(first posted 2/3/2013) I’m pretty sure this is our first Cohort posting (by RiveraNotario) from Chile, and it’s a car that’s a long way from home; in fact, short of the moon it’s probably about as far away as possible. The Polski Fiat 125 is another product of Fiat’s great Eastern Bloc licensing era, which resulted in the region’s most significant modernization of the automobile. The Russians licensed, built and adapted the 124 for their evergreen Lada. Later, the Fiat 1300 served as the basis of the Yugoslavian auto industry. In the mid-sixties, Poland, in desperate need of a new car, also looked to Turin.
The Fiat 125 can be a bit confusing. The too-common assumption is that it’s just an upscale, higher- performance version of the 124. Actually, it is a near-totally different car, but given its modified version of the 124’s passenger compartment, the mistake can be forgiven. The Fiat 125 was a replacement for the 1300/1500 with which it shared aspects of its platform. Its wheelbase was longer than the 124’s. The Fiat 125 was powered by a lusty DOHC 1.6-liter four like that Fiat used in the better-remembered 124 Spider and Coupe.
Not surprisingly, the Polski Fiat 125 didn’t get that: What Fiat licensed to FSO, the state-owned auto builder, was a 125 body and the older 1300/1500 running gear and engine, an OHV four whose displacement reflected the model numbers. Also, the interior was simplified, and other changes were made in consideration of the current conditions in Poland. Production got underway in 1968, and some 1.5 million units were built before the end came, in 1991.
Exports were (obviously) attempted. The Polski Fiat 125 was sold, with various success, throughout Europe, and was for years the cheapest roomy car to be had in the UK. Unfortunately, they rusted ferociously–after all, they were built of cheap East-bloc steel–which probably explains why this one was found in Chile and not in England.