Italian Sedans – 1979 Fiat Brava 2-Door

In the world of oddball cars, at least from an American market perspective, Italian sedans rank pretty highly. Just think – when’s the last time you saw an Alfa 164, Lancia Fulvia sedan, or series 3 Maserati Quattroporte? Or even a Fiat Brava? For those of you who don’t instantly recall what was for sale 30 years ago on your local auto row (did those even exist?), the Brava was a boxy compact, rear-drive sedan with a twincam four and advanced suspension. Sounds like fun, right? Many other automakers have successfully used this formula and variations thereof. The Brava, also knows as the 131, was marketed in the US from 1976 to 1981, after which Fiat pulled it from the US market. It was available as a 2- and 4-door sedan, as a wagon, and with automatic or manual transmissions. It replaced the 124, itself a pretty fun car for its time, especially if you happen upon one with the twincam engine.

Most importantly for your writer, the car is tied in with a childhood memory. In 1984, my family was on vacation in Egypt, near Cairo, and we were loaned a Fiat 131 sedan by a business contact. Which brings up an important point – this car is apparently still under construction in Ethiopia and Egypt, so parts availability must be decent. Anyway, moving along to our particular car… it sounds like a more fun contemporary of, say, a BMW 320i or Mk1 VW Jetta GLI. And it would probably also give its contemporary Alfa Romeo Sport Sedan (Alfetta) a run for its money. It’s listed
in Oak Run, CA, near Redding, for $2350.

1979 Fiat Brava right

The owner has added those smart-looking Maserati Biturbo wheels. You could also install most wheels from any Fiat 124 since they share the same bolt circle. Notice the car’s straight body, clean paint, and generally attractive presentation. The owner used it as a daily driver from 1991-1996, put it in long-term storage, and then pulled it out again 2 years ago, doing the work needed to make it a driver again.

1979 Fiat Brava left

Notice the cool California sunset plate, only available in the early 80s. You might know it from the opening sequence of LA Law, which shows a plate of that style on the back of a Jaguar XJ6. The body has little damage, is virtually rust-free, and no filler. However, don’t let that confuse you – the honest seller says the car is a bit tired, as you’d expect at 171K indicated miles (most likely less since the speedometer is off, due to a non-stock 4.55 diff).

1979 Fiat Brava interior

Here you can see some of the tiredness in the interior. There are splits in the original upholstery, and the headliner needs attention. Maybe replace the starred windshield and do the headliner while it’s out? Other than that, it’s great to see one of these with a proper shifter (5 speeds) and a reasonably clean interior.

1979 Fiat Brava engine

Everything is also present in the engine compartment. Since the engine is longitudinally mounted and the transmission/differential are not squeezed under the hood, the car should be pretty straightforward to maintain. Definitely ask if the owner has replaced the cam belt – if not, the even compression across all four cylinders would be for naught. He does have all records available, which is unusual in this price range. While the Maserati wheels are actually $650 extra (picture the car with the wheels that actually come with it!), you might be able to work a deal if it sits on the market for a while. Check out the full gallery for a better idea of a good example of this workhorse.

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9 Responses to “Italian Sedans – 1979 Fiat Brava 2-Door”

  1. Max Power Says:

    The first car I ‘owned’ (in other words borrowed from my mom during high school) was her ‘Champagne’ (in other words pale yellow) 1978 1/2 Super Brava. Man did I love driving that car! The 5 spd manual was incredibly hard to shift….you really had to jam the gears. Light years behind the fantastic manuals (if you can find one) of today. Of course, it being a Fiat, we had to replace the transaxle the first year of ownership, the AC needed to be fixed on a yearly basis, and rust starting showing up within the first few years.

    1978 was a weird model year for Fiat where they first had the 131, then introduced the restyled version mid-year as the Brava (new look exterior but same interior as the 131) and the Super Brava which also had the new gorgeous (at the time) interior including a Citroenesque unispoke steering wheel (as you can see from the pics of this 1979 one, Fiat switched to the two spoke steering wheel the next year). In 1979, they got rid of the base Brava (I would venture there are none left as only a handful were imported) and renamed the Super Brava to Brava….just to confuse things

  2. John Dalton Says:

    Still for sale? 04NOV10

  3. Amy Rebelo Says:

    Hello I own a Yellow 1979 Fiat Brava. It was my grandfather car. He passed away. The car needs a new bumper. Any idea where can I get one? Thank you.

  4. Shawn St.Peter Says:

    I am interested in your Fiat Brava, Is it 5 speed, does it run well.

  5. russ Says:

    I used to have a 81 Brava 2dr 5 speed dual cam car . It was awesome I drove it hard for 6 years. A true driver’s car. Sat and rode nice. Point the front wheels where you want to go and floor it, she’d make any turn. Sweet transmission very tight and precise. The rear diff input shaft is weak, I broke 4 of them. The station wagon rear end has different shock mounts (some minor welding req.) but a lower gear. 5th felt like 4th on the highway but it gave it a whole lot more off the line(.I broke that one also). Kinda weak front brakes. I’d wear out a set of pads in 6 to 8 thousand miles, and after some night driving you could see the rotors glowing.

  6. m davis Says:

    Like Max Power, my first car, purchased on my own, was a 1978 Fiat Brava four door in that beautiful yellow exterior with a carmel colored velour cloth interior, the same color as my golden retriever puppy who was alway in the car with me! I LOVED that car! I had a trailor hitch mounted to the body since there as not “frame” on the car. I used to haul around a little day sail boat with it! I loved the 5 speed and the high sitting position the car had. You didn’t feel like you were low to the ground at all! The car really had zip!

    Unfortunately the car started to rust almost immediately. I took it in to be rustproofed and I recall it caught on fire in my parent’s driveway shortly after I returned home from picking it up! No big deal. Just the rust proofing burning off! A year or so later, a hole in the passenger floor board gave “root” to some plants growing in the carpet. Can’t make it up! I had not A/C. I didn’t care. I recall the first year owning it, I drove from Ohio to Nebraska in it just before Thanksgiving. There was some sort of air intake issue with the design and the car kept losing power as the cold wind blew through it. I had to stop every few miles to let it warm up and then continue the drive. I finally learned about the air intake setting that had to be manually adjusted every 6 months.

    The car eventually rusted out completely. The interior was perfect (with the exception of the passenger carpet that was growing a garden!) but the exterior was a disaster. I finally dumped the car with only about 40,000 miles on it!

    I loved the car! Overall, 30 years later, a happy memory!

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