The launch of the hatchback Volkswagen Golf to rave reviews and wild customer enthusiasm in 1974 left all the other big manufacturers wanting to cash in on the hatchback market that boomed with the arrival of the boxy little car from Wolfsburg.
FIAT’s response was to commission Bertone to design a completely new body to fit onto the chassis and running gear of 1970’s European Car Of The Year the front wheel drive FIAT 128.
The internal code for the new model was FIAT 138 but FIAT’s marketing department decided to give the car the Ritmo name in most non English speaking markets and Strada in most English speaking markets excluding the USA until the Italians found out that Ritmo was a US brand of non automotive product.
The Strada was launched in the UK with the strap line “Designed with a computer, silenced by a laser and built by robot” in 1978 and remained in production until 1988 with over a million units being manufactured. In 1982 the Ritmo / Strada range received the quad lamp face lift and further changes including large plastic side protection strips were introduced in 1985.
Just as Volkswagen had contracted Karmann to build the Golf Cabriolet, FIAT contracted Bertone to design and build a Cabriolet version of the Ritmo/Strada which was sold as the Bertone Cabrio in some markets but was registered as a FIAT with the authorities in the UK.
This particular 1.5 litre / 91.5 cui Super Strada Cabriolet, seen at the Bristol Italian Auto Moto Fest, was first registered in January 1985 and originally painted Metallic Brown with a Cream roof. It was repainted red and fitted with it’s current roof during a 15 year lay off from the road.
Thanks for joining me on this “Designed and Assembled By Bertone” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be starting a month long series on vehicles that competed in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Don’t forget to come back now !