Junkyard Treasure: 1976 Fiat 128 two-door sedan

Fiats aren’t hard to find during my junkyard travels; aside from the many 21st-century 500s that show up, I still see numerous 124 Sport Spiders and X-1/9s, as sporty European cars mostly get hoarded for decades after something expensive breaks. The Fiat 128, though, hasn’t been a North American wrecking-yard regular for at least 25 years, even though these cars were sold new here through 1979. Here’s an extremely rare ’76 Fiat 128 two-door sedan, spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area yard last month.

The 128’s main selling point in the United States was cheapness; the only cheaper cars than the 128 in 1972 were the Honda Civic (a great car, but an unknown quantity from what was seen as a motorcycle company), the wretchedly terrible Austin America and the hilariously bad Plymouth Cricket. I know this because my parents bought a pair of brand-new 1973 Fiat 128 sedans in late 1972; they were new to California and they needed quick work transportation after crashing the family van on the way west from Minnesota.

Both those Fiats fell apart in a hurry and probably got crushed before the 1970s were through. This fate is what befell most American-market 128s. Elsewhere in the world, though, the 128 was a smash hit, with production continuing until 2009 in Egypt.

This ’76 looks like it was reasonably intact when it got parked, probably at some point during the early 2000s, but then it sat outdoors and harsh Northern California sunshine and rainy winters had their way with it. Few Americans seem interested in restoring 128s, but perhaps an X-1/9 owner will rescue some of the powertrain components from this car before it gets crushed.

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