March 1966 witnessed the introduction of the new 124. Destined to replace the 1300/1500 it was an all new car of conventional front engine rear wheel drive layout, powered by an 1197cc four cylinder engine with 60bhp (Images, left side and right side). Later that year, at the Turin Motorshow, the 124 Station Wagon was also released (accompanied by the Sport Spider, see below). The usual group of motoring journalists also selected the 124 as the Car of the Year in 1966.
Turin was again the venue, this time in October 1968, for the release of the 124 Special which was easily distinguishable by the twin round headlights. More significant was the adoption of a 1438cc engine (image) with 70bhp and an all new rear suspension.
Another facelift was carried out on all the 124 saloons in 1970 and the new Special T was also released. This latter used the 1438cc dohc engine from the Spider, in the saloon with 80bhp. A variety of small changes were made to the whole range.
The final versions appeared in 1972, the Berlina, Familiare (estate), Special and Special T all being revised. The 60bhp and 70bhp engines accrued another 5bhp each whilst the Special T got a new 1592cc dohc engine with 95bhp and an optional five speed gearbox.
Production of the saloon finished in 1974 when the 131 was released, although production in other countries continued. Approximately 1,543,000 saloons and estates were built in Italy, the worldwide total being around 4 million. Other countries which produced the 124 saloon were Russia (Lada), Spain (Seat), Turkey (Tofas), South Africa and Yugoslavia, whilst it was assembled in Germany, Bulgaria, Ireland, Malaysia, Morocco, Portugal and various South American countries.
As mentioned above, the Turin Motorshow of 1966 was the venue for the release of the new 124 Sport Spider. Based on a shortened Berlina chassis, the Spider body was designed and built by Pininfarina, final assembly being carried out by Fiat. The first series, the AS cars, were fitted with a 1438cc dohc engine with 90bhp and a five speed transmission as standard. From the end of 1968 the Spider adopted the new rear suspension as fitted to the 128 Special T.
The second series, or BS, was introduced in 1969. The standard BS car had the same 1438cc engine and a variety of improvements, such as the addition of reversing lights and revised brakes. Shortly afterwards (in 1970) the BS1 series introduced the 1608cc engine from the 125 into the Spider, fitted with twin Weber 40 carburettors this produced 110bhp. This model was immediately distinguishable by the addition of two humps in the bonnet required to clear the larger engine.
1972 saw the release of the CS series. These used either the 1592cc (CS) or 1756cc engine (CS1) from the 132, these generating 108bhp and 118bhp respectively, although both were fitted only with single carburettors and are thus considered by many to be less desireable than the earlier BS1, despite the slight power increase. These were the last versions of the Spider to be sold in Europe, since after 1974 production was continued solely for the North American market. In the latter the CS1 cars, known as Spider America, suffered from emissions regulations which resulted in only 93bhp, and from 1976 only 87bhp.
1972 also saw the release of the most potent Spider built, the Abarth Rally (124CSA). This continued to use the 1756cc engine, but with twin 44IDF carburettors it produced 128bhp. The rest of the car also experienced many changes, the most significant of these including the fitting of a limited slip differential, a new, independent rear suspension, composite bonnet and boot and aluminium alloy doors. Just over 1,000 were built.
The next major change came in 1978 when the CS2 was introduced using a 1995cc engine. Only available in North America this produced a mere 87bhp, and even less in Californian spec cars. This was then fitted with fuel injection in 1979 and became the CS0 with a slightly improved 102bhp. In 1981 Fiat America joned forces with Legend Industries and offered a Fiat Turbo 2000 Spider. These cars, some 1200 in total, had a turbo kit fitted in America and were officially sanctioned by Fiat. In this form the engine continued to use a modified Bosch fuel injection system combined with an IHI turbo with 6psi of boost and produced 122bhp.
1982 saw a major upheaval for the Spider. Complete production, including final assembly, was transferred to Pininfarina, the car was renamed the Pininfarina Spider Azzura in North America and sales were resumed in Europe where it was known as the Pininfarina Spidereuropa. This series, the DS cars, were fitted with the 1995cc engine with Bosch fuel injection which produced 102bhp in North America and 105bhp in Europe.
A final version arrived in 1983 in the shape of the Spidereuropa VX. Unfortunately only 500 of these cars, fitted with a supercharged 1995cc engine producing 135bhp were built.
Production of the Spider ceased in 1985 after approximately 198,000 had been built, just over 170,000 of those going to North America.
In the year following the release of the Berlina and Spider, at the Geneva motorshow of 1967, the new Sport Coupe based on the 124 was introduced (AC series). The body was designed in-house by Fiat, using the mechanicals of the Spider (1438cc 90bhp), but on the 2420mm wheelbase of the saloon. Like the Spider, the new rear suspension was fitted to the coupe from the end of 1968.
The first changes came with the introduction of the second series (BC) at the Turin Motorshow in 1969 when the front of the car was heavily revised. The original two large headlights in the wings were replaced by a full width grille and four small lights. The rear of the car was also slightly modified. A new engine of 1608cc with 110bhp, derived from the 125 unit, became available alongside the existing 1438cc unit. The brakes and cooling system were also slightly modified as was the suspension, the latter becoming softer and less sporty and thus attracting some criticism.
The third series (CC) was introduced in 1972. The front end, especially the grille, was again revised as were various other details such as the rear lights. The 1438 and 1608 engines were replaced by two new dohc units of 1592cc and 1756cc with 104bhp and 114bhp respectively. These were both derived from the units used in the 132. Both of these variants could be fitted with a five speed transmission on request.
Production of the coupe continued until 1975 by which time approximately 299,686 units had been produced.
The 124 was also used by a variety of Italian coachbuilders as the basis of both one-off show cars and limited production runs. Moretti produced the 124 and 124S Coupes (with 1197cc and 1438cc engines) based on the saloon, whilst Vignale and Lombardi also produced Coupés based on the saloon. Touring Superleggera removed the roof from the standard saloon to produce a four-seat cabriolet, known as the 124C4. Some different saloon designs were also produced, see our Savio and Scioneri pages for some examples.
Driveline longitudinal engine at front with rear wheel drive
124 engines : Special 1438cc, Normal 1197cc left side and right side.
Suspension front : double wishbone with telescopic dampers and coil springs plus anti-roll bar (Images : 1, 2, 3)
rear : live axle with telescopic dampers within coil springs later independent (Images : 1, 2)
wheelbase : 2420mm (Berlina & Coupe); 2280mm (Spider)
front track : 1330mm (berlina); 1350mm (Spider); 1346mm (Coupe)
rear track : 1300mm (berlina); 1320mm (Spider); 1316mm (Coupe)
Brakes front : discs, diameter 227mm
rear : drums, diameter 227mm
handbrake operating on the rear via a cable
Gearbox 4 and 5 speed manual
3 speed automatic
Steering Worm and roller
2.75 turns lock-to-lock (Special)
Kerb Weight Berlina (original 1197cc) : 855kg; Special : 925kg; Special T : 950kg
Sport Spider (srs I) : 945kg
Sport Coupe (srs I) : 960kg; Srs II : 995kg
Dimensions berlina/saloon, station wagon.
Click here for a cutaway drawing of a 124 Berlina
Click here for a cutaway drawing of a 124 Sport Spider
Click here for a cutaway drawing of a 124 Spider Abarth Rally
model max speed 0 - 100 km/h standing km braking from 100 km/h 124 Sport Coupé 1400 (1967) 170 km/h 11.6 sec 33.6 sec 54.7 m 124 Sport Spider 1400 (1967) 170 km/h 11.5 sec 33.18 sec 50.0 m 124 Special (1968) 155 km/h 36.8 sec
Easily carried out modifications include installation of a free-flow air filter (a cold air duct is also a worthy mod) and fitment of a less restrictive exhaust system to improve the driveability. Depending on the model changing the carburettors will make a significant difference, 40IDFs are a popular choice, and can be coupled with an aftermarket camshaft for even better results.
The brakes can be improved by fitting drilled and grooved discs, using a superior pad compound and fitting stainless steel braided flexible hoses.
Dampers and springs are readily available for the Spider which will improve the handling, and a strut brace can be fitted at the front to increase the stiffness of the bodyshell.
Remove, clean and grease the sliding blocks between the brake callipers and brackets regularly ! If the flexible hoses to the callipers are old then it is worthwhile changing them - they can collapse internally which will lead to unpredictable braking.
Change the timing belt regularly according to the manufacturers specification (and use OE (original equipment) items always!).
Buying / Selling
Some tips to do before selling : (they may seem obvious, but most people don't do them and thus are in a weaker bargaining position)
Tidy inside the car thoroughly : hoover the floor, empty all pockets, ashtrays (wash), glove compartment etc..., wipe the trim with a damp cloth, give the cockpit a good airing to get rid of any odours ! Reset the trip meter to 00000 - it is a pleasant (subconcious) surprise.
If the car has been standing give it a good run (if possible!) - this will clear out the engine (reduce exhaust smoke), put a shine on the brake discs and loosen up any joints that may otherwise make some noises.
'Back to black' products are very effective at temporarily restoring bumpers and trim. This makes a big difference to any car. Do it a week before you expect people to view the car, otherwise it may be a bit too obvious !
Jetwash under the car, especially under the engine and in the wheelarches. The prospective buyer may be an enthusiast (particularly likely with the 124 Spider and Coupe), and this makes it easier for them to see what they want to check.
Obviously wash the car and clean the windows !
If you are going to buy a car always check the following :
Firstly check the bodywork. Pay special attention to the wheelarches, suspension and engine mounts (check the inner wings behind the springs and under the bonnet), sills, door pillars (check for sagging doors), scuttle panel and the floor (doors, bonnet and boot are also susceptible, but are more easily replaced). Check that the front subframe is solidly fixed to the car and does not move away from the body when the car is jacked up. Also check the front bulkhead near the clutch pedal.
Check that there are no mismatching panels, large areas of discolouration or signs of fresh paint (compare inside the engine bay with the external body colour), all of which probably indicate accident damage.
Check for a damp carpet or the presence of mould - if the carpet is damp then the floor is almost certainly corroded.
Check the main electrical functions - wipers, lights, etc... try putting the main beam and wipers on at the same time. Check the headlight reflectors for rust.
Check the brake pedal does not go to the floor if pressed hard for a long time. Test the gearchange for clean engagement and check that it does not jump out of any gear.
Find out when the timing belt was last changed. If this is unknown then have it replaced.
The engine should be run up to temperature, check the exhaust for smoke, the condition of the breather (look for mayonaise), the condition of the oil filler cap (again white deposits can indicate head gasket or other serious problems) and the colour of the coolant (preferably not thick or dark brown!). Listen to the noise of the engine, then depress the clutch and engage first gear. Whatever noise has disappeared was coming form the gearbox, what remains is from the engine. Pay special attention to the gearbox, since it is a weakpoint of the 124. Also check the condition of the engine oil on the dipstick. The lighter brown the better, if it is thick black then leave quickly.
Check tyre wear, uneven patterns could imply a bent chassis.
Always take it for a test drive. Check that the car tracks in a straight line with no steering input and also remains straight under braking. Find a large open area and complete several lock to lock turns (also in reverse), listening for any noises. Try the handbrake when moving - seized rear callipers will mean uneven braking or no braking.
The German Spider Owners Club website
The Italian 124 Spider register website
Fiat 124 Books : buy them online here (in association with Amazon)
Fiat Road Test Book :Fiat Pininfarina 124 and 2000 Spider 1968-85
30 road tests covering almost all models made (European and North American)
edited by R.M.Clarke, 1988 Fiat & Abarth 124 Spider & Coupe John Tipler, 1998 Fiat 124 Sport Automotive Repair Manual 1968-1978 Haynes, 1979 Essential Fiat 124 Spyder & Coupe : The cars and their story 1966-85 Martin Buckley
For more books on the Fiat 124 and other Fiats, see our Online Bookstore
124 comment form
Several things I've had happen on my 78 Spyder, which the local garage says are not atypical:
1. Bulkhead when clutch cable goes through. Metal flexes, eventually cracks, and pressure of clutch pedal movement pulls it into the interior.
2. Pulling on braking - seems ALL Spyders have a tendency to pull if brakes aren't perfect. Working on mine - it pulls either direction, randomly...
3. Electrical corrosion - saw note in one of the US newsletters (FLU, or one of the others) that discussed replacing the grounding (earthing, for the Brits) crowns with better plated ones.
4. If buying one, keep in mind that the 124's don't like sitting - a daily driver will give you less problems than one that is only driven on sunny, dry days. (Gentle Ben, USA)
I am on my fourth 124 coupe. My first was in 1976 which was a CC. Now I have just bought a '73 CC coupe which is in good condition. I have always thought the 124 coupe is one of the most under rated models. (Maz, UK)
Of all the various 124's that I've owned. (8 to be precise) I noticed that white ones seemed to rust less than coloured ones.
Fantastic car. The Spider is still my all time favourite. The only thing that would better it would be a Dino! (Nick, Australia) I have to agree with the notes below. I have owned over 150 FIAT cars, and nothing compares with the Coupe. I believe the reinforcement over the rear shocks help to create a neutral handling capability that is not seen in other cars. The Coupe is becoming Rare and no less impressive than it ever was, only comparable to the cars available today if not better. Pertaining to comments listed; 1) Clutch cable problems are not unheard of. Most structural problems are a result of the cars not being undercoated by FIAT before shipping to the U.S. Cars sold in the U.S. could experience serious rust or structural faults if not undercoated at the FIAT dealer at time of inception. This is a critical factor in determining the purchase value of a car. You might in fact be buying parts. 2)Brake pull is often not a result of the brakes. Inspect the fluid in the Idler unit, Steering box. The center link, Ball Joints, Tie Rods, and A-Arm buhings, and Ball joints are always to be suspected. Otherwise put 4 new rotors, pads, etc. on and replace the brake pads every 20,000 miles, needed or not. 3)Elecrical corrosion is quite common. Fiat's never truly have electrical problems, just bad connections. Applying di-electric grease to all of the female spades, along with a slight squeeze from a pair of pliers will rectify a lot of problems. 4)Ditto, drive them to their limits, and they will treat you well.
I had a 124 1200, two 1600 Special T saloons. Lovely to drive, refined, rusty & very fast! (Nick, UK)
I'm located in Australia and was introduced to Fiat's through my Father who bought a Fiat 132s 1800 in 1973.I can remember when he picked it up and then took us for a drive in it and the distinctive exhaust sound had me sold for life. Since then I have personally had many Fiats but my favorite is the Fiat 124 Sport 1800cc. This was my first car upon getting my license in 1984 and is still with me today,although it's only used on weekends now when it's not raining.The car has been fully restored to original condition and still has the original blue cloth interior which looks great as the duco is white. The car is complimented by 6J x 13 Cromodora Alloy Mags and has been fitted with an electronic Ignition System. Whenever I take the car for a drive people always comment on what a beautiful looking car it is and I must say that the design of the 124 is elegant,sporty and classy which goes to show how ahead of their time the Italian Car designers where in the early sixties and seventies. The Fiat 124 still gives me a thrill every time I drive it and always puts a smile on your face when you drive through those fantastic winding roads in the country side. Its good to get on the web and read other peoples stories on their love affairs with Fiat's to realise that your not the only INSANE FIAT LOVER !!!!!!! (Anthony C, Australia)
I love my 81 spyder 2000.such a beautiful car and the handling is great.i've had it for about 6 years and it still turns heads. (Morbius USA)
I have a 1974 special automatic 124 for 5 years now. it's fantastic, new paint, wheels and front lights, electrical antenna, c.d. and new interior. it's fast,strong and beautiful. it's blue, and I'm crazy about her. Thanks to the Italians to create Fiat. wouldn't replace it!! best car I've had!!! (Avri, Israel)
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