Cohort Sighting: Fiat 124 Coupes


When posting about the all-Italian junkyard I found in the Cohort last month, there were two different cars I asked the commentariat to help identify.  True to form, they quickly named each of the mangled cars, both two-door versions of the Fiat 124.  While looking through the Cohort today, I found pictures of two very well-preserved 124 coupes recently uploaded by DonAndreina.  Thanks, Don!

That ivy covered wall is the perfect background for this dark green example.  As its model name indicates, this was a companion car of the more familiar 124 sedan and Spider.  All three variants look very different but share a majority of their mechanicals; call it very honest platform sharing.  If only BMW were able to distinguish its 3-series sedan and 4-series coupe this much.

Despite its simplicity, the side profile is very distinctive. Large quarter glass which suggests a fast-back, but as we can see, this is clearly a three-box design.  A real fish bowl, it almost looks as if the windows won’t fully be able to roll down into the doors.  There are definite shades of this shape in both the Mk2 and Mk3 Ford Escorts.


The first run of cars, the AC series, had this very ’60s twin-headlamp setup.  As both the red and green car share their front fender contours, we can tell neither belong to this series.

The easiest way to tell these are series 2 (BC) cars are the double-stacked rectangular taillights.  These chunky, simple units best match the simplicity of the overall design.

Fiat 124 Sport Coupe AC 1968

The ACs used a horizontal cluster not unlike what Toyota later used on its third-generation US market Corolla sedans.  Like many cars of the era, these small units didn’t fully use the real-estate afforded by the large, flat rear panel.  Zero nits to pick when it comes to those gorgeous wheels, however.

The heavily revised series 3 received an enlarged trunk opening, necessitating the vertical taillights seen here.  I think they do a good job of emphasizing the body’s contours, and the more substantial bumpers were styled with more concern than most, but the black triangle at the rear of the daylight opening is clumsy.

It’s better than what Fiat did to the front of the series 3 (CC), however.  The headlights gained black bezels, and the badge was removed from the grille, which now looked like an air register.  One thing I love about Fiats is that their straightforward styling disproves the annoying stereotype of the Latin obsession with style.  But if anything, the final run of the 124 coupe, always an in-house effort (unlike the Pininfarina designed Spider), proves a bit too well that Italians can also make questionable styling decisions.

On the other hand, the 124 coupe does fulfill another stereotype, with the exclusive fitment of high strung twin-cam engines.  Those of you who hate having to replace timing belts have this engine to thank.  Timing chains make noise and stretch over time, throwing off timing; Fiat’s pioneering use of a reinforced rubber belt ensured quiet and accurate valve actuation.  Paired with a five-speed transmission (early cars had a four-speed), along with four-wheel discs, this car was very up-to-date.

If you’re chomping at the bit for more dirty details of this uber-functional RWD coupe, however, you’ll have to wait.  We have a more comprehensive feature on the 124 coupe planned in the near future, but seeing these two good looking examples posted in the Cohort was too tempting an opportunity to pass up. Such delicate machines make an ideal palate cleanser for readers busy gorging themselves on enormous trucks, and at over 40 years of age, these red and green BC series cars–fat tires and all–perfectly illustrate what it means to be a curbside classic.