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126 Buyers Guide

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As this question keeps cropping up, I put this brief synopsis together for a magazine last year of what to look for when buying a 126.
The Fiat 126 introduced in 1972 was the replacement for the ageing fiat 500. Based on the same floor pan the boxy shape offered more cabin space and glass area. The vertical twin cyl engine was increased to 594cc for the new model which gave a slight increase in power and torque. subsequent models in the time line saw the engine capacity increase to 652cc then to 704cc for the Lancia designed horizontal twin water cooled engine fitted into the 126bis hatchback, although the last imported 126 seized in 1992 with the introduction of the all new fiat Cinquecento the 126 was still produced in Poland until the year 2000.

The Italian built 126's were prone to the rust bug as all Italian cars of that era, things improved when production was moved to Poland.
The general rust areas are the sills, floor pan especially just behind the front wheel arch, Jacking points, the bottom corners of the rear 1/4 panels, under the spare wheel storage area in the front boot, moving up the body the door bottoms, under and around the front and rear screens, on the Polish made cars the outer sills were under sealed, then paint colour sprayed on top, these need to be checked as they rust from the inside out, they look O.K. but could be thin.
Air-cooled 594cc 652cc and the water cooled 704cc are all basic 2 cylinder overhead valve units with manual adjustment on the tappets, points, condenser and coil. They are all typically noisy units compared to modern engines but are very willing, they pull and rev well for there size.
Things to look for on the air-cooled check for oil leaks at the bottom of the cylinder barrels and push rod tubes, both a/c and w/c. oil dripping from the bell housing could be a leaking rear crankshaft oil seal. Gaskets and oil seals parts are available at reasonable prices, and all can be replaced by a competent DIY Mechanic.
Gearbox 4-speed, synchromesh on 2,3,4 The only thing to remember is Never, Never select 1st gear until you are completely stationary there is no synchromesh on 1st and the gear can be stripped quite easy if misused. When buying check that all the gears engage smoothly, the gearboxes do whine but should not be over loud.

The suspension is a basic setup,
Front independent, transverse leaf, with upper wishbones.
Rear independent, semi-trailing arms, with coil springs
Air-cooled Wheels                    steel   4"x12"    Tyres 135SR12
Water-cooled Bis Wheels        steel   4"x13"    Tyres 135SR13
Drum brakes all round which are adequate for driving at city speeds.

Its hard to describe the Fiat 126, its full of character just as its predecessor the 500, but with more interior room, It puts a smile on your face with every journey, on the road they drive really well, all be it a little more noisier than a modern microcar and make a good cheap affordable starter into the world of classic car motoring that can be used on a daily basis to commute into the city, with the frugal petrol consumption 50mpg+ it is cheap to run, insurance is also very reasonable when put on a classic car policy.

All replacement parts, Body, Engine and Transmission are available from specialists in the U.K. and with the internet, buying spares from Europe is easy and usually cheaper.
In conclusion a classic that is creeping up in value and can be run every day with more smiles per mile.

As for buying, Buy the best you can afford unless you have garage facilities to restore, weld and spray.

If any other 126 owner would like to add more information Please do so on this thread

Just what i was after,

Thanks for that, nice little read!  [-/

Does anybody know the production figures per model? I understand 4.6 million were made (i think?) but how many of those were the BIS model? Is the BIS rarer?

50mpg + ???
Let me see proof, best I get is 43

That the type of mileage you get with size 14 boots on :P for a standard engine mine averaged 52.3 miles to the gallon on the trip down from Yorkshire to Yoevil Somerset at a steady 55-60 MPH [-/

Between 1987-1992, their were 879500 126bis's produced in the FSM Factory.

The only problem with the 126Bis is headgasket failure, This is due to lack of maintenance of the cooling system, the thermostat housing being located at the bottom of the engine where it is prone to silt up with dirt and rust which stops the thermostat from opening fully. Its easy to solve by flushing the system out with a cleaner every 1 to 2 years also checking the thermostat at the same time [-/


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