Reader Submissions: Father's Stories Lead to Son's Fiat Restoration

Father’s Stories Lead to Son’s Fiat Restoration

By Petrolicious Productions
May 21, 2014
17 comments

Owner: João Bento

Year, Make, and Model: 1974 Fiat 128 Sport Coupé L (Luxe), 1300 cc

Location: Alcobaça, Portugal

Photographers: Ricardo Silva and João Bento

My parents had a Fiat 128 Coupé from the time they were dating until the day they decided to build a house. That brought about a change in priorities, and to pay for the roof of their new home the Fiat had to go. My father took to his Vespa scooter.

For years he talked about the Fiat. After I got my drivers license he told me even more about it–how well it handled, the fun adventures he had with it…

“Let him talk” I thought, not really caring. After all it was just a little Fiat with a 1300cc engine making 75hp. But reading a car magazine one day I found an ad for a Fiat 128 SL and my father really wanted to see it. The following day we found ourselves staring in disappointment at a rusty, dismantled wreck laying on tree trunks. But it was the first 128 Coupé I’d seen and I fell in love with it.

I soon found a slightly better example that we immediately bought and practically dismantled that night. The plan was to give the car a “little care,” though we had no idea what to do about the broken gearbox in the boot, the missing parts, the rodent-nibbled dashboard or the fact that the bodyshell was so rusty that it would be difficult to find a repair shop willing to take it on.

We disassembled each component and carefully restored them–thought if my father wasn’t so handy, the car never would have seen the road again. A friend offered me a dashboard from a car he owned and I managed find some other parts in Portugal, but eBay made the search much easier. When we’d gotten all necessary the parts, I got into the habit of thinking “why not change this too?”–Which kept the postman busy, delivering more than five hundred (!) packages during the restoration project.

Eventually we towed the car to the MoT station–it passed and I drove it home for the first time. It was a complete nut-and-bolt restoration over three years and I had never worked on cars before. I haven’t stopped driving it since and now I realize why my father has such happy memories of his Fiat. I managed to trace his old car but unfortunately it wasn’t for sale, though gradually we’ve bought five and are now restoring another one as well as a Fiat 128 Rally.

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Lee Griffiths
Lee Griffiths
3 years ago

Great story, I have just bought 2 x 128 3p as I wanted one for nearly 30 years! great little cars, easy to work on, fast (enough) but easy to tune and upgrade. These two came from Italy and have very little rust.

Marios Raptis
Marios Raptis
4 years ago

Congratulations!A very nice car in an excellent condition.My father has a Fiat 128 SL coupe like yours.

robertopsp
robertopsp
5 years ago

Boa tarde, primeiramente, parabéns pelo empenho e dedicação na conservação e historia do automóvel antigo e o que é mais importante nessa vida, ter muitas e muitas histórias para contar e lembranças incríveis de bons momentos. Comprei um Fiat 128 SL exatamente igual ao de voces em 2005 e no mesmo ano vendi para um amigo, pois estava passando um momento financeiro complicado. Esse amigo, era apaixonado pela linha Fiat, no comeco do mesmo ano eu tinha vendido uma Fiat spider 850 1968, ambos vermelhos.
Mas, a vida muitas vezes nos prega algumas peças, passado dois anos da venda ele veio a falecer, e eu ainda tinha valores em haver por conta da venda dos carros e assim nossa historia terminou abruptamente.
Como eu fiquei com os documentos referentes aos carros, por ainda nao ter feito a liquidação dos veiculos, alimentava uma esperança, ainda que pequena de recomprar os carros algum dia, uma vez que a familia vendeu tudo e eu fiquei a ver navios (expressao regional para quem nao recebeu seu dinheiro).
Dia 31 de Dezembro de 2016 vi um anuncio de um fiat a venda (sem documentos), era o meu carro. Dia 02/01/2017 comprei o carro de volta e agora vamos iniciar o processo de restauração, pois o mesmo está bastante podre por ter ficado muitos anos no tempo. Pesquisei na internet e achei a historia de voces um caso verdadeiro de amor e gostaria de contar com a ajuda dos amigos para me ajudarem com pecas que voces tiverem sobressalentes e puderem me vender. Muito obrigado pela ajuda, um grande abraco do Brasil Paulo Roberto Pinto

Jay Jay
Jay Jay
7 years ago

My cousin was equipped with this type of Exhaust under her, an incredible sound! > http://www.ebay.it/itm/281448345612

Ben
Ben
7 years ago

That’s a beautiful example. I currently have an original condition 1974 green one, so much fun to drive and basic car to look after. My first car was a white one that ended up with a lancia delta 1500 in it. Compares well with 124 coupes despite them having DOHC and 4 wheel disc brakes. Only shortcoming really is only 4 speed.

MattP
MattP
7 years ago

Congratulations on a stunning restoration of your 128 Sport L. Years ago when I lived in Tasmania I owned one of these in British Racing Green. An astonishing small car which was a dream to drive on winding country roads. Thank you for sharing your Fiat with us all

Nick
Nick
7 years ago

Lovely car, car would look gorgeous lowered slightly in my opinion. Well done.

João Bento
João Bento
7 years ago
Reply to  Nick

Thanks for the appreciation.

It is very high in some photos. The reason is that spent much time in the air supported on brackets. With the first km made ​​was lower. 🙂 The rear suspension is all new springs, dampers, bushings and only with the running of the car “fit” everything perfectly.

In these photos had been just recently restore. For example the battery is also wrong, have terminals changed(inexperience, I did not know there were left and right batteries). 🙂

thank you

Grant
Grant
7 years ago

Brilliant, my first car was a green 128SL, fantastic thing that popped clutch cables on a regular basisdue to the link in the cable created by the RH conversion, but it gave miles of smiles, revved its head off and only bit the dust when I was rear ended after 3 great years.

JDuque
JDuque
7 years ago

Congratulations my friend, now let’s hope it do the video, which would undoubtedly be deserved to be on top of the tops of Petrolicious. 🙂

nuno granja
nuno granja
7 years ago

good car, nice people, what else!

Eddie Relvas
Eddie Relvas
7 years ago

I have had the pleasure to follow the restoration of this 128 and meet the Bento family in person, and I can say with all certainty there is no finer example of the 128 in the universe! The attention to detail and passion is mind-boggling!

Congratulations on the writeup, but where’s the video? Let’s hear that Lampredi SOHC scream! 🙂

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle
7 years ago

I never hated Fiat but i was never the biggest fan of their cars but after seeing this 128 i kinda want one now 😀 I dont know what it is about Italian cars but i always seem to love the interior and this car is no exception. You have really done a great job with the restoration. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Stephan P
Stephan P
7 years ago

Gorgeous. Really nice work.
My first car was a 128 sedan, always looking for one but very hard to find in the U.S.
Please show us the Rally when it’s finished.

Nicolas
Nicolas
7 years ago
Reply to  Stephan P

I saw one for sale in California, but the windsheild frame shows signs of rust under the paint, and as a owner of 2 128s sedans, that’s quite hard to repair and make it good without the replacement part.

Gonçalo Albuquerque
Gonçalo Albuquerque
7 years ago

Congrats João! Love it. And from Portugal too, i thought i was one of the very few who enthusiastically followed the website!:).
The car looks absolutely gorgeous. Muito bom!

Emanuel Costa
Emanuel Costa
7 years ago

Hey! That’s my hometown! Fantastic! Congratulations! Parabéns João!