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Across Africa in a Polski Fiat 126p

Kamil Kaluski December 10, 2015 Eastern European Cars, Featured 11 Comments

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Let’s say you had the desire to drive across Africa, north to south, what vehicle would you choose? A Land Rover Defender? Perhaps a Unimog? Land Cruiser seems to the a popular choice in Africa, too. Any of those would have done just fine. But a Polish explorer named Arkady Fiedler, a grandson of a and author, had chosen a different vehicle – a Polski Fiat 126p.

For those of you not familiar with the 126p, it was produced in Poland under a licensing agreement from Italian Fiat between 1973 and 2000(!). The most common 2-door version was powered by a rear-mounted 600 or 650cc two-cylinder engine which produced 24 or 25 horsepower. It was a tiny four-passenger vehicle, a successor to the iconic 500, designed predominantly for the ease of navigation around narrow Italian streets. And this guy drove it over 10,000 miles across Africa.

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The Green Beast, as he called his Maluch (Munchkin, a common Polish nickname for the 126p) started off in the port city Damietta in Egypt, where the Maluch arrived, along with a Toyota back-up vehicle. And that’s where the trouble started. The Toyota was not being released by the Egyptian officials because a camera drone they found in it. Spying accusations, an issue with the 126p (clutch), and general Egyptian bureaucracy delayed the expedition for two weeks.

A four person support and filming crew followed Fiedler for three and a half months. They covered 10,062 miles, drove through eleven countries, and burned through 250 gallons of gasoline (40 MPG!). They concluded their expedition in Africa’s southern-most point, Cape of Good Hope, near Cape Town, in South Africa. When asked why he chose this vehicle, he said it was because it’s similar to riding a motorcycle, because it’s cute and people love it, because it is simple and surprisingly robust.

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If you want to read more about this expedition, you can google translate this site. There is also a  which has a ton of interesting pictures on it. Being that Fiedler had a film crew with him, now they’re in the process of a modest $2500 budget for a movie and series. Below are two three-minute trailers for the movie and it looks amazing. If you liked the Top Gear adventuresses but didn’t care for the silliness, you will probably like this.

This remains me, I really need to scan the pictures from my own South African trip. No, I didn’t do it in a Maluch, we had a Defender 110 and a 70-series Land Cruiser.

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  • “…along with a Toyota back-up vehicle.”

    I’d have thought a second 126p would have provided greater interchangeability of parts.

    • Vairship

      Here’s a picture of said Toyota back-up vehicle:

  • mrh1965

    Cape of Good Home?

    I believe that’s not technically the southernmost point. Cape Agoulhas or something.

    • You’re right! Edited.

    • Vairship

      I do hear it’s a lovely place to live though…

  • bigredcavetroll

    Oh, man, this guy did something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while (although maybe with a different vehicle).

  • theskig

    I’d also like to do a similar trip (a ’93 Hyundai H100 is waiting for that as well as many friends in Kenya) but you need to cross too many dangerous situation, starting with Sudan and Ethiopia.
    Btw my father and my mother crossed the Sahara with a Ford Transit in first 80’s with no GPS and no cellphones!!
    What a strange world we live with many GPS, tablets, smartphones and AK-47

    • And in certain parts of the world the AK is the cheapest of the four to own.

  • NapoleonSolo

    I’d have chosen a Peugeot 404.

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