OVERSTEER ROAD TEST: Fiat 124 BC
I will get something off my chest straight away here, I love Italian cars. Yes they will let you down from time to time and parts can be scarce depending on the make or model, but in my mind there are very few car-building nations that can match the Italian’s love of the motorcar and the passion and character they put into every single machine. When you drive some Italian automobiles you are often put into either one of two emotional states, one being pain and suffering, the other being what James May would call “the fizz.” So when Fiat launched the coupe version of its humble 124 Saloon in march of 1967 one could say that many keen drivers were fizzing like mad!
The 124 Sport Coupe immediately received great feedback from the motoring press for its clean yet elegant lines, sublime handling and peppy performance from the soon to be classic Aurelio Lampredi designed Fiat twin-cam four-cylinder engine. The first variant was dubbed the AC and came with a 1500cc twin-cam unit producing 66kW, which may not sound like much today but the AC was a featherweight flyer and with a four-speed manual box it meant you could use all of its 66kW all the time, even on the daily commute as many keen Italian drivers found out.
The well proportioned three box notchback styling was the work of Mario Boano, the same chap responsible for the Ferrari 250 GT “Boano” for obvious reasons. Plus the AC’s tail lights were identical to the ones found on the Lamborghini Espada.
The models that followed, the BC and CC were more than worthy successors. With an increase in engine capacity from 1.6-litres to 1.8-litres, producing 81 and 87kW respectively. The car I was lucky enough to have a wee go in was a BC. Made from 1970 to 1972, one could easily distinguish this model from the AC simply by the dual headlights recessed in the front grill.
It still retains the notchback design of the Boano original which works really well in the overall design. In my opinion the AC is a bit better looking, but the BC is quite visually pleasing. You definitely know this is not Datsun 120Y…
When you step inside and get comfortable in the buttock hugging seats you find the interior to be pure style. It doesn’t have a great deal of kit but everything is so elegant in the way it is placed around the cabin. The Vegelia dials are similar to what you would find in its bigger brother, the Fiat Dino Coupe. All the switches are as per the period and the feel of the classic wood rim steering wheel is very nostalgic. Plus it has the classic high pitched Italian air-horn which I love to hear!
Turn the key and the Lampredi twin-cam four burbles into life. So many car makers these days have active exhausts on their latest models so the engine will make a pleasant sound when you grow a lead foot. The Fiat 124 BC on the other hand doesn’t have that, what you hear when you put your foot down is the real deal, not some modern rehash.
The ride is smooth and offers plenty of comfort over the rough stuff for both driver and passenger, sure there is a bit of body roll in the corners due to the soft suspension but this adds to more communicative handling when the going gets twisty. The high speed twisty stuff which naturally you will find on the open road, especially when I pointed the Fiats nose towards Spencer Park near Christchurch, is a real joy in the 124 BC. As previously mentioned the chassis enables the car to glide from corner to corner with very little effort required on your part.
Even though the pedals are slightly offset, not surprising in an old Italian car, the gearbox was very easy to use and reasonably light compared to other rare latin exotics. With that big rear window, rear visibility was excellent.
I have to say though, the best thing about the Fiat 124 BC has to be the feeling it gives you when you drive it. Like so many Italian cars, the “fizz” is delivered in spades, it is such a happy car in almost everything it does. Every rattle, bang and pop might turn off some people but to a true petrol head, it is these little traits that sum up why we love cars like this.
Need to know
Engine: 1608cc inline four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: Four-speed manual