Among East European cars, the Moskvitch 408 is renowned for its rally history, but the Polski-Fiat team also had some success.
Fiat, which won the 1967 European Car of the Year award with the 124 had trouble in the upper echelons of the market. While development work on the new 132 crawled along slowly, the company fast-tracked the introduction of a new upper mid-size model. Called the 125, it was designed by Dante Giacose in just 18 months. Production was launched in Italy in 1967.
In 1965 the Polish government struck a deal with Fiat for the licence of a yet-to-be-introduced mid-sized model. Originally thought to be a derivative of the Fiat 1100, the new 1500C morphed into the 125. Polish engineers followed the development process, so by January, 1968 the factory in Zeran (near Warsaw) was fully prepared to commence local assembly.
The Polski-Fiat 125p was a simplified version of the 125 with engines from the Fiat 1300/1500 and quad headlights. It replaced the ageing Warsawa and became popular both in Poland and abroad. It remained in production until 1991 – by then it was called the FSO 125p.
As early as 1968 there was a Polish Polski-Fiat race team, comprising Robert Mucha and Zbigniew Dziadura, who participated at a local race, followed by a rally in Hungary.
In order to prepare and implement the sports version of the Polish Fiat 125p for motor sport, a Motor Sports Center was created at FSO in 1971. In the same year the PF 125p had its first start in the Monte-Carlo Rally, where which two teams competed, none of whom finished the competition.
In the following years two special models were created by the factory:
- Polski Fiat 125p „Monte Carlo” 1600
- Polski Fiat 125p „Akropolis” 1800
The Polish Fiat 125p Monte Carlo had a Fiat 1.6-litre engine from the 132 with 98 hp, capable of 165 km/h. The Akropolis version had a 1.8-litre engine, also from the 132, with 105 hp an a max speed of 170 km/h. These were intended for local sports fans with special decor and interior
And then there was the special 125p Akropolis Rally with a 1.8-litre engine, 150 hp and special equipment. This version had its first international success at the 41st Monte Carlo Rally in 1972: the Mucha-Jaworowicz duo reached the finish line as one of 34 cars, winning in their class (II group – 1600 cm³) and taking 24th place in the general classification at the same time.In the same year, in Greece near the Acropolis, Poles (Jaroszewicz-Szulc and Mucha-Żyszkowski) were one of 119 teams competing. In this extremely difficult rally, the first crew defeated everyone in their class and eventually it was classified 13th. In August, the second crew, who did not finish the Acropolis Rally due to an accident, rehabilitated at the finish of the Olympic Rally in Munich – they arrived first as a team and in their class. The penultimate victory of the Fiat 125p came in 1979 when the Smorawiński-Bielak crew finished the 47th Monte Carlo Rally first in their “distinguished” category.
Today replica-built 125p Monte Carlo and Akropolis versions participate at historic events.