There aren’t many examples from the Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino in our club; some might cynically suggest that it’s because they’ve all rusted away or broken down, but if you put aside FIAT’s not completely ill-deserved reputation for rust and poor reliability, you’ll find that they’ve produced a number of very desirable classic sporting vehicles over the years.
One of the most popular was the 124 Sport Coupe which was in production from 1967 to 1975 in three generations (AC, BC and CC).
The coupe was designed by Mario Boano, known for designing the bodywork on the Ferrari 250 GT “Boano”. The coupe’s platform came from the 124 sedan which began production in 1966, Boano was hired by FIAT and was made responsible for the in-house design, whilst the 124 Spider was designed by Pininfarina on a similar, but 140 mm shorter wheelbase .
There were approximately 113,000 AC Coupes manufactured, 98,000 BC Coupes, and about 75,000 of the CC variety.
The coupe was quite advanced for its time, the four-cylinder, aluminum-headed, twin overhead cam engine was designed by ex-Ferrari engineer Aurelio Lampredi. Originally of 1438cc capacity in the AC, the engine grew to 1608 in the BC and 1756 in the CC. Other mechanicals included a 5-speed gearbox, power assisted disc brakes all around, double wishbone front suspension, twin carburettors on the BC, and suspension by coil springs.
Barry and Pam Dunstan have owned their 1971 BC coupe since 1982. It served 10 years as Pam’s daily driver where it earned a reputation amongst the locals for being quite a quick little car around town. In 1988, it was given an engine and gearbox rebuild and was also repainted in an Alfa Romeo red which was more vibrant than the original Fiat dark red colour. The engine bay was then subsequently repainted after the battery cable rubbed through and shorted out causing a fire, and then the bonnet was painted again more recently after a second engine bay fire – Barry has now fitted a fire extinguisher under the bonnet in case of further mishaps. Scorcher electronic ignition has now replaced the old Kettering points system in the distributor and the engine runs as sweetly as ever. The 1608 engine had an output of 118bhp which would push the 1000kg coupe up to 110mph. Barry says the car is still has plenty of get-up-an-go and will still top the old ‘ton’, although the wind noise is quite noticeable compared to modern cars.
The interior features Hunter reclining bucket seats from the UK which Barry re-trimmed, destroying Pam’s sewing machine in the process. There was also a patch of rust in the passenger footwell that could be traced back to a spilled coffee that saturated the underfelt and ate through the bituminous sealer in that particular area.
The wheels are quite rare FIAT-Roosevelt alloys from the USA. They came from a wheel factory owned by President Roosevelt’s family and are fitted with a patented wheel stud design only found on these wheels.
It may have taken 12 months longer than anticipated, but it was great to see Barry and Pam’s 124 coupe on display this month at the Golf Club. The design has aged well and the car still looks smart.