Among the many publications to which Archie Vicar contributed was the Woman’s Monthly Report (WMR), published in Tewkesbury.
This text appears to be a transcript of his views on the updated Fiat 127, an item notable for its distinct refusal to patronise the audience, published in the WMR in October 1977. Owing to the original film being accidentally exposed in transit, stock images have been used.
The Fiat 127 has come to define the category of car it created, the “supermini” . Six years on from its launch a quarter of all “superminis” are 127s. The appeal of the car is in its handy size and competitive price if not its boxy appearance and careless assembly. Since 1971, Renault, Volkswagen and Peugeot have fielded entrants in the class. It’s time for Fiat to respond.
To stay competitive, Fiat have updated and improved various aspects of the 127 which, while being small and cheap, is also noisy, cramped and slow. Fiat showcased their new car in a lavish event set in the north of Italy and I noted how much the car has been improved.
After a dismal Fiat breakfast of coffee and cheese, I set off on a sprint along the Turin-Allessandria autostrada and turned north to canter about the vineyards of Monferrato. What did I discover? The bootlid of the new 127 is now lower than the previous model which allowed me to easily stow four boxes of what turned out to be an unspeakably foul-smelling red wine (not the same stuff as I sampled).
A new engine has been produced for the 127, one which is generally the same as the predecessor but altered in many detail ways that add up to the sum of its parts. The engine is an overhead camshaft design, the camshaft being driven by a toothed rubber belt. Its bore and stroke of 76×57.892 mm yields a capacity 1,049 cc, interestingly.
Most of the accessories are on the aft face of the engine with the intake and manifold on the front. The 127 uses a single-casting cylinder head (whereas the 128 has bucket tapets located in a second casting which sits on top of the cylinder head proper). The combustion chamber has a shallow wedge and a nearly vertical sparking plug. The eight valves are, of course, in-line at a narrow angle to the line of the cylinders. For cheaper models the old 903 cc unit is still available and a noisy old nail it is too. The new engine runs on a compression ratio of 9.3 to 1 and produces a lower specific output, at about 50 bhp.
The car is still front drive, naturally, and the main elements of the chassis remain the same as before which is understandable since the nippiness and ease-of-driving were the car’s strong points. The final drive has been raised and the gearing increased too. Anyone who found the old gearchange irritating in the extreme will be heartened by the new version which is a shade less irritating.
Inside the car there’s a new dashboard, even more carpets and very, very small ashtray which beggars belief. Most will find the steering is adequate at higher speeds but when parking it is a mammoth fight of wills between the little car and the average driver. Feedback could be said to be good, especially in tighter corners where there is less kick-back on bumps and abrupt changes of camber than before. That said, the vibrations transmitted are tiring and the engine noise (though comparatively reduced) is still wearying. Fiat’s gearchanges are the same as ever: good and bad, depending on the individual car or the time of day.
Roadholding is much the same as before too so it didn’t take many hours at the wheel before it managed to defeat me and I bashed a large heap of metal which had been left at a blind corner. I was unscathed but the rear wing and tailgate took a bit of a thump and the windscreen fell out. Eight bottles of that wine broke, flooding the boot with pungent plonk.
I nursed the car back to Turin and the Fiat man shrugged. Bad wine, he said, nothing to worry about.
The 127 is due for sale in Britain in July. The 127 has no trip meter or tenths figures.