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126 Fact File
Introduced at the 1972 Turin show the 126 can be considered a development of the 500. While it retains the basic layout of the 500 with its two cylinder engine, the body was completely re-designed into a mini four seater.

Production continued in Italy and abroad until 1991. 594cc, 652cc or 704cc engined versions are available. By 1982 production had topped 2,720,000 cars. So it has to have something going for it.

The original 126 engine capacity was increased over the 500 from 499cc to 594cc giving a 5bhp increase on maximum power to 23bhp. The gearbox has synchromesh installed on its three upper ratios. 126 Ratios give it a top speed of 65mph. The fuel tank has also been relocated under the rear left hand seat, rather than under the bonnet (as in the 500). Also 12inch wheels make for slightly less jittery drive than the 500 on rougher surfaces.

In 1978 the 126 engine capacity was raised to 600cc and then 5 months later to 652cc. Two versions – the “Personal” and “Personal 4” were introduced – the latter having a two person rear bench seat rather than a storage shelf. External dimensions were increased through the addition of black resin side rubbing strips and larger front and rear bumpers. Brakes were upgraded to 128 versions, softer springing and higher output alternator were also included. The interior was improved with better seats, and driving positions, dash and steering wheel.

From 1978 to 1980 various body colours and exterior trim change were offered in “Special Series”. These included black and silver, then also red and silver, and tan versions.

126 Driving and Owning
This one tended to have so many foibles you really needed to love it to stay with them. Had a poor reputation for build quality and interior trim fragility. Noisy slow and cramped, (a bit like a few race cars I’ve driven then).

Gear change and the box is too delicate with a tendency to stick. The 500 suspension didn’t seem to transfer well into this package. Small and light but rollable - so on-the-limit antics are not recommended. Oh and it tends to rust too - everywhere.

Lack of synchro on first and modern traffic pressures (getting out into gaps, starting at the front of queues etc) tend to mean first and second gears get clobbered – check the drive train – 1st and second gears, clutch cracking and spring failure, diff cracking. If the 126 is tuned the diff tends to be a weak point.

Why have I a nasty feeling that I’d have been saying the same about the 500 twenty five years ago? Could this one ever make a 500-like comeback?

Its cheap and because of the 500 series, mechanically quite well known in the UK. Makes it just about an ideal project for a bike engined conversion then. Where’s that Fireblade engine I stored in the garage last year? – You certainly won’t be missing many of the creature comforts if you did! Low running costs and insurance (providing you don’t stick that bike engine in).

Masochism may need to be high on the long term owner’s agenda. Or if you’re tiring of 500/ 600 high prices and like this one’s angular shape instead you can pick the best up for £200 to £400.

A budget of £4k would utterly transform one of these – based on the 600 development and tuning routes, Panda larger engines, Abarth 500 tuning gear, X1/9 layout if you don’t fancy the bike engine route. But you’d need to really love it. You'd need to start with the brakes and suspension first - and a roll cage. If not, prepare to be overtaken by kids on skate boards.

Types of 126


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