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Motoring: Fiat 124S Coupe - 1967

Aimed squarely at those drivers who wanted something sportier than its 124 family sedan and needed the practicality of room for four passengers, the Fiat 124 Sport Coupe provided an unbeatable combination of technological refinement at an affordable price. The Sport Coupe appeared in the spring of 1967, following the debut of the 124 Spider by several months. Both were based on the 124 sedan, which had won European Car of the Year honors on its introduction in 1964, but upped the ante with their increased power, improved handling and greater degree of comfort.

Fiat hired Pininfarina to design the Spider, but went in-house for the Sport Coupe's lines, handing the job to Mario Boano. Starting with the sedan's 95.3-inch wheelbase but a clean sheet otherwise, Boano created a simple, sophisticated shape dominated by a tall greenhouse that provided excellent visibility and reasonable rear headroom for two adults. From its pretty twin headlamps and uncluttered grille, the body's lines swept cleanly to a squared-off tail decorated with a pair of unpretentious horizontal taillamps.

The Sport Coupe was powered by the dual overhead-cam inline four from the sedan, bored out from 73mm to 80mm to give an increase in displacement from 1,197cc to 1,438cc. Driving the cams was not the timing chain used in the sedan, but a toothed belt, the first such application in a twin-cam production engine. Fed by a twin-choke Weber carburetor, the engine made a healthy 96hp at 6,500 rpm--quite a jump from the sedan's 65hp at 5,600 rpm.

Fiat 124S Coupe Series 1

Fiat initially gave the Sport Coupe the same four-speed gearbox used in the sedan, but the five-speed from the Spider had become standard equipment by 1969. The 124 sedan's chassis was already regarded as one of the most modern and refined on the market, with wishbone independent front suspension, a live rear axle located by parallel trailing arms and a Panhard rod, and a power-assisted disc brake at each corner. Turin's engineers tweaked the suspension for Sport Coupe duty by increasing the spring rates all around, fitting a thicker anti-roll bar at the front, and adopting 5-inch rims. The interior featured a full complement of white-on-black gauges set into a fake wood panel, behind a two-spoke sports steering wheel. The front buckets and rear bench were trimmed in vinyl, and a locking glovebox was standard. Reviewers of the day praised the relationship of seat, pedals and steering wheel as one of the best they'd encountered.

The first version of the Coupe, called the AC, was supplanted in 1971 by the BC, marked by its quad headlamps and restyled front fenders. Fiat did away with the earlier car's torque tube and rear anti-roll bar, but compensated by making a longer-stroke, 1,608cc version of the four standard in the U.S. market. In spite of the detuning demanded by federal emissions regulations, the new engine offered a useful additional 10hp. In 1973 came a third and final iteration of the Sport Coupe, called the CC. The front was once again restyled, with an ungainly rectangular grille that jutted down into the three-piece front bumper. In 1974, the Sport Coupe gained a 1,756cc engine that, squeezed by emissions controls, managed to produce just 92.5hp. To satisfy federal safety regulations, Fiat hung a beefy battering ram of a bumper on the car in 1974.

Production of the Sport Coupe ended in 1975, with nearly 280,000 built before its replacement, the Fiat 131, arrived on the scene. Today, any Sport Coupe is a rare sight, though many a rusted-out Coupe's engine and gearbox live on in a restored Spider.

Fiat 124S Coupe Series 3

The third series was introduced in 1972. The front end, especially the grille, was again revised as were various other details such as the rear lights. The 1438 and 1608 engines were replaced by two new dohc units of 1592cc and 1756cc with 104bhp and 114bhp respectively. These were both derived from the units used in the 132. Both of these variants could be fitted with a five speed transmission on request. Production of the coupe continued until 1975 by which time approximately 299,686 units had been produced.

Of the three models, the first series is by far the cleanest design, which is attributed as the reason for examples of the first series being bought for up to double the cost of later models by collectors. The 124 was also used by a variety of Italian coachbuilders as the basis of both one-off show cars and limited production runs. Moretti produced the 124 and 124S Coupes (with 1197cc and 1438cc engines) based on the saloon, whilst Vignale and Lombardi also produced Coup?s based on the saloon. Touring Superleggera removed the roof from the standard saloon to produce a four-seater cabriolet, known as the 124C4. Some different saloon designs were also produced.

Technical Details
Driveline: longitudinal engine at frontwith rear wheel drive
Suspension front : double wishbone with telescopic dampers and coil springs plus anti-roll bar
Suspension rear : live axle with telescopic dampers within coil springs later independent
wheelbase : 2420mm (Berlina & Coupe); 2280mm (Spider)
front track : 1330mm (berlina); 1350mm (Spider); 1346mm (Coupe)
rear track : 1300mm (berlina); 1320mm (Spider); 1316mm (Coupe)
Brakes front : discs, diameter 227mm. rear : drums, diameter 227mm
Gearbox: 4 and 5 speed manual; 3 speed automatic

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