Monday February 25, 2019
There was a time when you would not have looked twice at a 128 saloon, for it would have been as much part of your everyday life as Nationwide in the evening and wondering just why the scenery in Crossroads looked so flexible.
128s forever appeared in the background of the Italian-set episodes of Return of the Saint while Fiat’s pioneer FWD offering was one of the first wave of imported cars to make a significant impact on British motorists. The COTY 1970 tempted many a former Viva and Escort owners to purchase their first ‘foreign car’.
In 1974 Fiat proudly announced that they had sold over 1.75 million in the first five years of production. After manufacture in Italy ceased in 1985, the 128 had a long afterlife as the Kragujevac-built “Yugo”, but even these are now an uncommon sight in the UK. In fact, Michael Nettley finds that while his 1971 four-door saloon is often mistaken for ‘a Lada not many people now confuse it with a Zastava’.
This very handsome British-market Fiat used to be owned by Michael Ward of Auto Italia fame, and he spent a long time restoring it. You can read more of its refurbishment here - http://www.fiat128.co.uk/about.html, including a memorable description of how the engine as ‘starting to show signs of promise and eventually burst into life with a large cloud of smoke and spiders coming out the exhaust’.
The Fiat’s mechanics are now arachnid-free, and two notable modifications that have been carried out are new wheels and a change of paint finish. Mr. Nettley remarks that although it looks as though his 128 rides on Cromodoras ‘they actually from a Matra-Simca. The body colour was “Forest Green”, but it is now “Rosso Sport”, which I think really suits it. And the tan interior is all-original’,
Michael has been the Fiat’s custodian for ‘just over three years now. When I passed my driving test in 1984, I bought a 128. It was the facelifted version with the square headlamps, but I’ve long wanted an original model’. Thirty-five years ago, such cars were still not unusual, but today the Nettley Fiat falls into the category of the “highly exclusive” - https://www.howmanyleft.co.uk/vehicle/fiat_128-, and there now appears to be more examples of the mid-engine the X1/9 on the road than the parent car.
Several Fiats have previously occupied the Nettley garage – ‘I’ve previously owned an Uno, a Punto and a 127’ – but Michael has absolutely no plans ever to sell the 128 – ‘I just love the car’. It is not used in winter (‘At that time of the year I regularly apply underseal’) but in the summer months, the Fiat is ready to cause a stir throughout the West Country. ‘I have people come up to me to admire the 128 all the time’.
Such attention is no more than ADD 170 K merits; that small saloon is also one of Europe’s key mass-produced cars – one that even Enzo Ferrari used as his daily transport -