DukeOfUndersteer
DukeOfUndersteer SuperDork
5/20/10 8:34 a.m.

He’s a speed enthusiast who works at a supercharger engineering company, so you might assume that Gil Cormaci rips around in a tricked-out muscle car, leaving fellow motorists trailing in his dust. The last thing you'd expect him to drive is a sharp-angled, somewhat shabby 1980 Fiat Brava. A brown one.

But like Cormaci, this Brava is a little out of the ordinary. The diminutive two-door sedan has clocked over 500,000 miles since Fiat enthusiast Cormaci bought it new in 1980. It's been his "labor of love," he told AOL Autos.

"Half a million miles is quite a milestone for any car -- let alone a Fiat," said Cormaci, acknowledging the old joke that that Fiat is an acronym for “Fix It Again, Tony.” (Fiat actually is an acronym, for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino.)

The obvious question is how on earth has he coaxed the Fiat into such extended service while using it to commute more than 70 miles each day on Southern California freeways, from La Canada to Ventura County.

"I try to limit my speed,” says Cormaci. “The drive to Oxnard is 70 miles but I don't have traffic. I drive on freeways in the right lane. I don't like to go above 65 miles per hour. It's frustrating sometimes because people that are behind me don't like to be behind me."

Cormaci's love affair with Fiat began in March 1969 when his dad picked him up after work in a sky blue 124 Sport Coupe with four-spoke, American Racing Libra mag wheels. Cormaci still owns that car, which is undergoing restoration with 175,000 miles on its odometer. Then he briefly owned a 1976 Fiat 128, but that was sold to buy the Brava in 1980. Cormaci spent about $8,000, or just over $20,000 today if you adjust for inflation. Of course the Fiat dealerships that this cars were purchased from have long since disappeared.


The Brava, badged as the Fiat 131 in the rest of the world, was designed to replace the 124. It debuted in 1974 at the automaker’s hometown Turin Motor Show. Eventually, some 1.5 million 131’s were build over a decade-long production run. A front-mounted, four-cylinder engine drives the 131’s rear wheels, a rather conventional layout for its era. Despite its unassuming demeanor, the car boasts a rather lengthy racing pedigree including World Rally Championship victories in 1977, 1978 and 1980. Cormaci's second-generation Brava was fitted with a 2.0-liter, twin-cam, fuel-injected engine mated to a three-speed automatic transmission, factory air conditioning, a sliding steel sun roof and “marron” brown paint with a tan vinyl interior.

At 230,000 miles, Cormaci replaced the three-speed automatic transmission with a factory five-speed manual. He attributes this change as the key to reaching the half-million mile club, as it significantly lowered engine speed on the highway. For added curb appeal, he also fitted the car with a set of Speedline Iron Cross alloy wheels that were optional in 1980.

Cormaci says changing the oil every 3,000 miles and using 30-weight oil is the other secret to the car's longevity. But Fiat engineering also had a lot to do with it. "It's quite a testament to the people at Fiat that the engine is pretty much indestructible,” he says.

The Brava still has much of its original motor, interior and trim. Many Fiats suffered from rust problems in the 1980s due to the use of inferior Russian steel for their bodywork, which contributed to the brand poor reputation in the U.S. and eventually the marque’s departure from our market. Cormaci confirms that his Brava suffers from more rust-related problems than the older 124 Coupe.

The chestnut-hued paint on his Brava, however, has held up surprisingly well. The Brava's monocoque shell is wrapped in acrylic lacquer on top of non-metallic paint that's very similar to the Porsche brown from the 1980s. "There are very few brown cars on the road today. The paint still shines when I buff it," says Cormaci.

Fiat's small cars are set to soon return to the U.S. and Cormaci, ever the enthusiast, says he's looking forward to the new generation. But the big question remains: Why doesn't this supercharger engineer drive something with more muscle? “It's a particular feeling you get driving European cars," he says. "They've got soul.”

http://autos.aol.com/article/500k-miles-fiat/?icid=main|main|dl4|link3|http%3A%2F%2Fautos.aol.com%2Farticle%2F500k-miles-fiat%2F

spitfirebill
spitfirebill Dork
5/20/10 8:39 a.m.

I good friend of mine in college bought one of these in a wagon and was quite happy with it.

Per Schroeder
Per Schroeder Technical Editor/Advertising Director
5/20/10 8:47 a.m.

We see this car every year at the SEMA MPMC show in LA. I apologize to the owner, you've probably had to clean my drool and nose prints off the glass. It's freakin' beautiful.

NYG95GA
NYG95GA SuperDork
5/20/10 9:22 a.m.

The opening paragraph describes the car as "shabby".

Don't look too shabby to me. As a former Fiat owner, I say Bravo!

Or is that Brava?

ditchdigger
ditchdigger Reader
5/20/10 9:26 a.m.

I had a 79 2 liter brava back in 92-93. I loved it.

I always felt that the brava just didnt get the respect it deserved in the sporty sedan category. Despite having a solid rear axle it was just as fun to drive as a BMW 2002 or Datsun 510.

Hotlinked for your pleasure

scardeal
scardeal Reader
5/20/10 9:28 a.m.

And, here I thought it was going to be a Fiat 500...

Per Schroeder
Per Schroeder Technical Editor/Advertising Director
5/20/10 9:32 a.m.

It's not shabby. Relatively clean and rust free.

mattmacklind
mattmacklind SuperDork
5/20/10 12:39 p.m.

Awesome.

pete240z
pete240z Dork
5/20/10 1:19 p.m.

I love those high mileage stories. The problem in Chicago is the salt and rust.

Only in those magical west coast dreams that I have are there cars never rust and last forever...............

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
5/20/10 1:53 p.m.

a 131 is on my bucketlist..

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
5/20/10 2:16 p.m.

A 500K Fiat??

Not unless it was being dragged by a Volvo.

That's cool.

Robert Bowen
Robert Bowen
5/20/10 3:08 p.m.

My first (or second, depends how you count) car was an unloved Brava wagon. Not a bad car but I have to disagree with the motor, mine was always overheating and burned oil like crazy. Course I was 16 at the time, but I can't imagine one of those cars making it to 500,000 miles.

Capt Slow
Capt Slow HalfDork
5/20/10 3:33 p.m.
ditchdigger wrote: I had a 79 2 liter brava back in 92-93. I loved it. I always felt that the brava just didnt get the respect it deserved in the sporty sedan category. Despite having a solid rear axle it was just as fun to drive as a BMW 2002 or Datsun 510. Hotlinked for your pleasure

I would love to own a 131 Abarth replica...

Forza3 intoduced me to these cars and they are the hotness...

drool....

ddavidv
ddavidv SuperDork
5/20/10 4:06 p.m.
Robert Bowen wrote: My first (or second, depends how you count) car was an unloved Brava wagon. Not a bad car but I have to disagree with the motor, mine was always overheating and burned oil like crazy. Course I was 16 at the time, but I can't imagine one of those cars making it to 500,000 miles.

A little different when you pick up someone's discarded trash vs the guy who bought his new and maintained it.

I've had over 20 Fiats and most have been very sturdy as far as the drive train. Rust kills them all, so only on the left coast could something like this occur. They are pretty simple once you learn their quirks. This one has a lot of miles but obviously has never been driven hard. Most any car treated similarly would go that distance.

gamby
gamby SuperDork
5/20/10 10:41 p.m.
ditchdigger wrote: Hotlinked for your pleasure

Those wheels...

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
5/20/10 10:43 p.m.

I have owned 5 fiat spiders.. and only one 1800cc dohc engine that I keep swapping from one car to another. It does not burn oil, still has great compression, and has maybe 200,000 miles on it.

racerdave600
racerdave600 Reader
5/21/10 8:47 a.m.

I've owned a bunch of Fiats too, and they'll go forever if you maintain them. There's where most people drop the ball. They are not a Honda. I used X1/9's as daily drivers for years and don't ever remember being stranded. Most of my issues dealt with electrical grounding, easily fixed but annoying.

Rust however, is the killer. They all rusted and you had to deal with it.

And I totally agree with Capt Slow, I've always wanted a 131 Abarth replica. I have a hot wheels version of it on my desk right now!

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
5/21/10 8:56 a.m.

I have a plastic 1/24th replica of it.. and a 1/24 Spider Abarth too.

To be honest, the fiat engine does not need much maintance. Yes, you need to replace the timing belts around every 20,000 miles.. but other than that.. you adjust the valves every 50,000 or when they get noisy, change the points, condensors, plugs, and wires when needed.. and do the oil on a good 3000mile scheadule and you are good to go.

the timing belt was the one that got most people.. and it is not a hard job

NYG95GA
NYG95GA SuperDork
5/21/10 9:14 a.m.

I had a '74 Spider that would sometimes fail to crank in the mornings if the humidity was high. Points would stick in the open (closed) position.

I'd pull the cap, and using a dime as a screwdriver, reset the points gap WITH A MATCHBOOK COVER!

Worked every time.

Kia_racer
Kia_racer HalfDork
5/21/10 9:20 a.m.

Want!!

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
5/21/10 6:56 p.m.

I did the matchbook cover too.. only feeler gage I needed.

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