The Pol­ski Fiat 125SP 4x4

What could have been

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - Photos: tum­

In 1943, the IBM com­pany’s pres­i­dent Thomas Wat­son said of a new in­no­va­tion called a com­puter: “I think there is a world mar­ket for maybe... five com­put­ers.”

Well, Mr Wat­son’s cal­cu­la­tions were a lit­tle bit off, we reckon. Fast for­ward to 1977, and a Pol­ish board­room, filled with a bunch of Soviet suits who, like Mr Wat­son, maybe did not quite have the fu­ture vi­sion of some of their peers.

State-owned ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer Fabryka Samo­chodow Osobowych (FSO) had ap­par­ently pre­sented a cun­ning plan to the com­mit­tee to pro­duce a Fiat 125 sta­tion wagon, fit­ted with Rus­sian Lada Niva 4×4 parts.

They called it the Fiat 125SP Kombi 4×4, and it would have been a new mix be­tween a wagon and 4×4, and it would have been highly ca­pa­ble of­froad, too. Es­sen­tially, it could prob­a­bly have been Mother Rus­sia’s first main­stream foray into the SUV/cross­over mar­ket.

It was not to be. The com­mit­tee de­clined the re­quest, and the 125SP Kombi 4×4 pro­to­type was rel­e­gated to the chron­i­cles of mo­tor­ing his­tory.

But let’s take a closer look at the 125SP Kombi 4×4 nev­er­the­less. The li­censed Pol­ish ver­sion of the Fiat 125 was not quite the same as the 125 pro­duced in Italy. Ba­si­cally, the Pol­ish of­fer­ing was a cheaper ver­sion of the orig­i­nal 125, run­ning a more ba­sic driv­e­train, less kit and (some would claim) more shoddy qual­ity.

While the Ital­ian Fiat 125 came with a 1.6-litre four-cylin­der engine that pro­duced up to 93kW af­ter be­ing fet­tled with by some tuners, the Pol­ish ver­sion was based on out­dated un­der­pin­nings and old 1 300 or 1 500cc mo­tors.

There were other dif­fer­ences, too. Most no­table are the round head­lights used in the Pol­ish ver­sion, in­stead of the square ones in the orig­i­nal Ital­ian jobs. Other styling dis­crep­an­cies in­clude sim­pler body sheet metal stamp­ings, more ba­sic bumper and grille, orange front turn sig­nals.

The in­te­rior was also not the same as the Ital­ian 125. In­stead, it was the same as used in the old 1 300 and 1 500 Fi­ats the me­chan­i­cals were based on.

Pro­duc­tion of the Ital­ian Fiat 125 ended in 1972, but the Pol­ski Fiat 125 was pro­duced un­til 1991. That’s right, 1991.

Over the years, the Pol­ski 125SP was turned into a pick-up and a sta­tion wagon, and it was the lat­ter model that formed the ba­sis for the am­bi­tious 4×4 project in 1977.

In time more mod­ern en­gines and driv­e­trains were fit­ted to the Pol­ski 125 range, too, with the big­gest be­ing a two-litre petrol engine com­bined with a fivespeed man­ual gear­box. The 125s were ex­ported all over Europe, and was even sold in Bri­tain.

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