DRIVEN: BIKE-ENGINED FIAT 126 BIS
Bike engined road cars are always a bit mental but this one's more so than most
The original Fiat 126 packed a mighty 24hp from its ickle 704cc two-cylinder engine, driving through a four-speed gearbox. The special Bis model added a whopping 2hp, giving 26 not especially wild horses.
Hold on to your hat
As you might expect, performance has improved somewhat. The standard 126 (even in special 26hp Bis spec) just about managed 0-60 in a glacial 33 seconds and couldn't even dream of hitting 100mph, with a 72mph vmax. Now the mega-revs 145hp Fiat is capable (according to its builder) of 0-60 in 3.5 seconds and will hit 100mph in just 12.5 seconds, thundering onto 150mph - if you're brave enough.
But, looking at the 40-year-old car nut's history, it's not at all surprising this full-on Fiat is so good. Let's just say engineer Chris likes bike-engined, heavily modified cars. He's owned seven, including a Blackbird, an R1 and a Hayabusa-engined classic Minis, a ZX9 Mini Clubman and two bike-powered kit cars. The Fiat is his latest big high revving toy.
The 126 was bought 18 months back, as a part-finished project car. Chris and mates Andy and Jez (all with engineering o
The dreaded 'unfinished project'
"The bare essentials were there," says Chris, "but it needed a lot of modification to get it working, especially sorting out the cooling [Honda car radiator, bike water pump] and pipework."
What's the appeal of bike-powered classic cars? "The engines are very lightweight, so you can keep the overall weight of the car down, then there's the thrill of the sequential gearbox attached, without having to fork out £10,000 for an aftermarket unit. I guess ultimately, it's all about the revs and long, quick gears," says Chris, smirking.
No such trouble here. The light Yamaha EXUP unit sits neatly in the boot, over the driven wheels and the 145hp is transferred via the bespoke transmission and the Yamaha sequential with serious gusto. It's an incredible buzz to be around, yet alone drive. So incongruous. So unique. So not Fiat 126.
Cute looks, insane performance
The original 126 was a cramped, noisy affair, and this is still the case, and some. From the moment the free-revving engine spins into life the insane Fiat makes you grin inanely. Your eyes say slow, cutesy, 80s Italian city car. Your ears say 'where's that superbike?'
"Everyone comes over to this car, commenting on its condition (and saying words like 'cute' and 'arrrr'), then they see and hear the engine, and they can't believe what they are witnessing," adds Chris.
And I've saved the best news 'til last. Now the bulk of the insane 126 is finished (it still needs big brakes, fat rims and rubber and suspension to be a true weapon really), project car addict Chris is moving on, so the Fiat is up for sale. Time to raid the piggy bank?
Words and images: Phil Royle
FIAT 126 BIS EXUP
Engine: 1,003cc 4-cyl
Power (hp): 145@10,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 78.8@8,500rpm
0-62mph: 3.5 seconds
Top speed: 150mph
Price: £9,995 (as tested)