Having just read your comments on the Fiat 125 Special in November MOTOR SPORT I thought you might be interested in my experience with an ordinary 125 (the Special is not yet available in Australia). The car was purchased right at the end of August, 1968, and has just been sold prior to my return to England. In those 16 months it covered just less than 27,000 miles under extremely varied motoring conditions. Approximately 10,000 miles were interstate highway miles and most of the rest were in and around the city of Melbourne, but with a sprinkling of club trials, autokhanas and the like.
My reaction to the vehicle has been almost entirely favourable. There were a few minor faults at first corrected very quickly by the dealers. The only major delivery fault was the clutch pressure plate assembly which persistently caused judder on take-off. I finally persuaded the dealers that it was worth changing and no trouble at all has been experienced since 6,000 miles. A universal joint failed from lack of grease at 11,500 miles, but once again this was a guarantee job. They are pre-packed joints incidentally. An argument for the return of grease nipples maybe?
More persistent niggles are the exhaust system, which after prolonged high-speed cruising cracks in the silencer, and brake moaning. The exhaust pipe was eventually fixed permanently with a service modification. Prior to this it required welding at every service. The brake moaning seems to go away after the pads are run-in, but tends, to return in very dusty conditions. Pad run-in from this point of view seems to take about 5,000 miles.
You should not gain the impression from the above that I was unhappy. Had I not been leaving Australia I expected at least 60,000 delightful miles from the machine, and in fact I was very sad to sell it.
The car was always very quiet and smooth and was an interstate cruiser par excellence, being quite happy to sit on 90-95 m.p.h. (5,500 r.p.m.) continuously. This enabled me to cover a 600-mile trip (odometer) in exactly 10 hours, and later a 355-mile trip in 5 hours, including one hour of 80 miles. The beautiful thing about this was that overall the car achieved 25 m.p.g., although on one notable occasion when I was forced by Easter traffic going into Sydney to cruise at about 45-50 m.p.h. it managed 313 miles on a tankful (about 33 m.p.g.). A pleasantly nippy machine around the city, too, although it needed to be stirred above 3,500 r.p.m. to get really zippy performance. Full throttle from 1,000 r.p.m. in top gear could be achieved without anything violent happening in the transmission, though. I feel that my greatest enjoyment came from climbing twisting roads where the use of second and third gears and the rev range 3,500-6,500 produced quite exhilarating results. Going down the other side the brakes were always excellent, and entirely reassuring.
I agree with your original comments in June, 1968, that the car is quite a strong understeerer, but certainly not as much as the 1500 and on Michelin ZX tyres I never really had any worries about handling. I was extremely satisfied incidentally with those tyres, there still being about 3-4,000 miles left on them at the time of sale. Other points: If the q.i. lamps of the 125S are superior to the 125 they must be absolutely outstanding. You seem to have been unlucky with the screen wash wiper switch on both your test vehicles. I, like you, object to spring biased gear levers, but you soon get used to it, and in fact the box is incredibly light. After 25,000 miles the car achieved an electronically-timed 18.8 standing quarter. Although the manufacturers recommend changing the camshaft drive belt between 24,000 and 30,000 miles, there didn’t appear to be anything wrong with it at time of sale. Oil consumption came out at about 400 m.p.p. and the first set of pads expired at 21,000 miles.
All in all I was very satisfied with the car, and were it financially feasible I would have another when I get back to England. The overall cost incidentally, including every identifiable cost, worked out at 7.05c. (about 5.9d.) per mile.
Thanks for a very readable magazine, which I have now enjoyed for over 14 years.
Glen Iris, Australia.
Roderick B. Blackburn.