128
sporting fiats club Saturday, August 19, 2017

Introducing the 128

128 Model History

Types Of 128

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128 World - and a European Car of the Year
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Introducing the 128

In March 1969 Fiat replaced the old 1100 model with an all new design. From the late fifties they had been experimenting with a series of prototypes, some of which had transverse engine layouts – with front and rear wheel drive configurations.
Much of the delay was caused by reservations about the acceptability of small to mid range saloons with front wheel drive to the Italian home market. Fiat had tested the market by launching the Autobianchi Primula a few years earlier with the same engine configuration. So with production and market lessons learned, and many of the other European manufacturers also exploiting the cost advantages possible with transverse engine layouts, Fiat produced the 128 saloon.
I was surprised at the first launch date for the 128. Because it looks essentially a car – and a Fiat car of the late seventies. There’s something just so well proportioned about its glass, cabin and main panel areas that gives it a more modern look.

Really the only common characteristic it shared with the 1100 model it replaced was the engine capacity of 1116cc. And 2 door, 4 door and 3 door station wagon variants were available from the launch date. More models were planned – including the X1/9 that Fiat intended to be badged as the 128 range sports car. It was to be a couple of years before Bertone himself won the debate to keep the X1/9 name distinct from the rest of the 128 range.
An outstanding feature of the 128 was its engine. The Twin Cam engine principles had been extended to provide a lower capacity engine with a single overhead cam driven by a toothed belt. This engine has proved to have exceptional revving and breathing properties. I seem to have grown up with variants of this engine around. For me it would have to be up there with the greatest of all the European production engines – alongside the Coventry Climax inspired Imp unit. Only the 128.000 Fiat engine has no nasty or difficult habits. As demonstrated again when it was turbo charged in the eighties and nineties on later generations of Fiats.

It was only when I looked a-fresh at the 128 and drove one again before writing this page that the heritage of my beloved Strada Abarth became clear. The McPherson strut, coil spring front suspension design, and the transverse rear leaf spring axle is all here. The Ritmo/ Strada was simply an evolution of this 128 design. And the 130TC was an Abarth evolution of the Ritmo.
What a compact and 'together' drive this 128 saloon provides. The one I tried had 70,000 miles on the clock. It was suffering from the Strada weaknesses at this mileage. (I know historically it should be expressed the other way round.) The rear leaf springs need to be re-tempered and all the suspension bushes renewed and have the carburettor completely over-hauled if you want to recover the 128’s true poise. I cannot under stress this to anyone about to own or drive an old driver’s car like these. It’s the worst form of sensory depravation. It’s like trying to view your favourite prettiest girl friend from inside a paper bag. Sort out the suspension bushes, take the paper bag off – only real fun awaits.

128 History

First launched March 1969. 2 door, 3 door and 3 door station wagon. 55bhp 1116cc single overhead cam engine. Series amended in 1972. Front disc brakes

1971 128 Rally introduced in March at Geneva. 2 door 128 used with 1290cc engine variant. Gearbox ratios, brake servo added, alternator replaces dynamo. 67bhp DIN output (engine type 128 AR.000). Discontinued early 1973. Spot lights and instruments also added.

1971 – 1975 The 128 Sport Coupe was available in 4 different versions. The coupe uses both the 1100 and 1300 variants of the 128 s.o.h.c engine (coded 128 AC 5.00 in the 1116cc). And the coupe body options are S (standard) or SL (standard deluxe). The coupe’s top speed is 93mph or 100mph depending on the engine chosen. It’s wheelbase is 9inches/ 225mm less than the saloon at 7ft 3 1/2ins or 2.223 metres. The 128 coupes replaced the 850 Sport Coupe in production.

1972 Saloon versions receive Rally brake servo. Grill and bumpers revised. Rally spotlights are provided with covers. Grill and bumper layouts retained until 1974.

1974 – 1976 128 Special. The 128 range was extended to the Special. It had a new front grill and rectangular headlights, side rubbing strips, new dash and steering wheel, and a revised 1300 engine (86 x 55.5mm – 1290cc). Fuel consumption and torque was improved across the 1100cc range with carb. mods.

1975 – 1978 128 3P. In June 1975, a new version of the 128 Coupe was introduced with 3 doors. As a result of the oil crisis this was to be Fiat’s only new car for all of 1975. It is easily identified by twin round headlights and slatted front grill, and the tail-gated rear window. The rear seat also folds down to provide a decent storage compartment. The 1300 engine was amended to cope with US emissions regulations – including a loss of power and increase in compression ratio to 9.2:1. Many of the UK owners have remained very loyal to this little gem of a coupe.

1976 Perhaps the most numerous of the 128s in the UK is the last series launched in May 1976. The same year Fiat celebrated the production of the 2.5 millionth 128. The new 128 was face-lifted with larger rectangular head lights and black slatted plastic grill. Three levels of interior were offered, along with revised instrumentation. Mechanically the cars were offered compliant to the new EEC emissions regulations. The gears were modified and revised synchros used on 1st and 2nd gear. The differential and half shafts were strengthened and the braking system upgraded. Fuel consumption on both the 1300 (39.5mpg) and 1100 (42.5mpg) was improved. The estate version was re-named ‘Panorama’.

1978 On the launch of the new Ritmo / Strada in April, production of the 128 was limited to the 1100 saloon only. Production was discontinued at the end of June 1982.

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Spares and Advice

• Deep in the heart of Detmold Germany is part of the Holtmann Niedergerke Group. For the Fiat 125 to 128 range of cars they carry excellent stocks of new reconditioned and second hand spares. They should be on your shopping list. H&N Online Shop they are in the process of extending the online spares list here. Local retail outlet is Gettingman & Niedergerke on +49 (0)5231/6179-0. Spares for 124s, all the Dinos and many earlier Fiats are carried too.

• Bielstein also supply tuning and performance items for these cars. The Bielstein brothers can still be seen occasionally pedaling their race cars - including a 125. Bielstein products include very nice supportive reclining and traditional seats.

www.bielstein.com

They're spares one of the reasons for the resurgence in 124 Spider ownership in Germany too. However they part of the Recambi Group - who are wholesale suppliers. Recambi will probably only supply you direct with Abarth and Volumex parts. You will need to find the Bielstein part of the organisation. Telephone +49 (0)5066/3074. Email bielstein@bielstein.com