124 Coupe
sporting fiats club Saturday, September 20, 2014

Introduction

124 Coupe History

Coupe Numbers

Maintaining It

Buying Guide

124 Coupe Swaps

Table

Notes

124 Coupe Types

SFC Gallery

Page Links

Sales & Parts

Register Interest


 
124 Coupe Sport

Introducing the 124 Coupe
For younger generations of browsers, there was another Fiat Coupe (actually this is the other Twin Cam coupe)!
Its impact on the motoring world in 1967 was even greater than the nineties version. Furthermore lining up the saloon spider and coupe variants of the 124 in 1967, you’d be hard pressed to spot they came from the same manufacturer.
Of the three the 124 Coupe made by far the greatest impact in the UK. The cornering ability of the first series, the 124AC, was excellent. Unlike its later brethren it keeps all its wheels on the ground in hard cornering and doesn’t engage in the ‘ducking and diving’ antics of the 124 saloon. The lightweight door pillars provide an airy feel and look to the car.
One of the fashions in this era was towards the GT or fastback shape. The 124AC contrives to suggest this while retaining a boot and head room for four adults. The AC also had servo disc brakes all round, an optional 5 speed box and full instrumentation as standard. The soon to be replaced torque tube transmission seems to contribute to the back end stability of this dream of a little car.
Put it this way. There are very few sixties cars I would join a queue to drive. My old ‘A’ frame axled Lotus Cortina, a Lotus Elan and the 124AC would be near the top of a very short list. The 124AC is one of the very best. And just as the Elan needs later suspension upgrades and the big valve head, this Fiat only really needs the later 1608cc engine from the 125 series to match any Elan I’ve driven for cornering. That said, tyre and suspension technology has progressed a long way since then. If you’re into collecting old Fiat greats, why haven’t you got one yet? Ah yes, they do rust.

Coupe History
Who do we have to thank? A farther-and-son team at Fiat, Felice and Gian Boano. Felice had previously owned Ghia before setting up the Centro Stile at Fiat. They headed the in-house team and were also responsible for the Fiat 850 amongst many others.

As mentioned, the 124 range had already been extended with estate and spider versions when, in 1967, the first 124 coupe was brought out. The engine used was the same as the Spider, the 1438cc, unit rated at 90bhp. Its wheel base and suspension similar to the saloon, from ‘68 the 124 Special rear suspension was used. The 124AC proved popular (see numbers table below) .
In 1969 the second series, 124BC was launched. It should have been easy…. slight body mods and more power in the same chassis right? Wrong.
Like so many manufacturers before, since and no doubt again in the future Fiat took a winner and softened it up ‘for the masses’. The springs were softer, the back axle pick up points revised which combined to give understeer, body roll and inside rear wheel lifting during fast cornering. The brakes could lock under heavy use too. Its high gearing (4.3:1 final drive) made for good starts but noisier cruising. As with the 124 Spiders, the 124BC upgrades are based upon the 125 engine variants. The BC was offered in single carb 1438cc and twin carb 1608cc form and weighed in at 995kg unladen.
During the Autumn of 1972 both the Coupe and Spider were revised to take advantage of the new versions of the 132 engines with a single down draught carb (It’s worth noting that equivalent year Spiders and Coupes share most of the same mechanicals).
The new 124CC was fitted with the 1592cc or 1756cc engines. With the optional 5 speed gearbox and two rather than three box silencer system the 1600 was quoted at 106bhp and the 1800 at 118bhp and 185kph top speed.
The third series of the Coupe (the 124CC) was extensively restyled with different front and rear treatment to its predecessor. It looks and is heavier than the previous series. It’s front section having a controversial rectangular box grill coordinated with a split level bumper.
The CC went some way to addressing disappointment in the handling of the BC. But the suspension rides higher and nearly as soft. The solution is AC spring rates and lengths or variable rate springs with matching shock absorbers.
The CC was withdrawn in 1975 although SEAT continued to make these models until 1977.

124 Coupe Numbers
Of the 279000 Coupes exported very many have just dissolved into rust heaps - usually well in advance of their component’s life span. The table provides the most reliable figures available:

Year

Cars Sold

Series & No.

 Last Chassis No.

 Engine Size

(cc)

Engine Type
1967
 AC
 34523
34513
1438
124AC 000
1968
AC
31766
66279
1438
 
1969
AC
47590
113869
1438
 
1970
AC/BC
 2007
115876
1438/1608
124AC/125BC
1971
BC
65565
1811441
1608
125BC 000

1972

BC
31928
213369
1608
 
1973
BC/CC
26730
240099
1592/1608/1756
132AC/132AC1*
1974
CC
29835
269934
1592/1756
132AC/132AC1
1975
CC
 9738
279672
1756
132AC1 000

*1973 1608cc engine code 125BC 000 omitted for brevity.


Maintaining a 124 Coupe
This labour of love is going to be mostly about body work and a search for panels as a first priority.
Notes
There are a number of panels that can be used from other 124 Coupe series. The swaps have been summarised in the Swap Table below. Its always advisable to retain the original panel (or what’s left of it) as tooling and pressings may differ – not just at the trim and lens locations.
Later CC coupe bonnets were ‘domed’ to accommodate the taller engine blocks and will fit the BC but not the other way around.
Rear Wings are universal but with the above caveats – the light lenses are different and on the CC there’s a slight difference where the wing meets the roof pillar.
CCs had front wheel arch liners that can be adapted to fit earlier series.
Mechanically keep the oil and filters regularly changed, change the cambelt every 25k miles and top up the coolant whenever needed – and the engine will reward you!
This is because the most vulnerable part of the Twin Cam engines are their camshafts, valve gear and head gaskets. Invariably poor engine maintenance or abuse will show here first.
Solve oil and engine leaks when they occur promptly. One area I would recommend considering modification are the coolant hoses. The modern silicon based hoses for turbo applications are stronger, more resistant to collapse and longer lasting than the originals. Twin Cam engines are reliable providing they are regularly serviced and oil changed.

124 Coupe Buying Guide
Body Notes
The shell is paramount. Body panels are available, but does it sit level, and drive straight? Take along expert advice.
The Top Coupe Corrosion Points are:
Check scuttle and windscreen surround - requires time consuming dash removal
Check windscreen side pillars and ‘A’ post
Check for dash staining from failure of bonded windscreen
Check the internal sill structure and floor a-joining. The outer sill also has an expensive double curve profile. Sills carry most of the load & stress. Complex shape of the sills makes restoration more challenging and expensive.
Check the wheel arches behind all four wheels.
Check seams behind headlights and front valence
Closely inspect doors and hinges
Check boot floor seams and rear suspension pick up points
Check rivets carrying body trim and anywhere else with bolt or rivet fixings on the external body panels!
Check rear quarter light catches (re: broken or loose bond to glass)
Check for excess play wiper drive arm bushes (especially CC).
Consider fitting CC wheel arch liners to extend arch and sill life.

Mechanical Notes
Check the colour of the cam visible under the filler cap for brown deposits - signs of infrequent oil changes.
TC’s were prone to head gasket leaks, often because the coolant levels were allowed to fall too low. Check for gasket blow and external leaks (oil or water). As an initial guide to a healthy coolant system, listen for fan starting and stopping on tickover after warm up - short bursts are good. Prolonged running of fan is not.
Check for external gasket leaks on the cam covers especially on the exhaust manifold side where they dry out & harden faster.

In hard water areas check for evidence of tap water use - deposits are bad news. Ask the owner what water is used to top up the system. You will want to use distilled water in hard water areas!
Check heater operation, when warm check for leaks & stains on the carpet under the heater matrix. At this age the heater sliders and associated pipe valves tend to corrode and stick.
The diff and gearbox are prone to wear and breakage. Listen carefully through acceleration and over run in each gear. Check for oil leaks. And don't accept guff about 'all Fiats leak' because they don't if you're diligent and fix it!
{see 124 Spider check list too}

Coupe Swap Table
Keep a Coupe for any time and you’ll be trying to find parts. The first obvious place will be other people’s garages. Most outdoor breaker's yards will have long since lost their Coupes. But learn to love the Lada too if you have a 124 based car. Axle internals, hydraulic clutches, gears and some body items will swap. You may need to know what can be swapped onto your car! Here’s a table to summarise it all.

SFC Guide to 124

Coupe Swaps

124 Coupe Series

What fits?

Table Key: @=yes, No=No way, (!)=not bolt on

CAR PART

AC

BC

CC

Bonnet

 (use CC in BC, not BC in CC)

No
@
(!)
Boot lid
@
@
No
Door
@
(!)
(!)
Door Glass
No
@
@
Windscreen
@
@
@
Rear screen
@
@
@
Sills
No
@
@
Front wing
No
@
@
Head lights
use 124 spider
@
@
Rear Wing
(!)
@
@
Rear quarter glass
@
@
No
Rear bumper
@
@
No
Seats
@
@
@
Rear Axle
(!)
(!)
(!)
Steering Box
@
@
@
Brake discs
(!)
(!)
No
Wheels
@
@
@
CC Arch Liners
(!)
(!)
@
Engine
(!)
(!)
(!)
Gear box
(!)
(!)
(!)
Exhaust System
mix
and
match
 - tailor 1800 System?
@
@
@
Fuel System/ Pump
(!)
(!)
No


Notes on the 124 Coupe Swaps
Fiat retained a large number of body panels between the three series of Coupes. Two principles here - always retain the old panel and pre-fit everything possible on the new one (like trim and surround clips) – don’t install then try.
The CC series front wheel arch liner can be fitted to all three with some ingenuity – and they work!.
Look at comments already made on the Buying Guide about the body panels.

The main mechanical components sit less well into a simple table like the one above. As the main items all have ‘yes but’ caveats…they take more thought and tailoring to install successfully. If in doubt on safety critical items like brakes and steering seek expert help.
Rear axles from the CC and BC swap but the AC had different linkage points and for the first two years of production had a torque tube rather than a prop shaft design. AC can use Lada internals. CC has 10/43 final drive.
Gearboxes do swap but the bell housing and flywheel diameter have to match if the starter motor is to engage as designed. Retain the bell housing starter and flywheel from one car to be safer.
Fuel systems – the CC has an electric pump ‘pushing’ from the boot. The AC and BC have mechanical engine driven ‘pull’ pumps. From the eighties, all the ‘sports’ engined Twin Cams had electrical fuel pumps and should be considered for the CC – especially if twin carb set ups are being used. However this will not be a simple ‘bolt in’ task.
Engines were updated across the Spider and Coupe ranges together, as saloon variants became available. The main divide for the Coupes occurred in 1973 with the change to 132 engines. Layouts and ancillaries differ in each case (for instance the thermostat housings can be on the head, in the head or in the radiator hoses).
If using other major engine components it’s suggested to look at a complete transplant or take specialist advice because differences between the engines can be subtle – they can appear the same but aren’t.
As an example from SFC questions to Model Advisors, some of the differences that are missed include - different water galleries (i.e. between the 1592cc and 1608cc heads/engines), differences in head gasket thickness and materials, later types of head bolts and internals (like low dome pistons) and distributor or drive positions.
All three series have different spring rates on the suspension. The AC is hardest and was fitted with a rear anti roll bar. The BC and to a lesser extent the CC suffer for the lack of shorter stiffer springs to match the handling of the earlier design.

there has been a long standing debate in the club about retro fitting anti roll bars to the BC and CC.... whether or not it is worth the trouble.

Types of 124 Coupe

 

 

SFC Gallery

Nice New Zealand BC Restoration by Mike Lowe

 

 

 

Page Links
Clubs and Contacts

Firebreathing Fiats some food for thought on the modification front. The coupes have generous under bonnet space, rear wheel drive and a set of 131 based rally cross members and gearbox/ drive internals that make them ideal candidates for road and track burning. Add 90's Integrale 16 valve pistons, heads, turbos and engine management to your 8 valve 2 litre block.. and you have very potent machinery indeed.

Spares

Deep in the heart of Detmold Germany is part of the Holtmann Niedergerke Group. For the Fiat 124 in particular they carry excellent stocks of new reconditioned and second hand spares. They should be on your shopping list. H&N Online Shop they are in the process of extending the online spares list here. Local retail outlet is Gettingman & Niedergerke on +49 (0)5231/6179-0. Spares for 124s, all the Dinos and many earlier Fiats are carried too.

Retail outlets for H&N products include Gettingman & Niedergerke a Detmold Company (D 32758)

Bielstein also supply tuning and performance items for these cars. The Bielstein brothers can still be seen occasionally 'pedaling' their race cars around - including a 125! Bielstein products include very nice supportive reclining and traditional seats that can be chosen to fit right into the 124s

www.bielstein.com

Their spares are one of the reasons for the resurgence in 124 Spider ownership in Germany too. However they are part of the Recambi Group - who are wholesale suppliers. Recambi will probably only supply you direct with Abarth and Volumex parts. You will need to find the Bielstein part of the organisation. Telephone +49 (0)5066/3074. Email bielstein@bielstein.com

Parts and Advice

Spider-Point have established a good reputation for advice and high quality parts. Obtain a copy of their catalogue for the 124 Spider from the Spider Point Site . TopDrive Gmbh - the company that runs Spider-Point also has a weekly chat if your German's up to it. There are parts common to the coupe in the catalogue.

Dino Enterprises of New Zealand

Thompson Motors of New Zealand