Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The requirements for a car to be included in the ranks of true classics are not just a matter of being exceptionally fast or having aesthetic appeal. It must be significant to the manufacturer and the rest of the motor industry as well. The very best of these have the stamp of individualism about them, indicating that one person has masterminded its design and production.
Fiats of years past have this individuality; whatever the model, a Fiat
was unmistakably a Fiat. This was largely the result of Giovanni Agnelli, but there are others that must be mentioned. Giocosa, whose designs influenced decades of cars, and Gianni Agnelli, grandson of the founder, who carried on with much the same philosophy as his grandfather. Firstly, and most important, they were Piedmontese and very proud of the fact. Secondly they were Italian and all this was reflected in the way they did business and designed cars.
Fiat's were vehicles for people, mainly working class, and designed around them. The delightful 500 Topolino
was built for the workers of Turin, to transport them about their business, at a price, and in doing so gave Italy wheels, and a lot of other areas of the world, for the first time. The Fiat 124 fitted into the same category, albeit, a good deal larger. Introduced in 1966
, it was the result of post war expansion and a need to export in ever larger numbers than before. It was the car that helped make Fiat the largest manufacturer in Europe.
The Unremarkable Fiat 124
At first glance the 124 could be considered unremarkable; it was boxy and had un-aerodynamic
lines, being obviously based on the earlier 1100 Saloon, but those lines were also functional and were capable of containing five adults in reasonable comfort. An wagon version was announced at the same time. The Saloon and Estate shared the same features, even the overall length was the same. The engine was unimpressive, apart from the use of alloy in its construction, and the 73x71.5mm bore and stroke provided an over-square 1197cc, producing a useful 60bhp at 5600rpm.
A Weber 32 DCOF or Solex C32 PHH/6 provided excellent breathing throughout the range and the power was fed through an all synchromesh
gearbox. Coil springs
were at the corners with a Panhard rod at the rear giving a taught and typically Italian feel to the road handling
, while all four wheels had power assisted disc brakes
. Unremarkable? Yes, on paper, but when Motor came to test the car, they found a top speed of 91 mph and a time from 0-60 of 14.6 seconds. It outperformed all of the opposition, usually with larger engines, and returned a frugal 28 mpg. So successful was the Fiat 124 that the range was expanded not only by Fiat but by the multitude of coachbuilding and tuning specialists that abounded in the Turin area.
The Fiat 124 Spyder and Coupe
In the Turin Show of 1966
Fiat showed a sleek 2 + 2 Spyder with bodywork by Pininfarina
, reminiscent of the Abarth 1600 Spyder, and in 1967 Fiat
showed off their own, very similar, Coupe version. The Sport and Spyder shared the same floor pan as the sedan, apart from the engine and some gearboxes. The engine was a 1438cc DOHC unit with the camshafts driven by a cogged rubber belt. Power increased to 90bhp at 6500rpm but it was capable of 8000rpm in the lower gears and the claimed 102 mph top speed could be exceeded when run in. The standard gearbox had four ratios but the alternative 5-speed was available although the 5th at .912:1 didn't seem to effect the ability to reach maximum revs at all.
Also in 1967
a stretched version of the saloon was produced, called the Fiat 125
. Powered by a 1608cc version of the DOHC engine it developed 94 bhp with a 80 x 80mm bore and stroke. There was a choice of 4-speed, 5-speed (special) and automatic
gearboxes. Rear suspension
differed in being elliptic. Strictly a luxury version it came equipped with four headlamps for illuminating the Autostrada, as well as a less Spartan interior.
Unnoticeable from outside, the body was more rigid but the added weight gave the game away by absorbing the extra power, resulting in a maximum speed of only 99mph which was still bad news for the competitors. Dimensionally it was 3.4in longer in wheelbase, 7.6in longer overall, and within an inch in track out width.
Later, in 1969
, the need for more power and the desire to fill the gaps in their marketing structure, led to two more cars being introduced to run alongside the existing range. The 124 Special had the bore of the standard engine increased to 80mm and coinciding with the 1438cc of the DOHC unit. This gave 70bhp at 5400rpm, and with the oversquare configuration the revs were almost unlimited. The four headlamps of the 125 were added, and needed, and a general improvement in the seating and equipment to match the up-market image. Top speed was quoted at 94 miles per hour.
The other model was created by putting a 1608cc dohc engine from the 125 into the Sport and Spyder. Tuned to 110bhp it gave the Coupe a speed of 104mph and the nose was altered to accommodate the four headlamps as well. The five speed gearbox was made standard, but with a different set of ratios to give a 5th gear of .881:1, which still did not have an overdrive effect. In 1970
the 1438cc dohc engine was installed in the 124 Saloon and the speed rose to 102 mph for the owners of the Special T model. Later the unit was changed for the 1608cc unit for a short while before the last change of all.
Fiat had brought out the larger 132 with a 1600 or 1800 DOHC engine and these were used on the 124 range with good effect. The 1608cc unit was changed in the Special T and Sports models for the 1592cc with little difference to the performance. The Coupe was redesigned with large bumpers and a lower boot lip. The general shape was the same but the interior was better ventilated with the addition of vents below the rear quarter windows and four eyeball vents on the dash. The 1756cc engine could only increase the speed to 109 mph as the car was detuned to 118 bhp with reference to emissions. In contrast the Fiat-Abarth Rallye Spyder produced a handsome 128 bhp and a performance to match.