Fiat 147 at Rallye Histórico

​"A static car tells a story. A moving car makes history."

Fiat 147 1978 goes straight from Fiat's historic collection towards a historic car race and takes home outstanding trophy

December 26, 2019 - In 1978, the Rolling Stones released their album Some Girls, with tracks such as Miss You and Beast of Burden. Bruce Springsteen, for his part, presented to the world his fourth album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, with songs such as The Promised Land. All are, to this day, good soundtracks to set foot on the road and enjoy the trip without worrying about a soul — Bruce's harmonica has that hot asphalt feel. That same year, at the Fiat plant in Betim (MG, Brazil), the Fiat 147 (launched in 1976) was being mass-produced. Many people drove through Brazilian roads aboard the first Fiat produced in Brazil and the first ethanol fueled car produced in series worldwide with such songs or other equally immortal ones on cassette players.

One of those exemplars from 1978, with all the memory that more than 40 years can accumulate, ended up in the 5th phase of the Copa Paulista de Rallye Histórico, which took place on November 23 in São Paulo (Brazil). But there is an important detail: this specimen is part of Fiat's historical collection, with relic status.

In an unprecedented action, the Fiat 147 came out of the precious collection straight to the track — and was brave. "The coolest thing is to make collection work, having a dynamic open-air museum. That's what we did. We took the car, changed the battery, oil, filter, filled the tires, fueled it up and went to run with it", says, excited, Ricardo Dilser, FCA technical advisor to Latin America and professional driver until 2008.

Dilser took over as co-pilot in the race, and the steering wheel was in the hands of Felipe Bitu, a journalist for Quatro Rodas magazine. "Fiat is one of the few national manufacturers to have its own collection of old cars, due to their concern about preserving the culture and its history. No other brand sympathized with the idea of participating in a historic rally", says Bitu.

Fiat 147 at Rallye HistóricoThe Fiat 147 with Dilser behind the wheel, before taking over his role of navigator for the test.

The first challenge was to make sure the two crew members could fit. Bitu is almost 2 meters tall, and Dilser is also pretty tall. But the car was good to them. "My size has prevented me from evaluating and testing interesting cars such as Willys Interlagos and the Lotus Europa. Although compact, the Fiat 147 is very roomy inside: it was not difficult to spend many hours behind the wheel," says Bitu. The relationship is really one of affection, and of great admiration. "I revere the Fiat 147 for its unique history: a model strategically designed for Brazil, with technical and stylistic solutions that were not adopted in the Fiat 127 in Europe," he reveals.

His passion for cars came from his family, specifically from his uncle, Luis. "My father, Francisco, always liked cars, but for him, cars were another machine to get us from point A to point B. My uncle Luis was always the guy with a foot on the accelerator: if my father bought a Fiat 147, uncle Luis would make it a point of buying a 147 Rallye", he jokes. Dilser also has a special relationship with the little car. Both his maternal grandfather, João Mendonça, and his paternal grandfather, Paul Dilser, had Fiat 147. "I was a kid and loved maneuvering the car in the garage even if secretly. I have great memories of the 147 and I'm in the process of buying one now", he confesses.

The trajectory to the race track, about 300 km, began and ended in São Paulo, passing through Jundiaí, Itatiba, Piracaia, Atibaia, Nazaré Paulista and Mairiporã. "The car’s performance was wonderful: the engine settled well, probably due to dilser's merit. Immediate responses to the smaller strides on the accelerator, steering and brakes with quick responses and impeccable stability", says Bitu. For him, at no time did the car convey the sense of fragility that many associate with the Fiat 147: "The feeling was that it was ready to face an even greater challenge!".

"Unbelievable. This car has only 4 gears, with an engine 1050, 1.0 practically, and we drove alongside cars with V8 engines, with triple, quadruple or quintuple the number of cylinders", Dilser recalls. Bitu confirms, and adds: "It was very funny to see the face of astonishment of competitors on board high-profile cars, with six or eight-cylinder engines and hundreds of horse power. No one believed in the capacity of the little car."

Felipe Bitu, Ricardo Dilser and the Fiat 147Bitu and Dilser, proud, with the 1978 Fiat 147 which won an award in the cup.

Dilser, accustomed to endurance racing —he is a three-time Endurance champion—had never participated in a historic car rally and loved the experience. "It was great fun to be able to reconcile work with a passion and the history of an old car", he says, as if he were announcing his intent to repeat the adventure. Bitu wanted to participate in 2019 to honor the initiative of his friend Maurício Marx, who idealized the Copa Paulista de Rallye Histórico accommodated classic cars, future classics, vintage car and also those who are just starting. "It's amazing the interest and admiration of children and adolescents for models that have long ceased to be produced", Bitu adds.

The duo proved that the Fiat 147 should not be underestimated: it’s eternal, like the good old songs of that bygone era of 1978, which never gets old, just becomes a classic. As Bruce Springsteen sings in Promised Land about driving on a road full of curves: "I got the radio on and I'm just killing time". "A static car tells a story. A moving car makes history," Dilser summarizes. Does that remind you of anything? "Rolling stones gather no moss".

Ricardo Dilser, Felipe Bitu and Leonardo AzevedoThat selfie for posterity: Dilser and Bitu in front and, in the back seat, Leonardo Azevedo, from the Fora de Linha channel.

Leonardo Azevedo, from the Fora de Linha channel, accompanied Bitu and Dilser on this journey with a relic scent. Check out the video in which the Fiat 147 exceeds all expectations:

Words: Bárbara Caldeira

Pictures and video: Leonardo Azevedo (Canal Fora de Linha)

Related Stories

​An award-winning sedan still coveted after 35 years

Read More

​The veteran says so long, but the love is still strong

Read More