Father’s Stories Lead to Son’s Fiat Restoration
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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