El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing Company (NASCO)


NASR 128 GLS 1300

The news that Egypt's state-owned El Nasr carmaker is to be shut down will see the end of assembly in the country of the venerable Fiat 131 that has since been facelifted by Fiat's JV partner Tofaş as well as the even-older long-running Fiat 128.

The news this week that Egypt's state-owned El Nasr carmaker is to be shut down will see the ending of production of the venerable Fiat 131 that was given a facelift with Regatta derived styling cues by Fiat's Turkish joint-venture partner, Tofaş and dubbed the Sahin, as well as the even-older Fiat 128. The news came via the Al-Arabiya TV network. El Nasr has had a very long relationship with Fiat, building a raft of its models under licence including the 125 and 128 as well as variants of Fiat's produced by Tofaş, FSO and Zastava.

El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing Company (NASCO), to give the company its full title, was founded in 1959 as part of the then Egyptian government's policy of industrialisation in the urban areas. Seeking to build low-cost cars it quickly struck an agreement with Fiat and began to assemble the Fiat 125 under licence, followed by the 128 (called the Nasr 128 GLS 1300 in Egypt and still available today). Over the decades NASCO has also collaborated with three European car manufacturers that developed ageing Fiat models under licence. In a project with Polish carmaker FSO it assembled the Fiat 125-based Polonez, which was redesigned by Giorgetto Giugiaro, in its factory in the Helwan District of Cairo while in another association, this time with Serbia's Zastava, it built the Fiat Tipo-based Yugo Florida model, another car that was styled by Giugiaro.

Most recently however NASCO has assembled cars under licence from Fiat's 50-50 joint venture manufacturing partner in Turkey, Tofaş. It initially built the Tofaş Doğan, Şahin and the Kartal, the latter which was the station wagon version - all of which were closely based on the Fiat 131 - under licence agreement from imported CKD kits. These models, first introduced in 1991, were originally virtually identical to the Fiat 131 and fitted with the 1.3- and 1.6-litre engines. However in the mid-1990s the models were reskinned to give them styling cues closer to the Regatta and were fitted with a new range of engines drawn from the Tipo/Tempra: a 1.4-litre unit with 78 bhp at 5,500 rpm, and a 1.6-litre with 96 bhp at 5,500 rpm. Some styling cues from the Tipo and Tempra filtered down to these models such as in the front radiator grille. The Kartal estate version was dropped from the range while the higher specification and more luxurious Dogan was replaced by the Sahin 1600 SL, and three years ago, this model plus the entry-level Sahin 1400 S, were fitted with fuel injection. The 1600 SL model includes power steering, radio cassette and air-conditioning and reaches a top speed of 160 km/h.

These two 131-derived models are currently still assembled by NASCO, along with the 128-based 1300 GLS, which produces 60 bhp and has a top speed of 148 km/h. The plant has capacity to build just under 10,000 vehicles per year and at its height it had 2,400 workers, although today staffing levels have dropped to around 1,000 while in 2000 a division that builds trucks, buses and tractors - and which has collaborated in the past with Fiat's Iveco unit - was split away to form Engineering Automotive Manufacturing Co. (EAMCO).

However the decision to wind up NASCO - which has 20 dealerships of which half are located in Cairo - due to the ending of licensing agreements and seek a buyer for the company doesn't spell an end to the assembly of the Tofaş-developed version of the venerable Fiat 131, a family sedan which was first introduced to the world by Fiat at the Turin Motor Show in 1974 to great acclaim and which was produced with a Fiat badge at the sprawling Mirafiori factory until 1984, as the Tofaş Doğan has been built in small numbers by the 'Holland Car' company in CKD kit form in Ethiopia since 2006.

2009 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed