Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: Fiat 126 – The Italian People’s Car Becomes The Polish People’s Car

When I first saw these shots posted by xiao car at the Cohort, I assumed it was a Polski Fiat 126p, as that’s where the majority of 126s were built (until 2000), and where it became iconic, essentially the Polish Beetle. But this appears to be a Fiat 126, and shot in Germany, so quite likely it was built in Italy.

The 126 was essentially a Fiat 500 with a new, boxier body and a few other minor changes. As such, it was soon outdated in Western Europe after it arrived in 1972, given its noisy little air cooled vertical twin engine in the rear and very limited interior room. But FSM in Poland took out a license to build it there starting in 1973, and it quickly became the de facto family car, the only one that was affordable and built in large numbers.

The 500’s engine was increased in size to 592 cc, and then again to 652 cc at the end of 1977. In 1987, the 126 BIS went into production, with a 704 cc water cooled engine, as also used in the Fiat Cinquecento, as its base engine. The current Fiat 500 still offers a 875 Twin Air engine. It’s a long tradition.

Given the rear air intakes, I assume this is an older air-cooled version.

It’s hard to get a sense of just how small these cars are unless one sees it in the company of modern cars. They look like toys.

But they were an instrumental part of the process of putting Europeans into their first set of wheels, starting in Italy and continuing in Poland for almost three decades.