1967-1972 Fiat 125

From 1967 to 1972 Fiat sold the 125 and, according to Wikipedia, it combined saloon car space with sports car performance.

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This formula could also be found in the 1966 BMW 1602/2002 and 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulia. What might distinguish the 125 from these might be that it offered these characteristics in a cheaper package than Alfa or BMW. It certainly had more doors than the 2002 and it had more space than the Alfa Romeo.

Distinguishing it further is that fact it’s a great deal rarer now than its sports saloon cousins from Milan and Munich. This is the first one I can remember seeing in very many years, if I have indeed ever seen one at all. It’s a remarkably tidy bit of work, no? While it conforms to the 1960’s format of the styled shoe-box, there are inflections and nuances that lift it above banality. The front wing leans forward in a manner not dissimilar to a 1965 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow or ’63 Riviera.

1967-1972 Fiat 125
1967-1972 Fiat 125

The C-pillar meets the rear wing with a pleasing chrome flourish and a confident little air-vent. The chrome strips along the sill and wheel arches and along the coach-line also give the car a bit of jewelry and, in comparison with plain fare from Opel and Ford of the time, it suggests a higher level of quality than you’d expect. The interior is also distinctly more lavish than the Opel and Fords with which it competed. I saw a 60’s Rekord yesterday and it didn’t strike the same note of quality, being far more trans-Atlantic and superficial on the inside.

Mechanically, the 125 is a mix of the 1500 and the contemporary 124, its predecessor and junior brother respectively. The styling conveys a simpler message than the Americanesque 1500 while being more ornate than the 124, so it updated the 1500 formula and helped it blend in with its showroom peers at Fiat dealers. Honest John gives the car credit for its performance and also can’t resist noting its resemblance to derivatives from Poland and Russia. For me, the similarities are at too high a level, in the way a horse is like a cow if leg-count is your only criterion.

Rust killed most of them and the Fiat badge meant there exists little enthusiasm to help owners overcome the problems of running a car this age. Now I think of it, I saw none in Italy recently. That said, I’ve seen no 2002s in Germany (where I am today).

If you want to find out more you’ll need to do some shopping on eBay for a period review.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

10 thoughts on “1967-1972 Fiat 125”

  1. Back then, I remember getting very enthusiastic about the Vignale Samantha, which was built on a 125 base. I did come across one in a workshop a few years ago, but it was in a corner and I couldn’t see it properly. Sometimes you look back at things from your youth and realise your errors, but looking at this example, available today from Mole Valley Specialist Cars in Dorking, it remains very convincing. After all, its Ghibli contemporary sat on a leaf sprung rear axle (the only thing that put me off the 125 at the time).

    With its twin cam, the 125 was quite appealing to Italy’s specialists and coachbuilders. Moretti produced coupes in Mark 1 and 2 forms, which weren’t as nicely balanced as the Samantha.

    Both the above sold in decent numbers. There were a few proposals Bertone produced a proposal for the 125 Executive.

    Michelotti did a similarly heavy coupe and Zagato (who else?) produced this.

    1. Thanks for all those images. Only one looks like a mature design; Bertone’s could be a rough sketch for the Escort Mk2. For all the effectiveness of new cars, the complexity of manufacture has stifled variation such as is shown in Sean’s set of photographs. Clearly I’m not spending enough money on classic cars magazine as all these have lived under my radar until now.

    2. The Samantha and Moretti I remember from the time. If you’d asked me to guess what the Bertone Executive was based on I’d probably have said Audi 80/VW Passat, but there is a familiarity to it, so I probably did see it back then, and maybe it made more sense at the time. As for the Zagato, well it’s a Zagato so normal rules don’t apply – I imagine that Elio Zagato might even have been offended if you’d called the 125Z ‘mature’.

    1. That Bertone 125 also bears a passing resemblance to the Iso Lele, from the same design house. The headlamps also appear to be a straight lift from the contemporary Opel Diplomat. To these eyes, the Moretti has very strong Pininfarina overtones.

  2. I like a lash-up that works. The 125 is one, the Peugeot 604 (504 wagon platform and doors, PRV V6) is another. According to Dante Giacosa the 125 was developed in 15 months, parallel with protracted indecision-making on the 130 project, which grew from a direct 2300 replacement to an Italian S-Class rival.

    The last 125 derivative I experienced was a 125 pick-up on a friend’s farm. Probably the rawest form of the car, but I should mention Giacosa’s words in FYODWF on the matter of the 115/116 engine used in the Polski versions, and orginally derived from the 1800/2100/2300 straight-six:

    “The solution was a tremendous money-saver and gave excellent results. In fact the 1500cc “116” engine is still being produced in Poland and is not a whit inferior to the most up-to-date engines with overhead cams. The polyspherical combustion chamber with its valves arranged in a V has extremely effective anti-knock qualities, and unlike such engines does not require great accuracy in manufacturing since the camshaft is in the crankcase and the regulation of the valves is carried out in the traditional way with screws on the rocker arms.”

    A sly dig at the later twin-cam, or just a counterpoint to the OHC orthodoxy?

    1. Surely a comment from someone who hasn’t kept up in any meaningful way with advances in intake and combustion chamber design. Since anyone can be educated for nothing by going to the Honda engineering R&D website and registering, I sometimes find the all-too-common rapture with knitting needle two-valve heads from an era long past a manifestation of people who do not understand exactly what they don’t understand.

      https://www.hondarandd.jp/

      With constant SAE and Aachen forum engine symposiums where all the requisite reps from various automotive companies get together to tell tall tales and present papers, you can be sure that Honda’s level of expertise is fairly common across the industry. Perhaps Subaru should stop selling its Robin 7hp General Purpose one-lunger engines for small generators and cement mixers with ohc and a pentroof combustion chamber. And their price hardly breaks the bank.

      http://www.subarupower.com/products/engines/sp-series-features-benefits/

      As Duckworth once boasted: “I am solely responsible for the modern narrow angle 4 valve head”, referring years later to his DFV design in Graham Robson’s book Cosworth. The problem is, as Honda will show you, that old paradigm isn’t quite what you want for best thermal efficiency from high compression ratios. So we’ve moved on from the Duckworth era, and some bloke is still touting the Fiat engine which would have been class-leading in 1948 perhaps as some miracle or other. Hmmm.

  3. Bill: trenchant as ever! That would have made a good short article. It is hard to believe that a fifty year old concept could match the thermal efficiency of a newer engine but perhaps the Fiat’s simplicity can be recorded on the credit side of the ledger.
    Are you channelling Setright at the moment?

  4. What was the rationale for the Fiat 125 carrying over much of the mechanicals of the Fiat 1300/1500 and mating to an adapted Fiat 124 body as opposed to using a lengthened version of the Fiat 124 platform? Was it simply down to cost or due to the fact Fiat were busy with other projects at the time or a combination of both?

    Additionally given the 1300/1500 spawned the larger 1800/2100/2300 6-cylinder and the fact the Fiat 130 ended up being a much larger car than the former (and was even given 140 code-name), could a case have been made for the Fiat 125 to spawn a larger 6-cylinder derivative as a stop-gap direct successor of sorts to the 1800/2300 in between the Fiat 125 and Fiat 130? Powered by either a Twin-Cam inline-6 (derived from the 1.6 Twin-Cam used in the Fiat 125) or a sub-2.8 version of the Fiat 130 V6?

    Curiously such a model would have also allowed FSO to develop a larger 125p-based alternative to the FSO Warszawa 210 prototype (that was allegedly derived from the 1960 Ford Falcon), carrying over the Fiat 1800/2100/2300 inline-6 which itself was related to the Fiat 1300/1500 engines used in the 125p. Since the latter was later enlarged to a 87 hp 1598cc in the FSO Polonez (surprised it was not used earlier in the Fiat 1300/1500), it would have potentially allowed for a 2398cc inline-6 in the larger 125p-based derivative.

    1. My bad, the 140 code-name refers to another unbuilt larger project though the point about the Fiat 130 being much larger than its replacement still stands.

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