Fiat Uno

"From time to time man produces a work of genius"

35 years after its release in Brazil, Fiat Uno continues to collect admirers and, of course, stories

November 6, 2019 - "Small on the outside and big on the inside." Perhaps even Fiat could not have imagined that this definition given to the Uno in 1984, the year of its launch in Brazil, was to inspire not only the future releases of the brand, but also the automotive segment as a whole, which was transformed thanks to the charming Italian compact adapted to the Brazilian taste.

Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and adapted in Brazil, the Uno starred in several revolutions in its 35 years of history. It was responsible for popularizing the four-door vehicle in the country and features such as air conditioning, previously exclusive to more expensive models. The Uno was also the first passenger car to leave the factory with a turbo compressor. With numerous versions, special series, body shunts and two generations, it's easy to understand its huge sales success, with nearly four million units produced at the Fiat Plant (Betim, MG) and its growing legion of fans. “Uno can be called the 'Brazilian family car' because everyone has a good story to tell about it,” says Fiat Club MG president Luigi Kevin Gonçalves.

“I grew up in an Uno because my father had purchased a brand new one in 1988, which he still has to this day. He will not let go of it. He goes to work every day in his car and doesn’t let anyone drive it. It runs smoothly too. In fact, it’s a vehicle that has never had any kind of breakdowns”, says Luigi, who is also responsible for the creation of the Uno Group in the city of Belo Horizonte.

Luigi, Aroldo and Bruno with their Fiat Panorama 1984.Luigi (center) next to his father Aroldo (right) and brother Bruno. The family's love for the Uno extended to other Fiat models, such as the 1984 Panorama

“I created the group to bring together admirers with good stories to tell about the Uno. We started with monthly meetings in 2018 and we currently have 288 members”, says Gonçalves, who once owned an Uno Turbo. “I had it for seven years and I only sold it because I wanted to dedicate myself to the project of restoring another model, the Oggi. But I really regret getting rid of it. It was a car that I loved because for one, it was a Fiat sports car and a car that my family already had. I wanted a car based on this story” he recalls.

Daniel with his Fiat UnoThis Uno with the black license plate has become a member of Daniel's family who promises to pass it on to his son one day

The love for the Uno is also part of the past and the present of Professor Daniel Gustavo de Oliveira. “My wife's family had a 1985 Uno CS parked at the farm and I, who once had an Uno 1.6R, decided to restore it and make it a collectible black license plate”, he says. “I repaired the engine, I redid all the wiring, I took it to a specialist to restore the windows, I left the “little Uno” with everything original from that time, including its factory upholstery. Today it has 308,000 km on it, got the black license plate and gives me no worries. I only change the oil every thousand kilometers and nothing more. I drive it around just to show it off. The rest of the time, it stays home nicely covered”, explains Oliveira, who is still impressed by the extensive list of extra features available in the 30-year-old models.

“The Uno CS already had, in the 1980s, internal opening of the trunk, electric windows, ceiling clock, back wiper and rear defogger; a complete car for the time. And full of qualities too: very economical, simple to maintain, quite versatile, good for work, for freight transportation and for the family. Fiat produced an incredible car in the Uno. When you talk about Fiat, you think of the Uno”, he says.

Sporting black license plates for the past two years, Oliveira’ Uno has received numerous purchase proposals, but the professor guarantees that the car already has a future owner. “I will give it to my nine-year-old son, who is already accompanying me to the events. The passion is being passed on from father to son. That's why this car is priceless”.

Another person who will never be without a Fiat Uno is Sérgio Toshihide, who purchased his father's Fire 2002 model. “I’ve had it since 2014 and use it daily for work and leisure. My little Uno never lets me down and takes me wherever I want to go”, says the process technician, who since his teenage years has had a love for the Fiat Uno. “My father already had another Uno, and every time he parked it in the garage, I was in it. I even learned how to drive with the Uno, so the sentimental value is huge”, he highlights.

Sérgio with his Fiat Uno Fire 2002Sergio uses his Uno Fire 2002 daily and has no plans to sell it

As a careful owner, Toshihide writes down in a notebook everything that has been done on his Uno, from periodic maintenance to aesthetic or mechanical changes. “I covered the seats with leather, added a spoiler in the back and I have some projects for the next few years that involve the installation of sports springs and engine preparation. And I want to make it a leisure car only and buy another Uno for my everyday use.”

FCA Experimental Engineering Manager Robson Cotta saw upfront the birth of the Uno. “I started working for Fiat shortly before its launch and saw it even in its final testing phase. Months after its debut, I bought my first of six”, he says. “It was a CS silver, which caught everyone’s eye wherever it went. I once parked it in a square and when I returned, the car was surrounded by people who were admiring it for its distinctive style for the time”.

Like every Uno fan, Cotta collects good and fun stories about the model. “My wife had the car and didn’t realize it had a trunk. She used the vehicle for six months without ever noticing this. Because it’s compact and has a straight rear, she simply thought it had no trunk and carried all the groceries in the back seat”, he says laughing.

Expresso Fiat magazine with Robson CottaRobson Cotta featured on the cover of Expresso Fiat magazine, which in that issue highlighted the farewell of the first generation of Unos

For Cotta, the success of the first generation of Unos - which was marketed up until the end of 2013 - left a big challenge for the new Uno and for the Mobi, Fiat's current entry model. “It has become a benchmark for sales, innovation and charisma. When it was launched 35 years ago, it was a very different and advanced for its time. Uno is and always will be a very important name in the history of Fiat.”

“The Uno is a car that has driven Brazilians, both for work and leasure”, adds Toshihide. “Look how long its design lasted and how captivating it still is. Undoubtedly, it is a vehicle that deserves a great tribute”, he acknowledges.

See in the infographic below the milestones of the model in these 35 successful years.

Fiat Uno 35 years infographic

Words: Leandro Alvares

Pictures: Marketing / Personal Archives

Art: Fabricio Moura

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