It hasn’t actually been spotted around, but the ideal bumper sticker for a Fiat 124 would be MY OTHER CAR IS A LADA. For it’s the 124’s rebirth as Russia’s Lada BA3-2102/Zhiguli (later wisely shortened to Lada 1200, then Lada Riva) that puts the Fiat 124 series close to the top of the all-time bestseller chart with going on for 15 million units sold.
It wasn’t just Russia that jumped on the 124 wagonette, either, for these acclaimed cars were also made in Bulgaria, Egypt, India, Korea, Spain and Turkey.
This hugely successful mid-sized family saloon appeared in the mid-1960s and was an immediate hit, scooping a European Car of the Year award. The simple square design allowed for ample interior space whilst lightweight construction and a relatively small engine made it economical to run. Coil spring rear suspension and disc brakes all round added to a very satisfactory package.
The 124 platform was not only used throughout Europe, but also by Fiat to create evolutionary versions. A five-door station wagon was introduced, and in 1967 came the 124 Coupe. The first AC model went through upgrades to BC and CC with progressively larger engines, though knowledgeable collectors swear by the AC.
Fiat also commissioned a two-seater convertible design from Pininfarina, which was introduced at the Turin Motor Show and continued to sell well for nearly 20 years and become an affordable classic that’s ideal for top-down summer driving. Pininfarina had to shorten the floorpan and wheelbase in creating the Fiat 124 Sport Spider. The Cambiano-based outfit actually manufactured the monocoque for the Spider, making the venture a major commercial success for them. Over the long production run the Spider’s engine size crept up from 1.4 litres to 2 litres, though the body remained unchanged.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1966 (until 1974)
1,197 cc, 1,438 cc or 1,592 cc OHV Straight Four
With 1.2 l engine – top speed of 87 mph (140 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 13.3 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Fiat 124-derived Lada Riva was introduced in 1980 as an evolution of the earlier Lada 1200 and is still in production at the ZA factory in the Ukraine and the Suzuki plant in Egypt.