By Rob Miller
There`s something very special about old cars, I suppose its because they`re so very different from the bland commonplace of modern clone lookalikes. In their day they were just part of the street furniture, but fast forward 30 or so years and old cars just smack you in the face with their individuality. One such car resides on the island of Malta and its owner, Jeff Vella , has engineered one of the best performance 127`s around. His “baby” as it is affectionately known, is a highly tuned 1050cc 127 Sport hill climber. Running to the Island Car club regulations, the little 127 competes in the Group 2 class 1, for cars up to 1150cc.
The car is in wonderful condition and has been built from an almost derelict state. Despite being a competition car, it’s retained its door cards, glass, carpet and one or two other in car comforts; “it just keeps on winning. When I start getting beaten”, Jeff says “he`ll have a look at removing some weight!” The car is very strikingly finished in black and green, and sits on 13” Revolution alloys shod with Avon slicks. Suspension mods include Leda front coil-overs fully 24 position adjustable and Koni rears. The flattened rear transverse spring, front 1300GT anti roll bar and negative camber all combine to give this 127 an aggressive stance.
I was surprised to see that the car retains almost a standard brake set up, the front discs and rear drums assisted by the factory vacuum. It has also retained the rear brake compensator. The only non standard item being the brake bias adjuster mounted to the left of the driver`s seat. By trial and error the bias adjuster and brake compensator have worked to Jeff`s satisfaction.” And any way the brakes don`t have to be that ruddy good when you’re going uphill!”
Lifting the forward hinging bonnet one is immediately confronted with an engine that means business, no messing! No downdraft DCNF`s for this little baby, all 1050cc`s breath in through a pair of side draft DCOE 40`S and exhale through a beautiful 4 into 1 exhaust that cumulates just under the sump….WOW! And that’s not all the story. Kent vernier cam wheel controls the Gozzoli Cam on the locally modified head and the whole kit turns on a factory issue lightened balanced crank, rods and flywheel, to the tune of 10,000 rpm momentarily. Power comes on strong at 4,000 rpm and Jeff says he changes up at 9,000.
The 127 has not been rolling road tuned but power is estimated at 115bhp. But I believe Jeff is being conservative in this estimation! The A.P. Racing paddle clutch shifts power through the Bacci Romano 4 speed close ratio gears and 4.7 LSD diff. Initially there were problems of jumping out of gear but modifications were made to stiffen up the upper and lower engine mountings to dampen movement.
Inside this 127 the dash looks standard 1050 Sport but to the left of the main gauges is mounted the tachometer and strapped to that is the red light set at a mind numbing 9000rpm. Remember this engine is running on a factory crank and flywheel only lightened and balanced. Brazil engines are very strong and testament to Fiat know-how. But I digress; further instrumentation also shows the driver the state of the air-fuel mixture. Creature comforts aside one is cocooned within a purpose built full roll cage mounted front and rear and sat gripped at the hips in a Sparco competition seat.
Fuel is supplied via front and rear pumps and when pressure reaches about 3.5psi shown on the under bonnet gauge, the engine is ready to start. First off the starter is heard whirring and the familiar wah wah wah of the motor forcing the pistons up through 12.5 to 1 compressions and there is a cough and the Fiat snarls into life. It sounds thrilling and extremely powerful as the revs are increased. Only a non petrol-head would be unmoved by this potent little Fiat. It is truly a wonderfully put together piece of engineering.