These Entry-Level Fiats Could be Your Ticket to Fun
Photography by Máté Boér for Petrolicious
Cheap and enjoyable classics play an important role in vintage car culture: they allow almost anybody to experience the thrill of pure driving bliss. The Fiat 127 is a promising up-and-comer, bringing the experience of vintage car ownership to a wider audience.
The first 127s rolled off the assembly line in Turin in 1971 and Fiat’s first front-wheel drive compact was an immediate success. The following year, the 127 was chosen the European Car of the Year and a couple years after that, the one-millionth example was sold. This model fills the slot in Fiat’s history between the stodgy, old-fashioned 850 (although we’d be smiling behind the wheel of a 850 also) and the practical, but less interestingly shaped, ’80s styled Uno. The Fiat 127 wasn’t terribly special or exciting, but performed its mundane duties with an indelible smile on its face. The Fiat’s front-wheel-drive/transverse front-engine layout wasn’t new (just recall the British Mini from 1959), but the Fiat’s transmission is mounted on the end of the engine, while the Mini’s transmission is under the engine block. This arrangement saved the small Fiat from many of the Mini’s mechanical problems and the designers were able to draw lower hood lines due to the engine’s shorter profile.
Remaining in production until 1983 (in Italy), the Fiat 127 evolved through three generations with the first gen widely recognized as the most stylish one. They were also produced under license in many countries including Spain as the Seat 127, in Poland as Polski Fiat 127p and under different names (even with a Diesel engine) until 1996.
It was actually the first model produced by Fiat in Brazil in 1976. But over there the success didn’t come as quickly because people didn’t trust the newcomer and unfortunately, the first examples suffered from many problems. Anyhow, the 127 became one of Fiat’s longest running models so and it’s now being rediscovered as a classic.
The car featured here, a first generation 1974 Fiat 127, was rediscovered as a dirty, green something in a Hungarian village. Its new owner was looking for a 127 to serve as a daily driver next to his soon-to-be track car Alfetta. But it isn’t surprising that the 127 didn’t stay in stock configuration. After a nut and bolt restoration, the original 903cc OHV engine was swapped to a 1.3 liter, 75 hp SOHC from a third-gen 127 Sport.
The stock, four gear transmission gave way to a custom-made five gear unit, now the TrePorte Speciale makes more fun out of the corners and is also able to cover longer distances on highway speed. Rust is the 127’s mortal enemy, but this car was surprisingly close to rust free even at the age of 39. Tasteful details round out the picture; check out the 13” Stilauto rims from 1978, the Vitaloni California mirrors or the two-spoke Abarth steering wheel.
The great thing about the Fiat 127 is that you don’t need hundreds of horsepower and rear-wheel drive for an enjoyable sprint. Better still, the Fiat 127 TrePorte Speciale was built to withstand daily driving, provide a thrill, and can be enjoyed by anyone whether a long time collector or a first-time aficionado.