Nostalgia.  The incredible success story of the FIAT Uno

Nostalgia. The incredible success story of the FIAT Uno

We are in the early 80s. FIAT must replace the aging FIAT 127. Competition in the city car segment is intense. Peugeot arrived with the promising 205 and Ford redesigned its Fiesta. For Italians, it’s about hitting hard. Not only will Uno be completely new, but it will have to conquer the world!

And Nicolas Laperruque
May 21, 2023 at 06:05

The FIAT 127 replacement project began in 1978. For the Turin giant, it was fast! The 127 has been on sale for eight years now. If we add the time required for the research of the new model, namely five years, that will make thirteen candles for 127, forever! So we decided to replace the city car with a brand new model. “Instead of changing the style of the 127, we chose an innovative model, finally in the pure tradition of Fiat in this segment,” said Mario Maioli, head of Centro Stile FIAT.

In Cape Canaveral the launch is similar. Image of FIAT

Brand new design

The first strokes of the pencil arrived at the beginning of 1978, at the Centro Stile Fiat, under the direction of Gian Paolo Boano, as CarDesignArchives recalls. Two projects are emerging in parallel internally, while the third is being studied by ItalDesign.

As we prepare to choose between these life-size models, project manager, Nicola Tufarelli is transformed. We start again from the beginning. The three “143” projects face the “144” project, a city car designed by Giugiaro for Lancia and Autobianchi, to succeed the smaller A112.

The Lancia-FIAT battle

The decision is final, not only are three examples of the 143 project rejected, but Vittorio Ghidella, the new project director, decides to give the Lancia project to FIAT! At Lancia, the pill is struggling to pass, the president of the brand Gian Mario Rossignolo, slams the door and resigns. So the 144 project is taken by FIAT and is inspired by the Lancia Megagamma concept car in proportions. The new dimensions are clear, modern, front-wheel drive and capable of carrying five doors in a reduced size.


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The laws of aerodynamics

Unfortunately, the project was named 146. After studying five types, the polystyrene prototype was approved in February 1980 and passed through the wind tunnel. While we’re still hesitating between the two rear trunks, the wind tunnel gives its verdict, with a cx of 0.334 for the Uno hatchback and 0.323 for the upright Uno. In September 1980, the design was finally approved.

Industrialization is entering its final phase in the industry. UNO manufacturing is reaching a level of automation that has never been achieved before. Two hundred robots follow each other on the line and even produce 99% of the welds. FIAT will be able to prepare for the biggest and most impressive launch in its history.

With its modern shapes, it moves away from the 127. Photo FIAT.jpeg

The design is inspired by the Lancia concept. Image FIAT.jpeg

Amazing presentation

On January 18, 1983, Fiat struck a blow. Hundreds of journalists, from Europe and Boeing, were invited to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, near the launch pad. For FIAT the stake is very high, the company invested 700 million dollars at that time in this project and cannot afford to miss it. This is the largest investment in its history.

In a spectacular display, the Uno is on the launch pad, in front of an audience of stunned professionals. Like a rocket, the Uno is poised to take off to win market share.

After the presentation, each reporter drives their Uno on the roads of Florida, all the way to the Daytona Speedway. A few days earlier, it was in Rome that the dealer network was able to discover the latest FIAT and the large Uno of 15 meters and 17 meters wide. FIAT takes care of the exhibition!

For the Uno, Fiat is thinking big and renting Cap Canaveral. Italian Graphic Design.

For the launch, nothing too good for UNO. Image FIAT.jpeg

Simple mechanics, economical and reliable. Photo FIAT Brasil

Immediate success

Available immediately in two body versions, 3 and 5 doors, the Uno is equipped with three petrol engines of 903 cc of 45 hp (the only one with a side camshaft), 1,116 cc of 55 hp and 1,301 cc producing 70 ch, in the beginning. . Shortly after, a 1301 cm3 45 hp diesel engine was added. In 1984, it was voted Car of the Year.

The daily production rate, which was 2000 cars per day, quickly increases to more than 3000. Uno is a great success. But now he will conquer the world.

Redesigned, it extends the duration of its work. Image of FIAT.

In Brazil, the modified Uno will still be sold in the 2000s. Photo FIAT.

International car

Haraka Uno will be successfully exported to South America and especially to Argentina where it knows great success. It is also found in Brazil where it has taken several names over time. South Africa, Poland, Pakistan, Morocco or New Zealand, Uno is everywhere. More than 11 million will be sold worldwide, compared to the 5.27 million Peugeot 205s sold at the same time. It is the best-selling Italian car in history.

Source: CDA