The FIAT 126

At the Turin Show Fiat introduced their new baby-car, in the form of the Tipo 126. Those who feared that in the year AD 1973 the great Italian manufacturer might banish the cyclecar concept of a twin-cylinder air-cooled engine need not have worried. The 126 has a revised version of the famous Fiat 500 power unit, which dates back to 1957, but with the bore enlarged by just over six mm., which gives a capacity of 594 c.c. and modern over-square dimensions. This 94½ c.c. increase, together with a c.r. of 7.5 instead of just over 7 to 1, has raised power output to 23 b.h.p. (DIN) at 4,800 r.p.m., from 18 b.h.p. (DIN) at 4,400 r.p.m. The push-rod o.h. valve gear has been improved, the starter is more compactly mounted, the sump is larger, a plastic fan runs more quietly, a new, more accurately-timed distributor is used, and this 594-c.c. Fiat 126 is said to cruise all day at a maximum gait of rather better than 65 m.p.h.

The 500’s transverse leaf-spring and trailing-arm coil-spring type of all-round independent suspension is retained, as are 12-in. (radial) tyres, and the wheelbase, at just over six feet, remains the same. The body is, however, quite different, being a sloping-tail, boxy four-seater two-door saloon, with not quite the cheeky lines of a Fiat 127 or a Honda N.600. Fuel (Super) is contained in a 21-litre tank. The rear-engined Fiat 126 thus continues in the true baby-car tradition and does not depart drastically from the concept of the famous Fiat 500 which has made so many economy-conscious motorists happy for over 15 years. But the new car is five inches longer within, is wider, by more than three inches across the back seat, the lines are modern if not flowing, and there is less austerity. The proof will be in the sampling but we expect the Fiat 126 to taste good to economical palates, even though it is not the completely revised design which may have been expected. The 126 supplements but does not replace the 500, we are told, but when we said last month that it superseded it, we were presumably right so far as this country is concerned, because Fiat’s British publicity agent says that no more 500s are expected to come to Britain. — W. B.