Fiat 127

Fiat 127 SportIntroduced in April 1971 to replace the 850, the 127 was awarded the higest European press accolade, 'Car of the Year', in the same year. A significant change from its rear-engined predecessor, it adopted the 'new' front-wheel drive layout as used in the 128. Indeed most of the mechanical components and layout were based on the latter car, with a similar braking (front discs, rear drums) and suspension (front MacPherson, rear independent with transverse leaf spring) setup. The only powerplant available at launch was a 903cc engine derived from that of the 850 Sport.

Initially launched in 2 door form only, a 3 door variant (the boot becoming a hatch, and the rear seat becoming a folding piece) arrived the following year. These first series cars were built from 1971 to 1977 and were only available with the one engine (903cc) and two trim levels (excluding special editions).

The new 127 was one of the first of the now commonly known 'Supermini' cars, and was praised for its space utilisation (80% of the floor space was available for passengers and luggage) and its safety, with a deformable structure designed to minimise the effect of an accident, a collapsible steering column and other design features. The modern design, relatively good performance (for its segment) and excellent roadholding made it the best selling car in Europe for several years.

In 1977 the new series II car was introduced, which had a redesigned front end, lights, grille, bumpers, etc.... It also introduced a new 1049cc engine, produced in Brazil, which was sold alongside the older 903cc engine. Three levels of trim became available, the 'L', 'C' and 'CL'. A new 127 Sport joined the range in 1978 with the 1049cc engine tuned to give 70bhp (modified valves, manifolds, carburettor), improved brakes, a larger anti-roll bar and a variety of modifications to the trim, both outside (bumpers, grille, mirror) and inside (seats). 1979 saw the arrival of the 'Top' which was a three door 1050cc car with a full length canvas sunroof and wider tyres as standard. The same year saw the arrival of the 'Rustica'. Developed from the Brazilian 147, this had a strengthened shell with a Fiat 127 variety of modifications for 'rough road' work including stronger suspension, modified brakes, different gearbox ratios etc. Only available in beige, the interior was much simplified, side rubbing strips came as standard and wire mesh headlight guards were fitted.

A five door 127, the 'C' arrived in 1980 powered by the 903cc engine (originally developed by SEAT in Spain as a four door) and shortly afterwards, in November 1980, the 'Panorama' was released. This was an estate variant based again on the Brazilian 147, with a raft of mechanical modifications including the cooling system, brakes, transmission and fuel tank. The following year the 127 diesel was released, powered by a 1301cc diesel engine, derived from the 1050cc unit, with 45bhp. The same engine was also available in the Panorama.

In March 1981 the whole range received a variety of small changes, and the trim levels were revised and renamed 'Super', 'Special' and 'Sport'. November of the same year ,1981, saw the final, series III, facelift which brought again new lights and grille as well as new bumpers. A new engine also appeared in the 'Sport', now a 1301cc unit with 75bhp. The final update appeared in 1983 when the diesel saloon and Panorama versions received an external facelift plus a variety of small technical improvements. Production ceased in 1987.

The following summarises the models produced :

The Fiat 127 range in 1982Series I, from 1971 :

2dr, 3dr 903cc (47bhp)
Special 903cc (45bhp)

Series II, from 1977 :

2dr, 3dr, Top, Rustica, Panorama, Super 1049cc (50bhp)
Sport 1049cc (70bhp)
'C' 5dr 903cc (45bhp)
Diesel 1301cc (45bhp)

Series III, from1981 :

Special 903cc
Super 1050cc
Sport 1301cc (75bhp)
Diesel 1301cc (45bhp)


Italian production totalled 3 779 086 examples (in Spain (SEAT) 238 166)

For details of the Fiat 147, the 127 built in South America, click here. A total of 169,312 of this version was produced.

See a period promotional video of the 127 (2.3MB)

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Technical Details
Driveline transverse engine at front with front wheel drive
Engines 903cc (65x68mm) ohv 4 cyl with 47bhp @ 6,200rpm
   from 1974 with 45bhp @ 5,600rpm (reduction due to improved emissions)
1049cc (76x57.8mm) ohc 4 cyl with 50bhp @ 5,600rpm
   with 70bhp @ 6,500rpm in the 'Sport' from 1978
1301cc diesel (76.1x71.5mm) sohc 4 cyl with 45bhp @ 5,000rpm
1301cc (76.1x71.5mm) sohc 4 cyl with 75bhp @ 5,750rpm in the 'Sport' from 1981
Fuel Consumption 1977 '900'
Simulated urban cycle 33.6mpg / 8.4 l/100km
Constant 56mph 48.7mpg / 5.8 l/100km
1978 '1050'
Simulated urban cycle 34.7mpg / 8.9 l/100km
Constant 56mph 42.8mpg / 6.6 l/100km
1978 'Sport'
Simulated urban cycle 27.9mpg / 10.1 l/100km
Constant 56mph 39.2mpg / 7.2 l/100km
Suspension front : MacPherson strut with telescopic dampers and coil springs plus anti-roll bar
rear : independent with telescopic dampers and single, transverse leaf spring
wheelbase : 2225mm
track (front/rear) : 1280mm/1295mm (Sport : 1288mm/1303mm)(Diesel ; 1270mm/1300mm)
Brakes front : discs. diameter 227mm
rear : drums, diameter 185mm
front calliper piston diameter : 48mm
rear wheel cylinder bore : 19.05mm
handbrake operating on the rear via a cable
Gearbox 4 and 5 speed manual
cable operated clutch
disc diameter : 160mm, later 170mm
Steering Rack and pinion
3.5 turns lock to lock
Kerb weight series I (2 door) : 705kg
series II (3 door) : 730kg; Panorama : 830kg
series III : 710 to 730kg
Diesel 835kg
Dimensions Internal & external

click here for a cutaway drawing of the 127

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Fiat 127 driveline (903cc) - click for larger image Fiat 127 driveline (903cc) - click for larger image Fiat 127 lubrication system (903cc) - click for larger image Fiat 127 cooling system (903cc) - click for larger image

model max speed 0-100 km/h standing km Braking (from 100km/h)
127 Sport (1978) 155 km/h 12.9 sec 34.5 sec
127 Sport (1982) 164 km/h 10.0 sec 32.5 sec 46.5 m
127 Diesel 130 km/h 23.5 sec 41.3 sec
127 900 (1982) 133 km/h 15.8 sec 37.9 sec
127 1050 (1982) 139 km/h 14.8 sec 37.1 sec

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There are three main areas to concentrate on, the engine (and transmission), the brakes and the suspension and then various other details. These three should be done together since they complement each other, not all of one and none of another !

1. The engine.

Fiat 127 (1980) Before modifying the engine it is worthwhile filling it with a good quality synthetic oil and fitting new spark plugs. An engine oil additive may also be used.

The first improvements are relatively simple. The air filter can be replaced for an aftermarket item which will help the engine breathe more freely, the type which completely replace the original airbox are best, and the exhaust can be replaced for one which will restrict the exit of the gases less.

The main modification (outside of taking the engine apart) is to fit a better carburettor. Either a unit from a larger engined model, or you can buy a special inlet manifold to allow the fitment of other units. A camshaft will also provide a noticeable gain, especially if fitted in conjuction with the carburettor.

Other things to do should include fitting a cold air intake, a large diameter pipe (minimum 5cm) to provide air from outside the engine bay to the air filter. The exhaust manifold can also be lagged with thermal cloth or tape to keep the exhaust gases hotter (and thus reduce back pressure) and also to keep the underbonnet (and hence intake and fuel) temperatures lower.
The high tension leads can also be replaced with performance ones.

Further modifications require the machining of the cylinder headand/or cylinder block (which will not be dealt with here since it is not normally a DIY job) after which it may be worth fitting an oil cooler. If overheating is a problem due to the increased power output then a small hole can also be drilled through the plate in the thermostat.

Fiat 127 ice racer Regarding the transmission the main requirement is to uprate the clutch to handle the increase in power and torque achieved though the engine modifications. Friction plates can be purchased with improved materials and heavier duty pressure plates are also available. Whilst doing this it is worthwhile lightening the flywheel.

2. The brakes.

Initially it is relatively easy to replace the brake discs with drilled and grooved items, and the pads for a harder compound. The latter should not be too hard (ie no race pads on the road) or they will not function effectively at the normal 'road' operating temperatures. Stainless steel braided flexible hoses will improve the pedal feel and reduce the chance of damage whilst DoT5 fluid (not silicon) will increase the temperature at which it can operate effectively. If the brakes are getting too hot the dustguards can be removed and/or ducts fitted, taking air from behind the front bumper.

If more serious braking is required the next modification would be to increase the disc size. It is possible to use larger discs with a bracket allowing use of the production callipers, or alloy four pot callipers can be fitted.

In order to improve the balance of the car under braking it is desireable to be able to adjust the balance of braking from front to rear (and vice versa). This can be accomplished by fitting a bias valve in the line to the rear brakes, usually in a position so that it can be reached from the drivers seat.

3. The suspension.

The easiest improvement,and the one which will probably bring the single most noticeable change, is to replace the dampers and springs. At the front, everything can be replaced, at the rear the suspension can be lowered by clamping the leaf spring. Top Fiat 127 Sport (3rd Series)adjustable dampers are compromised, but are good for road and track day cars since it allows the suspension to be adjusted between these two, rather different, requirements. Coil over units add more adjustability and can be purchased outright, or can be made from standard dampers by welding a threaded sleeve to the standard tube.

There are then two other main suspension aims; to reduce the flexiblity in the suspension and to increase the stiffness of the car, both of which aim at more accurate control of the wheel movement. To reduce the flexibility it is possible to fit nylon bushes instead of the normal production rubber items, or if perfection is desired the suspension can be fitted with metallic bearings (rose joints / rod ends). Spherical bearing top mounts can also be used. To stiffen the car it is most popular to fit strut braces. These can be fitted to the front and rear. For more extreme cases a rollcage can be fitted.....

Into this category also fall the choice of wheels and tyres. With an increase in power it can be necessary to fit larger tyres (thus requiring larger wheels) but the temptation to fit the biggest possible should be resisted. Consideration should be given to fitting a wider tyre on the front (since they provide traction and steering) but keeping the standard, or a wider but not as wide as the front, tyre at the rear. This will improve the balance of the car.

4. other things.

Other modifications worth considering include fitment of a shift light and rev limiter, higher power bulbs in the headlights (if you are going to go faster you need to see further) and installation of a quicker steering rack.

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Fiat 127 (1980) The following data refers to the 1974 903cc model :

Scheduled maintenance :

Replace air filter : every 10 000km
Check tappet clearances : every 10 000km
Engine oil & filter change : every 10 000km or 12 months
Transmission oil change : every 30 000km

recommended engine oil : for min temp below -15C SAE 10W, for min temp below 0C SAE 20W, for min temp above 0C SAE 30 and for max temp above 30C SAE40.
Alternatively 10W/30 for cold (min below 0C) and 20W/40 for hot climates
All the above oils should be "Low ash content detergent oil meeting the relevant European specification"
recommended transmission oil : SAE 90 non-EP
engine oil capacity (sump & filter) : 3.9 litres
transmission oil capacity : 2.40 litres

Spark plugs : Champion N7Y or Bosch 215T30, gap 0.5mm to 0.7mm
Tyre pressures (2-door & 3-door version) front/rear : 1.7bar / 1.9bar

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Fiat 127 prepared by Lavazza This car, prepared according to the regulations for Group 2, was used in the 1980 Italian rally championship, prepared by Piero Lavazza of Turin. The 1049cc engine used different pistons, camshaft, valves, carburettors (44 DCNFs) and produced 109bhp (instead of the standard 50bhp !). The suspension featured widened tracks, strengthening, rose-joints throughout and special dampers and springs. The brakes retained the fundamental layout of the road car but with twin master-cylinders and different pads, fluid and hoses. An oil cooler and a limited-slip differential were also fitted.
Fiat 127 prepared by Lavazza

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 - 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.

Fiat 127'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, 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 :

127's are now ageing, so firstly check the bodywork. Pay special attention to the wheelarches (inside if there is no plastic splash guard), suspension and engine mounts, sill, door pillars (check for sagging doors), scuttle panel and the floor (doors, bonnet and boot/hatch are also susceptible, but are more easily replaced). If a sunroof is fitted check around the edge for signs of rust. 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 the amount of play in the door hinges with the door almost closed.

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 and check the gearchange for clean engagement.

The engine should be run up to temperature, check the exhaust for smoke, the condition of the breather (look for mayonnaise), the Fiat 127 Panorama (1980)condition of the oil filler cap (again white deposits can indicate head gasket or other serious problems or the use of the car only on short journeys, another bad state of affairs) 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. 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.

Generally, the 127 is mechanically pretty good, but the bodywork was weak.

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Fiat 127 Sport (3rd series) cockpitLinks

A Fiat 127 website

Another Fiat 127 website

Another (German) Fiat 127 website

The Czech 127 Fanclub website

Two South American 147 websites here and here.

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For books on Fiat see our Online Bookstore

There is also a list of all our picture galleries (including museums, motorshows and various events).

Wallpapers/Desktop Backgrounds of numerous Fiats also available to download.

127 comment form

An advert for a 127 roof spoiler from 1979Please send your comments on the 127, these will be added to this page for future visitors to read.
Please include your name (or a nickname) and your country. Thanks.

Your Comments

It is a very good car, I think. Mine was bought in 1979, a MK I model. I had replaced the engine at 593000 Km, quite remarkable mileage indeed. Most of it was done at dirt tracks at the country. I have to note that even though the engine had lost power, it had not lost nerve and made the car very lively in the city, where I live now. The mechanics proved to hold surprisingly well for the age and mileage and after a recent general rebuilt of the car I have kept much of the old stuff. I think that although being a small car, the 127 is a car full of soul and nerve and that if you happen to own one in an average condition, you should preserve it. The replacement parts are cheap and can be easily found. Just watch out for the rust that is a general enemy of the italian cars of that age.. Alfa folks share the same emotions, I know. Nowdays, the 127 is very good at the role of a sports car for one person (especially for a light person!), most preferrably driven in the countryside. I must admit that I prefer this car more than today's cars of the same class. (M, Greece)

I have a really nice Seat-build 127 Special and it is a great car. It has covered 83000 km now and runs very nice. I have owned it for a year now and this winter has been pretty cold (-20 C), but it always started. This was with old and worn ignition. Now I have changed the bad parts and it runs better than ever. Its temprament suits my driving style perfectly, and in the city it is far quicker than new small cars. I only miss a 5th gear and a good hifi in it. Maybe some time in the future. (Lars, Norway)

Fiat 127

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