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Fiat 124 Sport Coupé buying guide, history and review

Words: Matthew Hayward

It might seem clichéd to liken small sporty Fiats to ‘baby’ Ferraris but in the case of the Fiat 124 Sport Coupé there’s no denying the heritage. Although based on humble three-box saloon underpinnings, this striking coupé was designed by Mario Boano – known for many one-off and low-volume projects he worked on at Ghia, and later his own Carrozzeria Boano – which produced some very interesting-looking Ferrari 250s.

However unjustly, this smart little Fiat coupé is often overlooked in the company of 105-series Giulias, or even Fulvias. That means, however, that it represents an intriguing and reasonably affordable alternative if you fancy getting into a great-looking compact Italian sporting coupé. Here’s what you need to know.

Fiat 124 Sport Coupé history

The Fiat 124 saloon was launched in 1966 as a replacement for the 1300. It was typically well-engineered for an Italian car of the era, boasting a fairly advanced technical specification, although it remained rear-wheel-drive. Highlights included an effective coil-sprung suspension and all-round disc brakes. In 1966 an estate version followed – as did the somewhat more sporting 124 Spider.

It wasn’t until the Geneva motor show in March 1967 that Fiat unveiled the 124 Sport Coupé. Like the Spider, the Coupé was powered by the all-new 90bhp 1.4-litre Lampredi twin-cam engine that, in these early AC-series cars, was connected to a full- synchromesh four-speed manual gearbox; a five- speeder was then offered as an option a few months into production. These earliest cars had a torque-tube rear axle, which was later ditched for a more reliable Panhard rod arrangement from 1968.

The first of the big visual updates came towards the end of 1969 with the introduction of the second- generation BC model. The front end got a new twin- headlight grille, and at the rear the tail-lamps were swapped for larger items. While it lost some of the 1960s purity, it certainly looked a lot more modern. At this point the suspension was also slightly softened to improve comfort, but to the detriment of some handling ability. From 1971 the engine was enlarged to 1608cc, which pushed power to 108bhp.

The third-series CC model arrived in 1973, bringing with it two new engines. In line with the new Fiat 132, an Italian tax-friendly 1592cc version of the twin-cam was brought in, as well as the largest and most powerful version yet: the 116bhp 1.8-litre unit. Visually, a lot more changed with the introduction of a much squarer grille – although still with round quad headlights – plus upright tail-lamps and revised rear side windows. The dashboard was new, too, with a more substantial, modern-feeling layout. Production came to an end in 1975.

It’s worth mentioning that Seat also built a version of the 124 Coupé under licence in Spain. Introduced in 1970, the Seat version was fundamentally identical to the Fiat, with just a few minor detail cosmetic changes. It followed the same evolution to CC specification in 1973, and production stopped about the same time in 1975. It’s another even more rare-groove choice today.

Fiat 124 Sport Coupé common problems

• No surprises here, but rust is the number one concern when buying a 124 Coupé, and a thorough inspection of the underside is vital. Key areas to check include the sills, inner and outer wheelarches, front and rear valance panels, chassis rails, bulkhead and all the suspension mounts.

• The twin-cam engines are well-known and generally reliable – and easy enough to rebuild. Ensure the timing belt is relatively fresh, though, as a snapped belt will most likely destroy the engine.

What to pay?

The early AC cars look and drive the best, and are the most desirable as a consequence. Good cars start at about £12,000, but can command up to £20,000 if they are in exceptional condition. Projects can range from £1500 to £3500, but rarely make financial sense. There’s a lot more choice when it comes to the BC and CC models, and you should get a decent, solid runner for £8000-12,000. Pay £15k for one of the best.

Fiat 124 Sport Coupé

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