by John-William Greenbaum
This little Polski Fiat 126P NP was called the “Ryjek” compact sedan! In Polish, “Ryjek”, in this context, means “Little Snout”. That’s because the 126P NP basically was the result of taking the rear-engined Polski Fiat 126P and moving the engine around to the front while reversing the entire drivetrain. The 1/43 model pictured below is made in Poland by Moye Modele!
It was a relatively reliable car, but since it failed to have any truly different variants from the regular 126P (I believe some people were hoping for a hatchback version, which never came), it was really pretty much a waste of money as far as putting it into production went. Since performance tests showed it to be the 126P’s equal and in a few cases, slight superior, it just wasn’t worth putting into mass production, especially with Poland’s difficult economy.
In the automotive world, we have undoubtedly seen the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright bizarre. For all of its fairly traditional, boxy looks, the Polski Fiat 126P NP “Ryjek” Compact Sedan has to be classified as the latter. The irony is that if not for one design feature, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind whatsoever that it would have reached production rather than languishing away as a prototype. For you see, the Polski Fiat 126P NP was, distilled down to its simplest definition, an attempt to turn the rear-engined, very common Polski Fiat 126P Compact Sedan around so that it was a front-engined car!
The “Little Snout” was designed in 1977 by a Professor Zdzislaw Pozdziak. He had the help and cooperation of a design team led by Professor Jerzy Ginalski of the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts designing the body and veteran engineer Jerzy Winogrodzki for the running gear. According to Pozdziak, the primary aim of the 126P NP project was to give the little 126P front-wheel drive as well as a slightly more powerful engine. Furthermore, it was hoped that with a front-engined version of the 126P, it would make the car easier to modify into various different versions that had been attempted and generally failed, such as a pickup, a kombi (station wagon), and most importantly, a hatchback.
However, it just had too much in common with the ordinary, inexpensive, and indeed reliable 126P that was being produced in massive quantities. The Polish Government ran out of patience: they’d gone severely over-budget when it came to program funding for the 126P NP and wanted a result. As such, the moment they asked the Polish Government for funding to turn the 126P NP into a hatchback, the program was terminated.
The 126P NP “Ryjek” was not an inherently bad car, but it failed to achieve the single most important goal of any 126P-derived prototype in that it could not be turned into a hatchback; or rather, by the time it could be turned into a hatchback, the Polish Government had run out of both money and patience to do so. At least three examples of the well-preserved prototypes still exist in Polish museums, and while at least one is roadworthy, it seems doubtful that it’ll ever take to the streets again.
More details about the design are on the author’s Facebook page.
Polski Fiat 126P NP “Ryjek” Compact Sedan Made in Poland Model by Moye Modele, Poland (figure by Replicars) -Years Built: 1978-1981 -Engine: 26 HP 2-cylinder four-stroke -Fuel Type: Gasoline -Top Speed: 65 mph
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