Hella Sweet Lemons Car of the Week: the Scuderia Fluffball Fiat 128 sedan

If there’s one kind of car we love to see on our race tracks, it’s Italian cars. Yes, passionate, soulful Italian cars, and no car could be more Italian than the little front-wheel-drive sedan that revolutionized the European automotive world in 1969 and was built all the way through 2009 (in Egypt): the versatile Fiat 128!

Yes, the 128 was way more fun to drive than those boring Austin Minis, Ford Fiestas, and Honda Civics, and it was cheap as well. My parents bought a pair of new 128 sedans when I was in first grade, and they sounded like Ferraris going through the gears, even with a mere 48 horsepower. Never mind that one lasted for three years and the other lasted for six years before being crushed— that makes them even better in the eyes of the wise and fair justices of the Lemons Supreme Court.

You’d think that dozens of 24 Hours of Lemons teams would be eager to race the kind of car that combines Italian passion with near-guaranteed Class C status and a big head start over the field in the Index of Effluency competition. Sadly, such has not been the case, even though you can still find unwanted 128s for cheap today. Only two Lemons teams have been sufficiently crazy discerning to race a Fiat 128 so far, and Scuderia Fluffball was the first.

The Scuderia Fluffball 128 made its racing debut at the first Lemons race at Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia: the 2010 Capitol Offense 24 Hours of Lemons.

The Fluffball 128 looked and sounded great on the track, with its hot-rod X1/9 engine making a lug-nut-busting 62 horsepower.

And why wouldn’t it be an amazing race car? Enzo Ferrari himself (claimed that he) daily-drove a 128!

The Fluffball 128 had some reliability problems here and there, sure, but the team finished a respectable P65 out of 86 entries that weekend, beating the very fast Scuderia Limoni Alfa Romeo Milano by a big 92-lap margin. Best of all, the team members took home a big trophy their first time out: the prestigious Organizer’s Choice award.

Scuderia Fluffball returned to the fray for the 2012 Capitol Offense race, finishing 81st out of 121 entries. Stuff broke again, but you expect that when your car has passion.

Taking a few years off to gather parts and super-secret 128-racing tips, the Scuderia Fluffball 128 showed up at the 2015 South Fall race, winning the I Got Screwed trophy after spending an entire race weekend frantically spinning wrenches and turning a mere 11 laps.

Bite Your Tongue Racing brought a snazzy-looking Fiat 128 coupe to the super-weird 2010 season-ender in Florida, finishing in 63rd place out of 74 entries. Clearly, Scuderia Fluffball can take pride in being the most successful Fiat 128 team in the history of the 24 Hours of Lemons.

The Fluffballs haven’t given up! They plan on returning to racing just as soon as they can find a Fiat Strada transmission for their car, because then their high-performance lowered suspension won’t pound axles through their differential any more. So if any of you know where to find a genuine Strada gearbox, let me know immediately.