The Fiat 126 was first presented on Turin Auto Show as a replacement for the Fiat 500. Most of them were produced in southern Poland as the Polski Fiat 126p (added letter »p«). The 126 got many mechanical solutions from Fiat 500. Both cars are rear-engined and it sharing same wheelbase. 126 has »modern« bodyshell, we might call it scaled-down Fiat 127.
Engine capacity was increased from 594 cc to 652 cc at the end of 1977 by increasing cylinder bore from 73.5 to 77 mm. Claimed power output was unchanged at 23 PS (17 kW), but torque was increased from 39 Nm to 43 Nm. The 594 cc engines were available again in early 1983 production.
Later increase took the engine size to 704 cc in new "restyling" model Fiat 126 Bis (1987–1991), with 26 PS (19 kW) of power.
Fiat 126p were produced in Fabryka Samochodów Malolitrazowych (FSM) under Italian Fiat license between 1973 and 2000. The price of the car was relatively low, so this model became very popular, especially in the year 1980s when became the most popular car in Poland and Hungary.
126p was first, popular family car for affordable price. Despite the fact that it was a very small city car, it was the only choice for most families at that tune. Because of that it was during holidays very commom to see four-person families driving 126s abroad with huge suitcases on a roof rack. Rearly you could also see this car with camp trailer N126 which was specially designed for 126.
126p production wasn't sufficient and the 126p was distributed through a waiting list (people got cupons and wait). At the top of interest families had to wait a couple of years to buy a car
In Italy and other »Western« countries Fiat126 never reached the popularity of Fiat 500 despite good marketing. Most of Fiat 126 were produced in Poland: 3.318.674, than in Italy 1.352.912 in Austria 2,069 and unknown number in Yugoslavia (by Crvena Zastava). For a short period in the early 1990s, a German company called POP also offered convertible versions of the 126 BIS. There were two models of 126BIS: a less equipped POP 650 and more luxurious model POP 2000. Throughout the 1980s there were several experimental prototypes developed in Poland. A cargo version called "Bombel" (literally can mean "a bubble") for its fiberglass bubble shaped cargo enclosure. Due to rising prices of gasoline there was also an attempt at installing a small diesel engine in the classic 126p body.
Thus, the PF 126p was first, popular family car for affordable price. Despite the fact that it was a very small city car, it was the only choice for most families. Because of that it was during holidays very commom to see four-person families driving PF-126s abroad with huge suitcases on a roof rack. Rearly you could also see this car with caravan N126 which was specially designed for PF 126. PF 126p production wasnt sufficient and the PF 126p was distributed through a waiting list (people get cupons and wait). Usually families had to wait a couple of years to buy a car.
Car has many interesting nicknames in different countries:
- In Poland the nickname Maluch, became so popular that in 1997 it was accepted by the producer as the official name of the car. They call him also Maly Fiat (»small Fiat«).
- Fiat 125p was called duzy Fiat (»big Fiat«). In some parts was called also Kaszlak (»cougher«-because of its sounds of the engine when the car started).
- In Bosnia and Hercegovina, Serbia in Croatia it is known as Peglica.
- In Germany it is known as the Bambino (»child«).
- In Albania as Kikiresz.
- In Hungary has many nicknames: Kispolszki, Kisplak (»little Polish«), torpe-polyak (»Polish dwarf« ), Egerkamion (mouse's truck).
- In Slovenija we called this legendary and lovely car Bolha, Piči-Poki, Kalimero...