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Polski Fiat 126 Bis- 1990
In 1931, the Polish government signed an agreement with Fiat for license production of the 621 truck and the 508 Balilla small car. The cars were sold through the Fiat dealer network under the name Polski-Fiat. The license agreement with Fiat was terminated in 1941, but was revived in 1968, along with the Polski-Fiat brand, with the introduction of the Fiat 125.
In 1972, Fiat introduced its long-awaited replacement for the 500, the 126. The vast majority of 126s, some 3.3 million vehicles, were produced by Fabryka Samochodów Małolitrażowych, or FSM (translated as Small Displacement Car Factory) in Bielsko-Biala, Poland, from 1973-2000. The 126 was sold under the Polski-Fiat banner as the 126p. Due to its low price, it became the unofficial people’s car of Poland, and was by far the most common car on Polish roads in the 1980s. Beloved as a cultural icon of Poland, the people nicknamed it maluch (pronounced mal-ux), which means “small child” or “toddler”. The nickname became so popular that in 1997 it was accepted by FSM as the official name of the car.
The 126p was sold in many Eastern bloc countries, and was especially popular in Hungary. It was also exported to Australia as the Niki, was one of Cuba’s best-selling cars ever, and has the distinction of being one of the first passenger cars imported into China in the early 1980s.
In 1987, FSM introduced the BIS variant, replacing the air-cooled, rear-mounted engine with the water-cooled, front-mounted, 704cc, flat-twin engine from the Fiat 500 Giardiniera. The new engine gained two more horsepower, for a grand total of 27hp. With the engine now in the front, the BIS became a hatchback, with a usable trunk. The BIS was only produced from 1987 to 1991, and was replaced by the FSM Cinquecento. The original 126p continued to be produced in Poland until 2000.
Manufacturer: Fabryka Samochodów Małolitrażowych
Country of Origin: Poland
Drivetrain Configuration: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive (BIS models)
Engine: Water-cooled, 704cc, flat twin-cylinder, 27hp
Transmission: Four-speed manual
Top Speed: 65 mph
Years of Production: 1972-2000 (1987-1991 126p BIS models)
Number Produced: 4,600,000 (3.3 million 126p)
Original Cost: 69,000 zlotys ($926 USD in 1973)