and metallic colour. the lower section of the car is gloss black. as well as the roof and pillars to give the car a rally-inspired look. The centrepiece of the new design is the variable spoiler. In its highest setting, it captures the styling of the original car and generates 45kg of downforce while at it.
The 1.4T-jet makes the same 180hp it makes in the new 695, and the Tributo also shares its Brembo brakes and Koni suspension with the standard car.
It’s limited to 695 units and starts at £32,325 in the UK and arrives later this summer.
To be completely honest though, If you don’t care for the history, I wouldn’t hold my breath, as the top of the standard range 695 is almost 5 grand less than the 131, and you can decide whether you want the over-the-top rally-inspired racing style pack. even with that, you have 3 grand to pick your own options before you hit the starting price of the Tributo, and underneath it’s mechanically similar so you won’t be left at the lights by the special edition.
But it’s still a cool nod to a world-beating car that was the unfortunate middle child between two Lancia badged legends, and for that, despite its pointlessness, it’s a car I approve of.