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Overall I noticed there's a lot of confusion around the all-new 124 Spider since it is based on the Miata, but has a number of obvious and not so obvious things going on which make it truly Italian. Some might say MORE things can be done to make it a better all around Italian roadster. So, I though we could get this discussion going to point out what makes a true Italian roadster that lives up to what the original 124 was about, how it might be too much like the Miata, even how it may be too much of a hybrid of both (that's where 'Fiata' comes in) - and of course anything else related you want to mention...

 

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll start. I think the original Miata was a copy of the 124. The latest M5-5 was co-designed with Fiat, the Mazda was simply released first. That doesn't make it an MX-5 any more than the MX-5 is a Fiat.

Greg
 

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Actually, the original Mazda designers are on record that the Elan was their inspiration for the design & styling of Miata. Sure, other European roadsters were in their minds when they decided to make the Miata, but the Elan was the design inspiration. Here's a 1964 Elan:
Mark
Hi Mark,

While there is little doubt that the Elan was the inspiration for the original Miata's STYLING, mechanically the two cars couldn't be much more different. They also were aimed at very different points in the Market.

Here are some quick facts.

The Elan is a backbone chassis car. Both the original 124 and Miata were unit body cars. (this is a huge difference)

The Elan has a fiberglass body and tub. Both the original 124 and Miata have stamped steel body panels.

The Elan has a 4 speed transmission. Both the 124 and Miata had 5 speeds

They all have DOHC 4 cylinders, but the Elans is very different from the other two. The Elan uses an intermediate shaft and sprocket to drive the cams via a chain. The Fiat was the first car ever to use a timing belt to drive the Double Overhead Cams. That is of course the system in the Miata. I could go all day about the engines, but just trust me, the Elan engine is nothing like the Miata's. The 124 engine is very similar.

There are many other mechanical similarities between the original 124 and the Miata, too many to list, but perhaps the most telling factor is their respective places in the market. The Elan was seen as a Porsche competitor and not too far from the Corvette in price. The Fiat 124 was a lower priced entry level sports car. When the Miata showed up, it was placed in the exact market segment that was abandon by Fiat just a few years earlier.

Greg
 

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Let's take a look at some chassis designs,

First, the original Lotus Elan. I features a backbone chassis, something that was never in the Miata. Using a seperate frame and body was very much a British sports car thing in the 60's. The MGA, the Austin Healys, the Triumph Spitfire, all the Triumphs up until the TR7 were built this way.

The Miata, along with just about every non exotic Italian car from the period had a unit body chassis. This includes the Fiat 124, 850, and others.
 

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Take a look under a Miata, or just about any 60's Fiat and you will see a Unit body chassis. For those who don't know, that means that the structure of the car is integrated into the body. There is no separate frame. The Unit body (also called Unibody) has reinforcement areas for rigidity and at attachment points for heavy items like the engine, suspension etc.

This is the single biggest clue that the designers of the Miata were not copying British Sports cars, and certainly not the Elan.

Miata:



Fiat 124:

 

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Now let's look at the suspensions. All three cars use a double wishbone front suspension, but that's where the similarity with the Elan suspension ends.

The Elan's wishbones are two piece a-arms, both the Miata and 124 use single piece a-arms. In fact, the upper arms on the Miata and 124 are so similar that if I was handed one at some random point in time I probably couldn't immediately tell which car it was from without reading the stampings. The Elan's arms are just a completely different type of design.

That's not all. The Elan suspension uses trunnions. Specifically it uses them to connect the lower wishbones to the suspension uprights. Both the 124 and Miata use ball joints.

I suppose one could argue that the Elan is similar because it has 4 wheel indepenent suspension and most 124s had a live rear axle. However I don't think that's valid. Fiat did have independent rear suspesion on the 124 Abarth, 131 Abarth, 850, and X1/9. So in my view the Miata has essentially an updated Fiat 124 Abarth suspension.

Let's look at the Elan, Fiat 124, and Miata suspensions in that order.








Greg
 

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I could easily go on with engine transmission and brakes, all of which are very similar between the Miata and original 124 and very different from the Elan.

Why does all this matter. Simple, Fiat never gets credit for what they do. It's their own fault as they never seem to let anyone know about what they accomplish. The original Fiat 124 was the blueprint for modern sports cars. Not any of the British cars, not any 60's Porsche and not any of the French or Swedish cars.

Journalists who should know better are calling the 124 an Italian interpretation of a Japanese interpretation of a British sports car. They should know better.

The new 124 is at least as much of an Italian car as the Challenger is an American car. Everything is a bit mixed up these days with Challengers made in Canada with engines made in Mexico. Lots of Japanese cars are actually made in the US as are some German cars. The Fiat 124 happens to be assembled in Japan, but it's still a Fiat.

Greg
 

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The thing is, even I didn't know that the original Fiat 124 was the blurprint for the modern sports car so this is all new to me and maybe even journalists aren't as knowledgeable as you in when it comes to Fiat.

The under body is the main clue for anyone confused that the Miata takes after Fiat's design.
 

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The thing is, even I didn't know that the original Fiat 124 was the blurprint for the modern sports car so this is all new to me and maybe even journalists aren't as knowledgeable as you in when it comes to Fiat.
That's just it, and I don't really blame the journalists. I do think they should know better, but I primarily blame Fiat USA. These guys seriously drop the ball all the time. They don't ever mention Fiat's accomplishments, and they have a lot of them.

Here are a few things worth knowing.

1. The original Fiat 124 Spider had a unibody chassis, Double wishbone front suspension, Double Overhead Cams, a 5 speed gearbox, 4 wheel disk brakes and intermittent windshield wipers in 1966. All this in a lower priced car, not something that's priced like a Corvette, Porsche or Jag.

2. With the model 128 Fiat created the now common front drive layout with the engine and transaxle next to each other in a transverse position. It's true that the Mini had a transverse front drive layout, but they put the transaxle below the engine in the oil pan. That configuration never caught on because it has some serious problems. The Fiat configuration has dominated the market place since it's introduction.

3. Fiat has dominated the WRC. Audi won that championship once and they never shut up about it. Fiat/Lancia has won 13 times (all with Fiat engines).

You won't see Fiat USA mention any of this in their advertising. I don't know why not.

Greg
 

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Is the final assemble of the 124 Abarth completed in Italy while the other versions of the 124 being totally assembled in Japan?
I doubt it as there is nothing different on the Abarth that would require a different assembly location. As far as I know, Fiat Ships the Engine and possibly some other parts to Hiroshima and all the assembly is done there.

That's fine with me, the Japanese are really good at assembling.

Greg
 

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I would also have no problem with completed assembly of the 124 Abarth done in Japan,my 06 Dodge Magnum has the assembled in Mexico Hemi with the car's final assembly in Canada

I was just wondering what is what
 

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Double wishbone front suspension... Citroen 1934
Unibody... Lancia 1922
DOHC... Peugeot 1912
IRS... Lancia 1947
4 wheel disc brakes... 1954 Austin Healey.
Transverse FWD... Société Parisienne 1898
Belt driven DOHC... FIAT 1966!

Did the 124 have 4 wheel discs in ‘66? Or was that in ‘69?

Still... just because the fiat featured all of them, doesn’t really make it that remarkable.
Still a nice car though.
 

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Hi Mark,

While there is little doubt that the Elan was the inspiration for the original Miata's {BIG SNIP!}

Greg
There is one thing you left our Greg.
Reliability.
Despite similarities, IMO the most different aspect was the much lower chance of being left alongside the road with a dead car.
:cool:
best regards
Pete
 

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Hi Mark,

While there is little doubt that the Elan was the inspiration for the original Miata's STYLING, mechanically the two cars couldn't be much more different. They also were aimed at very different points in the Market.

Here are some quick facts.

The Elan is a backbone chassis car. Both the original 124 and Miata were unit body cars. (this is a huge difference)

The Elan has a fiberglass body and tub. Both the original 124 and Miata have stamped steel body panels.

The Elan has a 4 speed transmission. Both the 124 and Miata had 5 speeds

They all have DOHC 4 cylinders, but the Elans is very different from the other two. The Elan uses an intermediate shaft and sprocket to drive the cams via a chain. The Fiat was the first car ever to use a timing belt to drive the Double Overhead Cams. That is of course the system in the Miata. I could go all day about the engines, but just trust me, the Elan engine is nothing like the Miata's. The 124 engine is very similar.

There are many other mechanical similarities between the original 124 and the Miata, too many to list, but perhaps the most telling factor is their respective places in the market. The Elan was seen as a Porsche competitor and not too far from the Corvette in price. The Fiat 124 was a lower priced entry level sports car. When the Miata showed up, it was placed in the exact market segment that was abandon by Fiat just a few years earlier.

Greg
Indeed. If I were Mazda in 1989, would I be more inclined to say that I got my inspiration from Fiat or from Lotus?

Fiat had been struggling in North America and had a tarnished reputation. On the other hand, the Lotus name was exotic.

Regardless of mechanical similarities and differences, from a marketing perspective alone, claiming to get its inspiration from Lotus than Fiat was more compelling.
 

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I think it’s safe to say that MX-5 is as much Fiat as Spider is Mazda.

By all reports this is arguably Mazda’s best-ever MX-5. That was possible because Mazda shared development and production costs with Fiat. Had Mazda gone it alone, it may not have been able to invest to the extent of developing such an impressive little roadster. And Spider benefits directly from it.
 

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Just when Greg was allowed to be invited to parties, again, you have to drag this old thread up!
;)
 
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