You once saw them on every corner, but today they have disappeared. Cars like the Fiat Ritmo Super had the fate of being too practical and well thought out. These cars were driven, used and consumed, but not loved. Because there was still the low price and the generous discounts, which didn't exactly strengthen the appreciation.
And there was something else. The Fiat Ritmo was generally too pragmatic to have an image. The enormous plastic bumpers at the front and rear were to blame for this. They shaped the look and were criticized from the start. The fact that they were able to deal with parking bumps without complaint and minimize the vulnerable sheet metal surfaces was a gift.
Automotive life can be so unfair.
The Fiat Ritmo Super – Italian Volkswagen
Fiat built the Ritmo from 1978 to 88. It was a further development of the successful Fiat 128 (Link), the relationship was technical, but not optical. The Italians took new, modern approaches to design. The dark gray, unpainted bumper trim was polarizing. The traditional radiator grille had disappeared behind it because designer Sergio Sartorelli pulled the plastic up to between the headlights. That was radical and incredibly pragmatic. At least – the fairing withstood external contact at speeds of up to 6 km/h without any problems.
This design did not appeal to the masses, but Fiat still sold the Ritmo in large numbers. There were 1,7 million until production stopped. The prices were attractive, Turin was even generous with the equipment and constant model updates kept the Italian Volkswagen attractive.
Three years after the debut there was an important model update, with the Ritmo Super, Fiat placed another model below the sporty 105 hp Ritmo TC. The equipment was lavish, with a 1982 ad taking a whole page to list all the extras. Actually, everything that had to be paid additionally for the Wolfsburg market companion was on board. Starting with tinted windows, velor upholstery, laminated glass windshield, large wheels with a 14-inch circumference and details such as an illuminated ignition lock, everything was standard.
The Fiat Ritmo Super also had H4 headlights and a height-adjustable steering wheel, and was probably the price-performance winner in the Golf class in 1982.
The super thing from Fiat
The manufacturer didn't skimp on superlatives. The agency wrote that the super thing sets new standards in the compact class. The new Fiat Ritmo Super is part of the Fiat offensive - but the advertising wasn't entirely fair to potential customers.
The super thing was already a discontinued model and not really new. In the background, the big facelift that Fiat presented in the same year was already ready. It dispensed with the unconventional, large panels at the front and rear and went back to a conventional radiator grille and conventionally designed bumpers.
The new Ritmo lost its unique appearance, became compatible with mass tastes, and anyone who still bought the old model had to accept high losses in value.
The original Ritmo is now an icon
The Ritmo with the iconic bumpers stayed on the roads for a long time. Its production at the Cassino factory (Link) was done by robots, Fiat was the leader in production technology at the time and the quality was a lot better than the public opinion about it.
Even 30 years after production ended, Ritmo from the first series could be seen in Italy. With faded plastic skirts, now light gray and with cracks on the front and rear, sun-marked paint and simply unloved.
Today the Ritmo has been forgotten and disappeared. There are no more than a dozen examples with the iconic design on the major sales portals across Europe. But then at steep prices. What was once unpopular is now in demand in certain circles.