Polski Fiat 125P
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
On the face of it Fiat's decision to sell advanced car technology to Poland, in the shape of a licensing agreement whereby the Fabryka Samochodow Osobowych would build a version of the popular Fiat 124 model, was a dangerous move; there was always the very real risk that cheap imports would flow from Eastern Europe undercutting every manufacturer, including Fiat.
But in the case of the Polski 125P such fears were unfounded - because they were so bad. The cars were certainly cheap, indeed very cheap, and they excelled in emphasising the worst features of the Fiat design and in almost eliminating the good ones. On the grounds of performance there was little to complain about; the top speed of 93 mph was perfectly adequate for a 1.5-litre family sedan, as was the acceleration (0-60 mph in around 14 seconds).
It is the manner in which it could be achieved that left a lot to be desired - the pushrod engine had to be worked very hard and the resultant noise and vibration was excessive. Changing gear, particularly in stop-start city motoring, was a chore; noise and vibration made even moderately long highway journeys tiring.
In contrast to another East European version of the boxy Fiat, the Russian Lada, the steering
was extremely easy, thanks in part to the large steering
wheel, but as a result of the large wheel the steering
could best be described as "somewhat vague". The suspension
was by double wishbones at the front, but the live rear axle was located by simple semi-elliptic leaf springs.
Nevertheless, the standard of handling
and ride were a vast improvement on the transmission
, even if neither was particularly impressive. Perhaps a more serious criticism was that the fit of the body panels was poor, and the corrosion protection in some areas was not very thorough, which of course did not bode well for a long life.
There were two main versions, differing in engine employed: 1295 cc, 60 hp (45 kW) or 1481 cc, 75 hp / 51.5 kW. The 1300 model entered production in 1968 and the 1500 in 1969. The most visible difference between the Polish cars and their Italian cousins were the four round headlights instead of two square ones. A less visible but significant change in the Polski Fiat was a safer flat fuel tank above the rear axle, instead of Fiat's vertical tank on the rear right-hand side. It also had more durable 4-wheel disc brakes, thanks to mud covers.
Unlike the Fiat 125, the 125P was also available as an wagon (PF 125p Kombi), and a pickup. The station-wagon won the 1978 "Estate Car of the Year" award in the United Kingdom. A few cars were made with original Italian 1600 cc (PF 125p Monte Carlo) and 1800 cc (PF 125p Akropolis) engines, intended mostly for racing. An unusual variant built in a small series was a lengthened cabriolet with three rows of seats, used by the tourist bureau in Warsaw for sightseeing.
There was a small restyling in 1973, when the chrome front grille was replaced with black plastic one, and in 1975, when a new black plastic grill arrived along with new turn indicators, enlarged rear lamps (instead of pairs of thin vertical ones), and a mildly modernised interior. The power of both engines was also raised by 3.7 kW. From 1983, the car was produced as the FSO 125p 1500/1300.
Despite all its faults the Polski 125P was a bargain buy for anyone wanting a new car at a very low price, and prepared to adjust his or her expectations accordingly; it offered medium-car size accommodation at less than the cost of the smallest 'mini'. But we seriously doubt that, even with time mellowing the ownership experience, anyone will jump to their defense and claim they were little more than rubbish on 4 wheels.
The 1300 ceased production in the 1980s. The car was produced until 26 June 1991; in total, 1,445,689 were manufactured. By that time the design was 24 years old and used mechanicals which were essentially 30 years old, with only minor improvements.
Polski Fiat 125P Quick Specifications
Front mounted, in-line, four cylinder. 77mm (3.03 in) bore x 79.5mm (3.13in) stroke 1481 cc (90.4cu in). Maximum power (DIN) 75bhp at 5400 rpm; maximum torque (DIN) 831b ft at 3800rpm; cast iron cylinder block and alloy head. Compression ratio 9:1. 3 main bearings. 2 valves
per cylinder operated via rockers and pusbrods by single camshaft. Weber 34 DCHD carburettor.
Single dry plate clutch and four-speed manual gearbox. Ratios 1st 3.750, 2nd 2.30, 3rd 1.49, 4th 1.00, rev 3.87. Hypoid bevel final drive, 4.100:1.
Front - independent by wishbones and anti-roll bar
, rear - live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and telescopic dampers.
Worm and roller.
Discs front and rear.
4.5 in x 13 in. Tyres 165SR x 13.
4 door, 4 seat. Integral.
Dimensions and weight:
Wheelbase 98.62 in; track-front 51.10in, rear- 50.39 in; length 166.65in; width 63. 98in; height 56. 69in; ground clearance 5.5in; weight 2139lb; turning circle 35.4ft; fuel tank capacity 9.9gal.
Maximum speed 96 mph; acceleration 0-60mph 14.5secs; fuel consumption approximately 27mpg.