Fiat 124 Coupe: Spotted

You know how annoying it is when something or someone with real flair and natural ability is outshone on the public stage - often for totally unfounded reasons - by a sibling of greater commercial appeal but lesser real worth?

Here's something you don't see every day!
Here's something you don't see every day!
Some of you will now be thinking of famous examples of this from the political, musical or sporting worlds; but I have my mind fixed firmly in the motoring one. Can we logically explain why the short and stubby, yet wholeheartedly popular, Mk1 Golf GTI has become more worthy of universal praise than the largely forgotten Mk1 Scirocco GTI? The later being so much lower in stance and much nicer to drive. Can we, for that matter, work out why the original 1960s Fiat 124 Spider has become more popular than the more elegant and far more sensual 124 Coupe?

I suppose we first have to take into account that there are more Spiders than Coupes around. The Spider enjoyed considerable success, most notably in the USA, where it continued to be sold right up until 1985 - many years after the Coupe model had been discontinued. In time, a lot of these cars were imported to the UK, helping to fill a drop-top hole in our convertible mad island. No wonder, then, that there are plenty of 124 Spiders still going strong, being spoken and written of, restored, bought and sold, while finding a second-hand 124 Coupe for sale remains a comparatively rare treat.

Now, don't get me wrong, the 124 Spider was a very good car. It was great to look at (althoughthe later big-bumpered US cars were a little ungainly), good to drive and, undoubtedly, a nice car to own. Suitably tuned, and doing so was relatively easy, it was a hugely successful rally car too.

Looking very presentable for 44 years old!
Looking very presentable for 44 years old!
However, those in the know generally regard the 124 Coupe as the better driver's car. It had reserves of roadholding and the type of spirited handling that was almost unknown in moderately priced sporting cars of the time. Introduced in 1967 it, like the Spider, was based on the 124 saloon which was, despite its boxy appearance, a pretty advanced little thing. Yes, it was a humble and lightweight four-door family runabout, but it was stuffed with innovative engineering features such as disc brakes, double wishbone front, and coil spring rear, suspension. Remember, Fiat was on a bit of a creative roll in the 1960s, with some great men of real flair in charge of road car development. Indeed if you are a motoring historian then evocative names like Valletta, Giacosa and Montebone will mean much to you, and the 124 was touched by the genius of them all.

The Coupe and Spider also had the legendary Aurelio Lampredi, who some thought the greatest of all Ferrari engine designers, overseeing the 97hp 1.4-litre twin-cam unit that, not long after its launch, was joined up to a then-innovative five-speed gearbox. That lively engine could rev way beyond its 6600rpm limit, and enjoyed another first, a toothed belt drive to its camshafts, as well as a viscous fan clutch and a sealed cooling system. The 124 had front and rear anti-roll bars, too, and power went through a torque tube to the rear wheels, just like a 275GTB!

A later car but with the 1.6 rather than the 1.8
A later car but with the 1.6 rather than the 1.8
It was great, sweet, subtle and rewarding. Alas, in time, the Coupe became a little heavier, with the second-gen version introducing a more powerful 1.6-litre engine and a blunter nose, and the third-gen a 1.8-litre to supplement the 1.6 and yet more styling tweaks. Despite which it still retained the balance and some of the style of the original car.

Now they're rarer than hen's teeth, and so to find one in the PH classifieds is enough to set an old man's heart a-flutter. What's on offer here is a third-gen version from 1973, an original UK car with the 1.6-litre engine, which is reportedly in good order throughout. Listed details are few, but the car in the pictures looks good and, as only old people and owners now know the 124 Coupe for the wundercar it is, prices are still relatively affordable. The owner is asking what seems like a reasonable £12,950 for this one. At the end of the day what you are looking at is still a 44-year old Fiat, so all the necessary precautions should be observed, but you might pay a lot more and get a lot less elsewhere. This should certainly be worth a look.

1,608cc, four-cylinder
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 110@6400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 101@N/A rpm
CO2: N/A
First registered: 1973
Recorded mileage: 72,000
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £12,950

See the original advert here.

[Words: Mark Pearson]


P.H. O'meter

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Comments (34) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Pereldh 21 Sep 2017

    My first dreamcar as our neighbor had a silver metallic '74 version.
    I STILL haven't bought one but when I do it'll be the last gen, 1800cc 118hp version.

    Also it's arguably the most badass Fiat ever made bar "il monstro" or maybe the Dino Coupe..

  • pomodori 21 Sep 2017

    Il monstro is an Alfa SZ .

  • pomodori 21 Sep 2017

    It's also mostro in Italiano.

  • Pereldh 21 Sep 2017

    Sorry *il mostro' of course it is. smile

  • pomodori 21 Sep 2017

    That ^^^^ is the "Beast of Turin",the S76

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