Reader Submissions: Perseverance and Passion Keep This Fiat Humming

Perseverance and Passion Keep This Fiat Humming

Petrolicious Productions By Petrolicious Productions
January 16, 2014
17 comments

Owner and photographer: Martin Šimon

Age: 30

Location: Czech Republic

Year, Make, and Model: 1978 Fiat 127

Cars became Mr. Martin Šimon’s “obsession” just after receiving his driver’s license. Unfortunately, his first car was an old Skoda Favorit, which according to Martin, “is really one of the worst cars you can buy in our country, but it was relatively cheap and worked.” And lacking previous experience with cars, it satisfied him.

After the Skoda came a few other forgettable cars. But as he got older he realized that he wanted something fun for weekends that he could toss around. One day, his sister’s boyfriend told Martin that his old 900cc, forty-five horsepower Fiat 127 was for sale. Martin knew the car as a passenger and didn’t really like the Fiat, “it was rusty, noisy, slow and very [cramped] inside.” But craving different automotive experiences, Martin convinced his sister’s boyfriend to lend him the 127 for a week. After only one hour behind the wheel Martin knew he must own that car.

The Fiat “was still rusty, noisy, slow and very small but now, [experiencing it] as a driver, I really liked it. It has no electronic assistance, no ABS, no power windows, and no air-conditioning. Just driving without distraction.” He bought the little Fiat for a great price and never returned it.

He knew that the bodywork was quite rusty but only after buying the Fiat and driving it a bit did he discover that it had gone for many years without proper maintenance. So after a few weeks the 127 headed to a workshop where the bodywork was repaired and re-sprayed. The car looked new when he got it back but there was still a lot of work to be done. Over five years of ownership he’s replaced nearly half of the parts. Additionally, the engine’s been resealed and rebuilt and he’s fitted aluminum wheels, an Abarth steering wheel, and new headlights.

Sadly, the car has been back to the bodyshop several times as Martin’s hit a deer and been rear-ended. There are also little lingering electronic issues that occasionally pop up. Yet in spite of all the problems, Martin “still loves the small Fiat and will always forgive the minor bugs that sometimes occur.”

Like many enthusiasts, he only drives the 127 on sunny weekends from spring through autumn, usually aimlessly, on backroads outside of town for pleasure. “This car is just for fun, not to drive from A to B. I like to feel and hear everything that the Fiat is doing. There is no power steering, so I can almost feel every grain of sand on the road. No brake booster means great feedback in the brake pedal. This car gives you a feeling you can’t experience in a modern car. Moreover, when you drive the car at full throttle, you still don’t violate the regulations. It is just not powerful enough.”

The Fiat’s top speed is a little over 130 kph (about eighty mph), but according to Martin it’s scary close to its limit. He acknowledges that there may be hundreds of cars better than his Fiat, but he’s never regretted buying it.

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Lars Tore Norberg
Lars Tore Norberg

Nice story and nice pictures 🙂 I’m the lucky owner of the 1. version of these enjoying cars. I’ve got the same green colour. The my neighbourcountry Sweden, they call the first version for “brevlådan” (the mailbox) according to the smaller trunk. The car has 125.000 km on the odometer – and hopefully many many years still to go. Spareparts are easy to get from everywhere – and something extras you can allways find on http://www.ebay.it 😀

Gary Thorvaldson
Gary Thorvaldson

I drove a 1971 127 for many years in Los Angeles. I think it was imported by someone from the Italian Embassy since the car was never sold in North America. All it had was a 903cc engine and a 4 speed. No carpet, just rubber mats. A trunk but no hatchback. And it was utterly brilliant. I loved that car. It was more fun than a 128 I had when I was a teenager. The only downside was I looked like Mr. Bean driving it!

Leonardo Bussinger
Leonardo Bussinger

Awesome car. In Brazil the 127 became the 147, like mine 🙂

I have 17 years old and I inherited it from my grandfather, who died in 2012. I simply LOVE this car. No money in the world can buy it. It’s 1978 with 1050 cm³ engine. I use Tony (it’s how i call him) just like you Martin, just to feel how incredible can be the contact Man-Machine. Just for fun.

Congrats by the car!

Erik
Erik

Great little car. And a nice colour combo.
My mother handed down her ’86 model when she bought a Punto. The 1st and 2nd series look nicer, but still I had a lot of fun with it. I must have annoyed quite a lot of people during the daily commute. Everytime I was going flat out at 120kph to overtake some one who was going 110 kph, there would be some BMW, VW or Audi in the mirror. The best trip was the last trip from Amsterdam to Dakar.

Eddie Relvas
Eddie Relvas

I still own my 127, which was bought new by my father, and has been in my custody since I was 14. It was my first four-wheeled love, and I passionately recomissioned its much-neglected drivetrain over the first years I had it. This made me fall even more in love with it, as it is such a driver’s car… extremely connected steering, alert reactions, eager (if not so powerful) engine… this was a recipe to die for. On a side note, the Series 2 was a little tamer. Mine is a Series 1, so it still had the spicier 903… Read more »

Nick
Nick

Simple yet refined little motor car.
Well done. What a nice little 127.

Jono51
Jono51

I also once had a 127 like this. It may have been slow compared to modern cars, but it was faster than most of its competition in 1972 and like all small Fiats it was designed to be driven flat out. It was a huge advance over the Mini and I’d love another except that they’ve almost all rusted away.

Brett Evans
Brett Evans

Martin knows the truth of the slow-car-fast adage. Just the other day, my roommate was mulling over the purchase of a three-cylinder Geo Metro for teh same reason: he wanted something he could rev the nuts off of without risking his life or license.

Cheers on the car! It’s a great little thing and I’ll keep it on my radar for my first classic-car purchase!

LAPJM
LAPJM

I used to drive a 903 cc Fiat 127 for about 4 years while i was a student. I just fitted in with my knees behind my eares (I’m 1.91 m). A great little car. It was slow (max 130 km flat, hill up about 120 km and hill down somethimes 145 km) but the chassis was/is fantastic. Roadholding on its tiny tires (13/135) and ballance was top. You could trow it around and feel the chassis work. The engine was unbreakable (always drove flat out). There was also a 1000 cc version and later on a 1300 cc version… Read more »

Mads Jensen
Mads Jensen

My driving pattern was exactly the same as yours when I had one. Overtook people down will and got overtaken uphill.

Mauricio Lizama
Mauricio Lizama

People in todays world are missing out on these types of cars

Javier López
Javier López

My first car was a first generation five door SEAT 127 . With 270.000 kms one cylinder decided to stop ,but during 20.000 kms more with only three walked around the north of Spain . This Fiat is one of the second generation .During a lot of years , in Spain and some East Europe Countries , SEAT construct under FIAT License a lot of this italian car model´s like FIAT 127 , Panda ,124 ,1500 ,etc . I remenber his top speed of 130 km/h with only about 1000 cc and 35 cv . Fuel consumption about 6 liters… Read more »

Fritz
Fritz

Very nice to see one of the charming simple Fiats from the late 70’s/early 80’s era 😉 Sadly most these cars rusted away due to salty roads especially here in Germany.

I fully agree on the certain scare factor at 130km/h top speed 🙂 as I own a Panda of the very first generation who shares a lot of mechanical components with the 127.

Johnny B
Johnny B

The FIAT 12-7 (as it was nick-named in Denmark) reminds me so much of my ‘younger’ days, where a mate of mine had one in the exact same color. “little lingering electronic issues that occasionally pop up” sounds familiar too, from my year long passion with old FIAT’s 🙂

Johnny B
Johnny B

Compliments Martin, a very nice car and some beautiful pictures !!

Mads Jensen
Mads Jensen

Fellow Dane here. I know this car well as well. My first car was a 127 in this color combination. Mine was the older, better looking ’72. I sometimes think about buying one and building a nice little screaming engine for it. But even with the small 903 cc 45 hp engine it is a fun car to drive.
Props to Martin for keeping it in this condition.

Johnny B
Johnny B

Go for it Mads, you will never regret it! My brother had a 126 for a couple of years (same color combo again, green/braun) and I drive a FIAT 500 from 1969 (Giannini replica with a 700cc engine), which is so much fun to drive 🙂