Like many people, I always had dreamt of which would be the first car I would buy. Of course, when I was a child and I had no idea how expensive was everything, my firsts dream cars were a Ferrari or a Porsche… but after working and seeing my bank account balance, that dream might be accomplished not sooner than a few years from now…
Back in Mexico, when I was with my dad driving from home to my school and we saw a classic car, my dad always told me how cool those old cars were, and how some of those cars might be even more expensive than brand new ones. The efforts of people taking care of their ‘metallic babies’ is highly appreciated among car fans.
I’ve never been a car fan myself, but if I see a Ferrari or Lamborghini parking somewhere in the street, of course, I like to approach and take a look at the inside of the car. But apart from that, I have no idea which cars to recommend if someone asks me.
I haven’t bought my first car yet (it’s in my future plans though) but I already have in mind which car I want, and I came up with this decision right after I moved to Poland.
My First Encounter with a Maluch
I’m not proud of this, but before moving to Poland I knew only a few things about this country. I’ve never dreamed as a child or teenager to move to this country, not in my wildest dreams. But you know, I fell in love with a Polish girl and here I am… seven years living in Poland and counting.
During my first days in Poland, I was desperately looking for a job, I sent hundreds of applications on internet, and as I didn’t get any results, my dad told me: “Why don’t you go directly to the companies and deliver your CV in person?” I was like “Dad that’s not how the world works now…”, but after not receiving any calls from companies I decided to do that.
I was walking around the Warsaw Central Station and there were many recruitment agencies there, I went inside and asked the receptionist if I could leave my CV there, they never said no which was great for me!
After leaving one of the agencies, I saw a small car parked in the street, it was blue, old but in perfect condition, I looked inside and it definitely looked as if it was from a different century. For me it was like love at first sight, I went to the back of the car to see which model it was and it said Fiat 126p, I took a pic to show to my Polish girlfriend.
I arrived home and I showed the photo of the car to her and said: “This will be my first car!” She saw it and told me: “Oh you like Maluch, my dad had one when I was a child”. At first, the name Maluch didn’t make sense as it said Fiat 126p in the car, but then she explained to me that in Poland people call these cars ‘Maluch‘.
On that day, I finally had found the car of my dreams, and more importantly at a more affordable price to my budget: The Polish Maluch the most famous Polish car
What is a Maluch?
The Polish Maluch is a really small car with a capacity of four passengers. The literal translation of Maluch is the Little One or Toddler. The Maluch or Fiat 126p was first introduced by the Italian brand Fiat back in 1972.
The length of a Maluch is 3 meters, a height of only 1.3 meters, and a width of only 1.37 meters! Some modern home fridges are way bigger than this car.
But this small car, gained the hearth of all Poles of past and current generations.
What Is the History of This Polish Car?
The Maluch was created to replace the Fiat 500, which was also a really small car, and an Italian classic. The Polish Maluch was announced in Warsaw in November 1972.
The designer of this iconic car was Sergio Sartorelli, an Italian designer, and engineer.
The Polish government signed an agreement with the Italian company Fiat in order to produce the first national and affordable car in Poland.
Back then the official name of the Maluch was Fiat 126, as it was first produced in Italy. But, from 1973, the Maluch production started in Poland in the city of Bielsko-Biała which is located in the South of the country.
Two years later, in the city of Tychy in Poland the production of Maluch expanded. After this, the Fiat 126 added a character to its name – the letter P – referring to ‘Polski‘. That’s why it’s known as the Polish Maluch or Polish Fiat 126p.
The Maluch production took place from 1973 to 2000, and there were manufactured more than 3 million Maluch at the Bielsko-Biała and Tychy plants.
Poles really never called this car by its original name, they came up with the nickname Maluch which means the small one, toddler, or small child. For many years people continued calling this car as Maluch, and the manufacturer decided to change its name in 1997 to this nickname.
Why is Maluch so Famous?
If you ask a Pole to think about famous things about Poland probably pierogi or Polish wódka will always be an answer. But many other people will also say ‘Maluch‘ as well. The Maluch has been an iconic car and its definitely part of Polish culture worldwide.
The original price of a Polish Maluch in 1973 was 69,000 PLN, which did not seem affordable at all considering that the average salary back then was 3,450 PLN, meaning that an ordinary Pole had to save 20 months of his salary to buy a Maluch.
Limited car supplies, low salaries, and high product prices made almost impossible to even dream of having a brand new car.
When Poland was under the communist regime, if someone wanted to buy a car, they needed first to have the money, then to have connections inside the government or get through a lot of bureaucracy to buy a new one. On the other side, Poles could go to the “free market” to get a new one immediately, but the price could reach 120,000 PLN!
Having a car in Poland during communism was really considered a luxury! But the Maluch was the cheapest car to buy in the whole Europe.
The Maluch gained a lot of popularity in Poland, in part thanks to that it was the only available and affordable choice for regular families, and thanks to this it would become the most popular car in Poland for decades!
Comfort? – No, thank you!
To be honest, the Maluch is not really comfortable, especially for long trips. This car never gained a lot of popularity in Western countries, mainly because it had continuous mechanical failures and a lack of comfort on the inside.
The car is super small, meaning that four people inside would look like a can of sardines. If someone tall decides to drive this, he will have a problem for sure!
With every new version, there were intentions of improving the inside of the car. There was even a sports version that could reach up to 170km per hour!
However, Maluch wasn’t, isn’t and won’t be the first option for someone that is looking for comfort in a car.
My First Time Driving a Maluch
As I said, when I moved to Poland and I saw a Maluch for the first time, I fell in love with it. I’d always wanted to drive one and this opportunity came to me in 2019.
I got married to my Polish girlfriend in 2019, during the wedding preparations, I told to Karolina: “The car I want for our wedding is a Maluch and this is not negotiable”. Karolina liked the idea, and to be honest I never saw a wedding with those cars.
For our wedding, we had 3 cars in colors green, white and red, representing the colors of the Mexican flag, and of course the Polish one. It was a nice way to show the mix of both cultures at our wedding.
We rented these cars for the ceremony, but its owner had to give me a quick theoretical course of the Maluch.
I was there, I turned on the engine and finally my dream came true! I finally accomplished my dream of driving a Maluch! It was a really fun experience, but it was difficult to drive it properly. You certainly need a few hours driving it to get used to it.
Are Maluch Expensive Nowadays?
The answer to this question might be yes or no. On some Polish websites you can see people selling their Maluch for just 500 PLN (110 euros), but if you want a Maluch at perfect conditions prices can go up to 30,000 PLN (6,600 Euros).
From what I’ve been researching online, people prefer not to drive a Maluch on long trips, unless it’s in perfect condition. The problem is that, as the production of the Maluch ended 20 years ago, getting used or new parts might be a huge challenge! If you need to do some serious repairs you might spend 3 times the value of the Maluch.
I told several times to my wife that I want to buy a Maluch, I mean I think I’m able to afford one, but the problem that she is repeating over and over again is: “Do you have any idea of how to fix a Maluch? Do you know where to get used parts? You are going to spend hundred of zlotych fixing the car…”. When she tells me this I get angry, but in part she is right as I have no idea of mechanics or anything like that (I will learn for sure).
But one thing is for sure: The first car I will buy for me will be a Maluch!
Maluch in Modern Times
If you are visiting Poland, it’s really possible that you will see a Maluch parked in the streets, but it’s not that common anymore. Maluch owners are normally car enthusiasts or car collectors.
Maluch Festivals, Museums, Tours in Maluch and more!
However, there are thousands of people in Poland who have a Maluch and that they want to show it to the world. During the year, there are many Maluch festivals around Poland.
Maluch’s owners and fans gather together to see hundreds of these cars in different colors, some of them have incredible modifications that make them more unique!
I had the chance to go to one Maluch gathering by mistake, I was walking around the Palace of Culture in Warsaw and suddenly dozens of Maluch started to arrive… Best Day Ever!
In Bielsko-Biała, there was inaugurated the first Maluch museum in the world! It was inaugurated in 2013 by Antoni Przechodzień. Also, in Warsaw, at the Polish Fiat Automotive Museum in Bemowo (ul. Powstańców Śląskich 127) you can visit some Maluch exhibitions.
Maluch popularity doesn’t seem to stop, a few years ago the American actor Tom Hanks posted a picture of a Maluch in his Twitter account saying that he “bought” a new car, but this car was not his, he just posted a random picture on his account because he liked the small car.
After this, Tom Hanks received a Maluch as a present from the residents of Bielsko-Biała. One fan of the city organized a collection for the Maluch and proposed that the collected money, which will remain after buying the car, credited the account of the Bielsko pediatric hospital. This collection went viral and many sponsors appeared which allowed collecting more money to the hospital. Tom Hanks also supported the amazing fundraiser.
And probably one of the coolest things that I’ve seen in Warsaw! There is something called: Warsaw Self-Drive Tour. Basically they rent you a Maluch in perfect conditions and you can drive around the city in the coolest car ever! According to their website, you can rent a Maluch for just 39 Euros per person for two and a half hours! How cool is that?
And that’s the story of the most famous and iconic Polish car! I hope you enjoyed it and if you have a chance to visit Poland make sure to find a Maluch and take a picture with the coolest car in the world!
Did you like the article? Do you like the Maluch? Which is your favorite car? Share your comments below!
I think I’m close to the record – I had eight Maluch. I bought the first one in 1974, the last one in 2000. In total I covered almost one million kilometers (625,000 miles) with them. And I’m still alive! :)
We are looking forward to the electric version :) 126p have their undeniable soul …