Monday November 6, 2017
Put simply, the Fiat 125 is one of the great Q-cars of the 1960s. Its restrained styling may have been derived from the 124 but beneath that business-like exterior was a 1,608cc DOHC engine, servo-assisted disc brakes on all four wheels disc braked sports saloon and a top speed that approached the magic 100 mph figure.
Equally importantly, it was a car that instantly made its owner feel as though he or she were starring in a romantic Euro-drama if this advertisement is to be believed.
Fiat planned the 125 to be a replacement for the 1500, and its body combined the floorplan of the older model with the central hull of the 124. Quad Carello headlamps and a greater overall length distinguished the 125 from its cheaper stablemate while the Lampredi-designed power plant was from the 124 Spider.
Home market models were aimed at the driver who might otherwise have considered an Alfa Romeo Giulia; this trade film illustrates its essential hipness.
The first UK imports cost £1,007 9s 6d which included a cigar lighter, a clock, reclining front seats, a folding rear armrest and reading lights for the back-seat passengers and windscreen wipers with an interval timer. The door-mounted reflectors were a typically clever idea while the fascia-mounted hand throttle was a delightfully vintage touch and Autocar thought the 125 a ‘grand touring car’ that directly reflected Fiat’s acumen.
The price tag of the British market Fiat placed it in the Ford Cortina 1600E sector of the market although the Turin car was not as exuberant its Dagenham rival.
Middle-class Italian saloons of this era usually veered towards conservative lines and one 125 brochure referred to it being a ‘masterpiece of good proportions’.
The following year saw the introduction of the even more enjoyable 125S ‘Special’ with five-speed transmission while the modified cylinder head, camshaft and inlet manifold resulted in a 100bhp power output. A chrome strip along the body side denoted the S and the already high levels of standard equipment was enhanced by a tachometer.
At £1,249 2s the Special was expensive, but not excessively so, and it was sold at a time when a ‘foreign’ car in the driveway bestowed a definite social cachet on the proud owner.
Nor was it transport for the sort of poseur who said ‘ciao’ when departing from the Hedge End branch of Fine Fare - according to Car magazine, the Special had ‘performance, handling and, to a lesser extent, road holding that make it outstanding’.
Later 125s were available with three-speed automatic transmission and when it was replaced by the 132 in 1972, Fiat had sold over 600,000 models.
Of course, the Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych plant continued to build their own version of the 125 but it always needs to be pointed out that that the Polski Fiat 125p/FSO 1500 used the engine, chassis and suspension of the 1961-1968 Fiat 1500.
It may have been a worthy minicab or builder’s hack but a sports saloon it was emphatically not.
Today, the familiar curse of tin-worm has made any 125 or 125S a more exclusive a sight on British roads than almost any Ferrari you care to mention as well as being the epitome of understated ‘Q-car’ charm and poise.
Lancaster Insurance have been arranging classic car insurance for over 30 years, so we really are the experts!