Classic Sports Car

FIAT 128 1300 CL

RUNBY Simon Hucknall OWNED SINCE April 1977 PREVIOUS REPORT Oct ’23


It was on the return trip from the Festival of the Unexceptio­nal in July that the Fiat started to sound a little more rorty than usual. Not unpleasant­ly so, but enough to turn its normally crisp timbre into something more hardcore.

Odd, because an entire new exhaust had been fitted only two years ago and, due to mainly dry use and storage, it still looked box-fresh. Climbing under the Fiat with the engine running revealed the culprit: where the downpipe curved to run below the car, it was anchored with a metal stay bolted to the floorpan. Over time, flex in the system had fractured the pipe next to the stay, resulting in a considerab­ly more Italian soundtrack. A trip to classics-friendly Gilmorton Garage in my village, and the offending crack was welded and reinforced (above), so the 128 is now back to its standard buzziness, without sounding as if Iʼve fitted a Peco back box.

And Iʼve no doubt that my dad, who bought the car new, would have experience­d the same glitches and foibles. Today, itʼs like running a 46-year-old ʻnewʼ car, so while Iʼve needed to adjust the Solex carbʼs idle and mixture screws a couple of times, and replace a bush on the throttle bar in the engine bay, Iʼm sure Dad would have carried out the exact same maintenanc­e by 6-7000 miles. Unheard of with a modern new car, but looking at an archive report from 1979 in a recent issue of Autocar, this was the norm. After 4400 miles it reported that its long-term Fiat 131ʼs radio had failed, the speedo needle was flickering and the window seals whistled. All grist to the mill for new-car owners back in the day, it seems.

Same for oil leaks. It seldom needs a top-up, but drips from the sump are ever-present, as is a film of oil around the top end – so I decided to treat the engine bay to a steam-clean. SA Auto Services near Leicester had done a great job on my everyday wheels – a 14-year-old MX-5 – so back I went with the 128. The mechanical­s first get a dousing of Nielsen degreaser, then a thorough steaming from above and below. Despite insulating the distributo­r, condensati­on formed inside, causing it to run roughly afterwards. But after a quick wipe the ʻfourʼ was as crisp as ever. At least Iʼll be better able to see leaks appearing now…

All this fettling meant that the Fiat was in top form when it attended the photoshoot at Bicester Heritage for this monthʼs cover feature. Dutch enthusiast Ton van Zijl brought along his pristine, Positano Yellow first-series 128 – identical to the one Dad owned before SFP. Seeing them together, the poignancy wasnʼt lost on me.

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 ?? ?? Steam clean spruced up the engine
Steam clean spruced up the engine
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