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SEAT Ronda: A Most Curious Tale

What’s black and yellow and read all over?

The story of a unique SEAT Ronda, truth be told.

Who doesn't enjoy a right rollicking tale of automotive industry mystery and intrigue. Throw in a bit of suspense, and we’re all ears.

Of course, when it envelops one of our own brands, then we need to learn the juicy details. Even if they’re backdated a few decades, as in this case.

But as SEAT potentially - and somewhat tragically - begin to wind down its car-manufacturing division in the wake of Cupra usurping its parental unit (yup, we’ll spin out another blog covering this whole unfolding story soon), what better juncture to regale our readership with a feel good story few are probably aware of.

Regarding a manufacturer which succeeded in silencing its one-time partner, Fiat after the Italian’s had taken umbrage with SEAT for creating the post-fallout Ronda model in what it believed to be too familiar echoes of the Fiat Ritmo.

Or Strada, to those old enough to recall that particular hatchback.

This seemingly acrimonious parting of ways in 1982 culminated in SEAT winning the court case that resulted from Fiat bringing legal action against them. Cleverly SEAT took one of its Ronda’s to court, with all of the SEAT-exclusive parts painted in lurid yellow.

End of, apparently.

Well, not quite.

As this summarised element doesn’t divulge the full story as we’re about to learn.

The Bizarre Legal Tale Behind One of The Strangest Paint Jobs Ever Observed

And bear in mind that includes the Volkswagen Golf Harlequins and Colour Concept GTi’s, just for the record.

Splitting up is never an easy business, with layers of emotional pain experienced by both parties.

This was very true when Fiat and SEAT went their separate ways back in 1983. Said suffering quickly escalated and inevitably turned a tad messy, with Fiat unimpressed with SEAT’s perceived lack of originality in the hatchback department.

Unlike human examples, this high profile automotive divorce-of-sorts was played out in the very public domain back in the day.

Although SEAT has long been a fully paid up member of the Volkswagen Audi Group (since 1986), previous to this they were very much under the wing of Fiat. With a sizable percentage of their vehicles being rudimentarily derived from existing Fiat designs and mechanical underpinnings.

One such car being the SEAT Ronda, which began its life as a Fiat Ritmo.

And which SEAT built under license from its Italian car cousins. A close relationship which worked well for both parties until things went a bit Pete Tong.

More Than A Lover’s Tiff…

The Fiat SEAT love-in ended for a variety of reasons according to those in the know, which ultimately left SEAT in a bit of a pickle.

As essentially SEAT had to both re-work and moreover, re-style its entire range of vehicles thereafter, so as to sufficiently differentiate them from Fiat’s similar iterations.

And moreover, the owners of the original design blueprints from a legal perspective and understanding.

This part of the separation process went quite amicably, with an agreement ratified between the two parties when SEAT were afforded the rights to carry on constructing its versions of the Fiat 127, Panda and more pertinently, the Ritmo. Which was destined to be the moot point and subsequent bone of CAR-tention.

The agreement upheld that SEAT could continue producing these models on the proviso that they were significantly changed, re-styled and re-named going forward.

(image: SEAT Ritmo. Sorry, Fiat Rondo)

So, The Car Formerly Known As The Fiat Ritmo Was Extensively Reinvented By SEAT Then?

Pretty much, yes.

Re-styled, re-engineered, re-upholstered and re-badged as a bona fide Rondo, SEAT even went to the trouble of chatting up Porsche to go in with them on the Rondo’s engine.


And reiterates as to how/why/when/which/were Porsche collaborated with SEAT for a while back there. Who can ever forget those cool ‘System Porsche’ body panel decals on later model SEAT Ibiza’s.

But for now/then, the System Porsche engine design saw the German sports car-maker contribute its fuel injection know-how and cylinder head development expertise to the Rondo party. Which was home to a Fiat 124-derived power unit secreted beneath the bonnet.

Anyway, we’re digressing again.

Back To The Strange Yellow And Black SEAT Rondo That Won A Court Case

Admittedly. Kramer versus Kramer it wasn’t.

But the bottom line is that despite SEAT’s protestations to the contrary.

And the very visible fact that a SEAT Rondo ISN’T a Fiat Ritmo (we’ve uploaded the latter to depict the obvious differentials), the Italians were niggled. So niggled that they insisted on having their day in court opposite SEAT.

What Fiat hadn’t figured on though, was SEAT’s absolute masterstroke that would pre-determine the legal outcome.

Pursuing legal action on the basis that Fiat didn’t believe that the Ronda was different enough from the Ritmo, they argued that as a result of this not inconsequential accusation that SEAT was effectively in violation of their partnership-dissolution agreements.

The genius move to counter Fiat’s paper-thin claims was the brainchild of none other than the man at the top of SEAT himself; President Juan Miguel Antonanzas. Who instructed his factory assembly line employees to highlight every new part that SEAT had created.

In vivid yellow paint.

Ergo, all the parts that are painted in vivacious yellow paint on this special Ronda are unique to SEAT.

From the inside, out, literally every part that SEAT was solely responsible for is finished in uniform yellow. While the interior is all new for the most part, the exterior of the Ronda boasted entirely new front and rear end designs.

Critical Response

The response to SEAT’s indignant riposte to Fiat’s misplaced indignation was universally well received.

With automotive journalists of the day describing SEAT’s unmitigated PR onslaught as ‘spectacular’.

Naturally, this ploy ensured that SEAT were in receipt of a favourable decision from the courts, which in turn probably secured SEAT’s future.

But this cruellest of blows to Fiat’s ego didn’t end there.

There was a double whammy for Fiat in the shape of a further ruling that transpired on the back of this case, specifically referencing the Ronda’s bespoke new front end design. Which apparently bore all the hallmarks of the front end of the upcoming Fiat Ritmo’s physical refresh.

Forcing Fiat, not SEAT, to start over with a new, different design, that wouldn't infringe SEAT’s copyright.

We know. You couldn't make this stuff up, could you.

These days the garishly-coloured SEAT Ronda sits pride of place in the company’s heritage fleet, housed in Barcelona. And well worth a ganders.

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