Words & photos - Daniel Bevis
The Fiat Ritmo - or Strada, as it was badged in the UK - was an excitingly avant-garde thing. Designed by Sergio Sartorelli, head of the firm's so-called 'Future Studies' division, it was a jazzy riot of folded-paper angles and cutesy circles. 'Handbuilt by robots', the adverts proudly boasted, as it was almost entirely built by automated systems - an ambitious move in the late-1970s, but very much indicative of Fiat's pioneering spirit.
The Abarth variants were pretty saucy too. The original hot-hatch iteration, 1981's twin-cam 105TC, was swiftly superseded by the 125TC Abarth, with its 123bhp twink, big brakes and 5-speed 'box. By 1983, the second-generation (well, facelifted) Ritmo was in full swing and the 130TC Abarth appeared, offering 128bhp from a 2.0-litre twin-cam with twin carbs. It had Recaro buckets, electronic ignition and a close-ratio gearbox - while it was, by this time, one of the only European hot hatches to still be running carburettors instead of fuel injection, it certainly offered an offbeat and unusual alternative to the then-ubiquitous Golfs and 205 GTIs.
This obtuseness may not have been all that pleasing to Fiat's accountants at the time, but thirty-odd years on the model's relative obscurity is something to cherish. The 130TC you see here is run by ML Motorsport, who are eagerly building on the car's original base to create an effective sprint car. No huge deviations in spec here, simply a honed and optimised Ritmo with a rollcage, a bit of bracing, a smidge of weight-loss, and an enthusiasm for chipping away at lap times and personal bests. But the best thing about it - or second-best, actually, after that fruity exhaust note - is how it leaves spectators scratching their heads and saying 'Blimey, what was that...?'
Spotted at MATP 2015 - more photos here.