Fiat have made a big splash returning to the US market with their retro-styled 500. But back in the late Malaise Era they were slogging it out with this econobox.
The 128 was basically their entry-level family car. It debuted in 1969 and revolutionized the small car market with its front-wheel drive layout that contrasted with Volkswagen's aging rear-engine platforms.
To make a front-wheel drive car more affordably and efficiently than previous industry examples such as in the British Mini, Fiat designed the engine and transmission so that they did not have to share lubricating fluid while an electronically controlled fan supplied cooling. To do this, they mounted the engine transversely with the transmission mounted beside the engine driving the front-wheels through an offset final-drive and unequal driveshafts.
It was such a good engineering solution that eventually most entry-level car manufactures would follow suit, including Volkswagen themselves. The 4-cylinder won't light the street on fire but should work well against the car's small proportions and relatively low weight.
The 128 was wrapped in clean, simple, appliance-like sheetmetal evocative of the efficient mechanicals underneath.
Production ended in 1985. This is a US market example that the seller says has been mechanically restored to working order, and the exterior remains rough but original. We say keep 'er as is and get in and go.
Available here on ebay.