The history of the automobile is littered with stories of boundless ambition, of outstanding vehicles designed by true believers, each one chasing their own elusive engineering ideal. The Fiat 125 is not one of those.
Yet, despite being a kind of stopgap model designed in just 18 months and mostly from existing components, the Fiat 125 managed to be not only a resounding market success but also the catalyst for Fiat's return to international motor racing. The bodyshell of the Fiat 125 retained the Fiat 124 center section and doors, but not its floorplan, which remained the one from the older 1500C, the model the 125 was meant to replace. Why?
The Fiat 125 was presented in April 1967, but the model really came into its own by late '68, with the introduction of the 125 Special.
Because the older car's platform had a longer wheelbase that allowed the 125 to offer better rear accommodation than the cheaper 124. Still, the older platform also meant the 125 had to make do with cart springs at the rear, instead of the 124's helicoidal springs. Thankfully, the 125 was bang up to date where it mattered the most to the Italian public: under the bonnet, thanks to Ingegner Lampredi's new twin-cam four-cylinder engine. The Fiat 125 was presented in April 1967, but the model really came into its own by late '68, with the introduction of the 125 Special. Together with a better-appointed interior, the Special got an uprated 100HP engine, a five-speed gearbox, a double-circuit braking system, and a new steering box courtesy from the Dino coupé. The Special soon outsold the base model, as the improved specification transformed the Fiat 125 in the closest rival the Alfa Romeo Giulia Super ever had. The 125 Special's lusty engine and rugged construction caught the attention of many Italian rally drivers, whose successes, in turn, led Fiat to form its "Squadra Corse" in 1969. Those factory "Group 2" 125s with 145HP engines and a limited-slip differential can then be considered the forerunners of Fiat's successful WRC endeavors of the 70s. In 1970 the Fiat 125 received a minor facelift: new bumpers, taillights, and a nicer interior with real wood inserts. What started out as a "parts-bin" stopgap model had blossomed into a beloved automobile that, when it ended its run in 1972, left many happy customers wanting for more. Production of the Fiat 125 continued in Poland and Argentina, but that story goes beyond the scope of this video.