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
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
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
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