A short time back, while this olelongrooffan was out and about, I passed by my buddy the Alfa guy’s shop and outside I spotted this pair of Fiat 124 Sport Spiders. As this is a rather rare sighting these days, I stopped and gathered this image of them. And know this CurbDwellers, behind those overhead doors in the background lay a bunch of cool vintage Alfas.
Plus a totally restored Fiat 500.
Yeah, a real one from back in the day.
So I captured that imageof those 124s, I ran a few errands and driving down a side street here in the home of The World’s Most Famous Beach,
spotted one of them parked in the lot of a repair facility as the Alfa guy only works on his cars.
Well if you know this olelongrooffan like I think you are beginning to, you know I had to stop and get some images of this relatively rare Pininfarina designed and manufactured Fiat sports car.
Pininfarina built almost 200,000 of these monocoque-bodied convertibles between 1966 and 1985. The last three model years, it was sold as a Pininfarina Spider Azzura. Over 75% of the production of this ragtop came to the United States as after the 1975 model year redesign to meet US regulations, it was not again offered in Europe.
The interior of the convertible sported the first use of intermittent wipers by Fiat and well as column mounted light controls.
The deep maroon paint on this example was in excellent condition and looked to be about a mile deep. I remember at the time thinking how gorgeous it was, gorgeous enough for this forgetful olelongrooffan to remember it. And where else but Daytona Beach, Florida are you going to find a Harley Davidson sticker affixed to not just the interior but the rear bumper of a classic sports car?
This Spider was one of the first vehicles with an engine utilizing rubber timing belts in the double overhead cam 1,438 cc, later to increase, incrementally, to 2,000 cc by the end of its nineteen year production run.
This convertible is bearing the standard steel wheels and the location of that filler door reminds me its placement on a Jaguar XJ6.
The existence of these 5 mph bumpers identify this one as post 1974 offering. I’m not sure it there was ever a horizontal panel between the bumper and body but, if there was, it is gone but not forgotten.
And this hook located on the rear cowl just behind the in questionable condition rag top? I have no idea what that is for but it was yesterday’s CC Clue.
As the title implies, a Fiat Sport Spider was my Dad’s last toy car. He always had something unique around. A 63 Corvair convertible, 72 Citroen DS21, 31 Ford Model A, 51 Ford Pickup. Yeah, always something.
Dad bought this bright red machine long after I had moved to Florida and this is one of the few times I got to see it. Incidentally, this is the last photograph taken of Dad and me.
As with all of his toy cars, whenever something needed repairing, he repaired it. And Fix It Again Tom, Tom being my closest proximately brother, was heard a lot while he owned it.
At the party Celebrating Dad’s Life after his memorial service back in 2003, my younger sisters and I were having a conversation about Dad and this car. My baby sister, Joan, was reminiscing about the times she used to drive this car. She remembered that whenever Dad used to be a passenger while she was driving, he always used to tell her to slow down, even though she is a pretty good driver. Joan then went on to say that whenever she was a passenger while he was driving, “John, he would rod the sh*t out of that car.” My other younger sister piped in about that time and mentioned, “Dad always drove like Mario Andretti in that thing!”
I realized at that moment that Dad’s desire for many things automotive didn’t just affect his boys. The girls got it also.
And the really cool part is that when Dad passed, Tom ebayed this Spider and the buyer, based out of Washington State, flew to the Missouri Ozarks and drove it home. An action very similar to this olelongrooffan and my olestationbus, albeit mine was from San Antonio to Daytona Beach!
Those 124s were (and are) beautiful cars, sleek and simple. But they weren’t the only Fiat convertibles to grace our shores. Keep an eye out for the 850 Spyders, those pocket-sized, rear-engined open cars that competed in the junior leagues with Sprites and Midgets from Old Blighty. Then there’s the rarest of ’em all, the Fiat 1500 Cabriolet. It didn’t have so much style, looking like a sedan with the roof whacked off. It wasn’t very fast, either. But it had a five-speed, a rarity in the early ’70s, and a folding top that worked like a charm. It was a one-handed, five-second task to raise the top and lock it down.
I could have done worse, much worse, for my first car. Too bad they’re all gone to rust by now.
Back to the 124— I’d wager that the little chrome hook on the trunk was meant to secure a tonneau cover, no?
Yes, you’re right. The chrome hook secures a tonneau cover.
These cars look sooo much better with the European bumpers.
The factory used the 124 Spider to contest World Championship Rallies for a few years.
the picture is my dad’s ’74 which he bought new. he also had the spider 2000 with fuel injection which he bought new in ’79. the ’74 is the car that got me interested in cars. it had an aluminum engine, 5 speed short throw gearbox, 4 wheel independent suspension and 4 wheel disk brakes at a time when sports cars had solid rear axles and 4 on the floor. ours had the the real wooden steering wheel in addition to the real wooden dash. the wipers had variable speed control on a rheostat like a dimmer switch. if it wasn’t raining, i pretty much always kept the top down. we kept wool blankets for our laps in the trunk. the trunk was so small that my mom had to lay the grocery bags on their side.
when i was about 20 and driving the ’79, some fool in a z28 pulled up to me at the light and started revving his engine. i took off into the residential neighborhood that i knew better than he did and led him towards the nearby school (it was after hours). he was quickly gaining on me in the straightaway. just before the speed bump i down shifted and went over it at about 25mph. he probably hit it at about 60. i heard the camaro bottom out hard and my passenger just couldn’t stop laughing. finally he caught his breath and just said “sparks… sparks everywhere.”
btw, the hook is to hold the cover that goes over the folded top. there were no horizontal plastic pieces on the 5 mph bumpers.
I hate to tell you, but all Fiat 124 Spiders had well designed solid rear axles. No IRS, at least on the street cars. (I don’t know about the special Abarth Rally cars in Europe.) It would have been too expensive (and heavy) to do IRS. The solid axle drove fine, IMHO.
The wooden steering wheel and dash were standard at that point, too. Also, the engine block was cast iron and the head was aluminum. I know because mine dropped two valve guides (which were steel, not bronze like they should have been) and we had to pull the head and replace all of the valve guides, as well as the exhaust cam, which went flat.
I owned a later ’73 1592 (early were 1608) dk. blue/tan and my father had a ’74 1756 white/red. I wish I still had either of them, esp. my car. With aluminum Chromodora mag wheels, headers and a Weber 40 DFI carb. (with a ’74 intake manifold), it was FAST!
I have always felt that these were one of the most beautifully designed roadsters bar none. Except may the TR3.
Your DAD had great taste in toys
In a small but strange case of the kind of synchromesh-ity that we all can enjoy, I spotted this in a driveway today. Yes, that’s a For Sale by Owner sign…
My first great “Car Mistake” was buying one of these in 1980. While a joy to drive (when it ran that is) it was a real maintenance nightmare. About six months after I bought it, Fiat pulled out of the US market so getting parts was a PITA. I once waited months to get a air meter for the fuel injection and finally had to get one from a junkyard.
Like they said about the XKE, it was a great “Crumpet Collector” and that was greatly appreciated by me as a single man in the early 80s.
BTW-the chrome hook was for the cover that went over the folded top as mentioned by an earlier poster. One thing I do recall and loved was the simplicity of the manual top. If it started to rain, just reach back and flip it closed at the stoplight, unless you had the cover on of course.
Fiat, you know, is an acronym. F.I.A.T. “Fix it again, Tony!”
Never had one, or sat in one. Only saw one or two. The odd question of its heritage, once Bricklin removed the Fiat nameplate and became the sole importer, kept most buyers far away.
But I do remember the one that got away.
My old man’s work took him to Saudi Arabia for a year in the 1970s. Just him; it wasn’t permanent and there was no desire for the rest of us to follow him there. But while he was there, he had a Company Car…a Fiat 128.
That was his first exposure to Fiats and to front-wheel-drive.
He was shopping for a replacement for his Wagoneer…he’d worn it out with 120,000 miles (remember when that was remarkable?) and didn’t need the four-wheel-drive or load capacity anymore. So, once back in the States, he beat feet to the Fiat store. Took me along.
Almost bought. I don’t know why he opted not to…the few Fiat dealers, and what they looked like, was surely a part of it. He’d gotten caught with the merger of Kaiser Jeep into American Motors…the Jeep dealers mostly closed, and the AMC dealers didn’t know or care about that strange truck-car with its Buick motor.
So he didn’t buy. Later, as the 128 and later Brava started to sell, the horror stories started coming. The rust. The reliability. The lack of knowledge of how to fix what went wrong, all too often.
He waited. He marked time with a Maverick; and then when ChryCo came out with their Rabbit clones, he bought.
And was well-satisfied with the two he had – one after another.
I wish Fiat well. I do believe they’ve finally got the quality issue under control; but old Fiats are like nightmares of the past…best forgotten.
For somebody who never owned a Fiat of any kind, you sure seem to be an expert on them – NOT! Yes, they had some problems, but were no worse than other cars of the time. You did have to have a mechanic that knew how to work on them, which I did, thankfully, and the dealers, who usually handled Fiats as a second or even third line, just didn’t care. You also couldn’t treat them like an American car, as they needed more maintenance, that’s for sure. Also, I didn’t live in the rust belt, but most cars in that area and time rusted, not just Fiats. Even Toyotas and Datsuns rusted back then. Rust proofing just wasn’t very good on any car.
Remember the Chevy Vega with the aluminum engines with no liners? How about the Ford Pinto that burned you to death if you were rear-ended?
I wish I still had my ’73 124 Spider. Lots of good times, even with a few minor repairs, and I had my dealer put a/c in mine (bought new in northTexas). I drove it for six years and then sold it to a friend who drove it to college in Austin for another four years. How many cars built back then lasted 10 years? ‘Nuff said!
So the next time you want to comment on a car, at least own one first. People don’t need to hear your “opinion” about a car you never owned. Let a “real” owner tell us about their experiences, please.
Old Fiats do have the best rag tops. My 1500 Cabriolet wasn’t such a fast car, or even a great handler, but few other cars could beat its Zero-to-Weathertight times. Like you say, you just reached back with your left arm and grabbed the top, pulled it overhead and closed the twin latches that sealed it to the windshield. I don’t recall any leaks, either. With other contemporary cabriolets, it was more like erecting a tent.
I haven’t been the same since, two days ago, I read this article and promptly discovered that 850 Spider for sale. It’s not a car I have any good use for. I don’t have any extra money, and I have a teenager about to learn to drive. I don’t even have a garage to hide it in when it breaks. Still, I’ve got the fever back. It really doesn’t help that I have a Fiat specialist garage just a few miles down the street. (Hey- that’s a place to drive it to, and from, repeatedly!) I think I’ll buy some old road tests and print ads, and maybe a scale model and see if it passes.
Another Funny Fiat Fact. I looked under “Fiat 1500” at eBay and found a scattering of parts, including a spare radiator. The same radiator was also listed as a replacement for Ford tractors!
Another Fiat (124 et al) fact is that the 1800cc engine from 1974 is also the version that held the most HP. Even the 2000cc FI with Turbo didn’t have the HP of the old 1800cc engine.
I’ve had the 1800 in both a 124 Spider and a 131 4 Door Sedan and can tell you that this little 1800cc sucker was a beast! While it was in my 131 I was putting Rice Rockets to shame on the back roads. At one point I had that 131 doing 120 in the Rocky Mountains while racing a Ford Bronco… I did not have the pedal to the floor yet and was simply limited to my fear of how much more speed the handling could take on this larger and boxier than the 124, sedan could take.
I’m planning on getting a newer 124 just for the nicer tail lights and bumpers and dropping my current 1800 into it. Drop the 2000 into the 74 body and sell that off.
The 124 Spider is one very very fun car for sure, but as with any Fiat, it requires constant attention to keep it running at peak performance. Neglect a Fiat and it will die very soon.
And yeah, as everyone else notes, the clips were for the cover, which probably 90% of 124 owners tossed into a closet somewhere never to be seen again.
If you’re looking for a fun car to drive and don’t have an issue with routine maintenance on a car, then definitely grab one of the following Fiat cars:
850 (not a speed demon, but fun cars for sure)
124 (Spider or Coupe)
128 (any variant)
X1/9 (preferably 1979 and later. 79 was the year they finally dropped a 1500cc engine in and a 5 speed tranny as opposed to the previous 1300cc w/4 speed tranny that had a tendency to trash it’s reverse gear. Also, the car was too heavy for the 1300 which did not lend to it’s sports car style and ability. This is also likely the best handling Fiat ever due to it’s mid-engine positioning, unless you’re driving like a maniac in a 74 with completely bald tires in a fresh rain……. Uh, yeah, don’t do that! I did and uh, yeah, let’s just say mistakes were made and that’s all I’m gonna say 😛 …)
I am a little upset that your dad was being selfish with the full potential of his 124 which it seems he reserved only for himself when he drove it. Though he was a nice guy since he let you kids drive it.. I don’t let anyone drive my 124 at all!
Hello there, do you have any idea where I can get a 1800cc Fiat motor? I have a 1974 Fiat 128 that I would love to put it in. I actually live in the USA, so even if I have to ship from overseas that would probably be fine also.
Thanks for you time
We purchased a brand new Fiat 124 Spider from a Everett WA. Fiat dealer. It was maroon with tan interior. We owned the car 11 years, and my wife drove it every day to work,except for snow! When the drivers seat needed replacing, a local upholstery shop, had a new roll of tan leather from a AMC car, which matched the passenger side perfectly! We had one repaint using Deltron urathane aircraft paint. Towards the 10th year we started having electrical problems. My wife is still upset with me for selling the 124 even though she has and is driving a Honda S2000. You are correct the chrome clip behind the top on the trunk deck is for the tonneau cover hold down. I find it interesting that the todays values of “good” 124’s is so cheep compared to MGB’s of the same condition! That was a great story about your dad.
I bought a used 74 spider and drove it for about 10 years until a failed ball joint caused a front wheel to fold under the car on an expressway. It was rusty but I was trying to make it last until my new Honda arrived. The best thing about the 124 was the beautiful design. Just plain elegant. It was remarkably reliable too. It always started in cold weather, once when there was a record -25F morning. Great little engine which, with the rubber timing belt, was extremely quiet running. Worse thing was that rubber donut universal joint which added some elasticity to the drive train. A minor problem was the fact that no two repair manuals seemed to agree on the wiring or with the car. I have a TR4 now and would really like to have that DOHC under the hood.
The Fiat 124 Spyder is the only car I’ve ever bought twice — despite the fact that it’s a car most people would tell you not to buy even once.
At around age 20 I picked up a cosmetically rough (somebody’s spray-bomb paintjob in Rattle-Can Red) but mechanically solid (well, by Fiat standards) 1600cc from 1972 for something like $1100. Drove it for the summer, sold it for a small profit… and then began regretting it (as did my girlfriend, who had loved it maybe even more than I did, and who’d thought her boyfriend had the best car ever). My first foreign car, my first stick-shift (five fwd speeds when my friends’ Detroit muscle cars were still only three!). Don’t really recall my reasons for selling — it wasn’t due to reliability issues — except that winter was coming and the car mags were convincing me that an early Datsun 240Z (which was my next purchase) was an all-round better contraption than anything coming out of Turin (true, but not necessarily the point, especially when you’re only 20).
A few years later I took the plunge again, this time spending considerably more (~$5500) on a cherry ’79 Spyder 2000. This car nicknamed Boris the Spyder (in tribute to The Who) I kept for a decade as my daily driver (yes really) before I finally totaled it by rear-ending a NYC taxi in the rain after my brakes locked up. Yes, I was driving too fast; yes I was foolishly expecting a wet-asphalt stopping-distance that the car was not capable of. Under hard braking, the nose of my deeply nosediving Fiat smashed UNDER the rear bumper of the Caprice at the red light. The cars’ bumpers never touched at all — the taxi wasn’t even scratched! — but the impact to my car smashed the radiator into the block and buckled all sheetmetal ahead of the windshield. It was a sad day when my mechanic told me it wasn’t worth fixing, but replacing that amusing little death-trap with a boring but fantastically reliable ’84 Cressida could theoretically have saved my life. Fiat brakes may have been four-wheel disks, but that doesn’t mean they were ABS… or even good… or even adequate.
Another point about Spyders that no-one’s mentioned yet is the different hoods on the three gen’s. The 1600s had flat hoods; the 1800s sprouted two small breast-shaped lumps; which grew to larger, undeniably boob-shaped bulges (ahh, those lusty Italians!) on the 2000s. So I owned the flat-chested 1600 and the D-cup 2000, but never the B-cup 1800 (which, as another poster noted, made the most hp of all).
This article made me misty. My father’s last toy was a 1974 candy apple red (formerly hunter green) Fiat spider that has been in my possession since he passed away in 2001. I purchased it from my mom in TN and proudly trailered it back to AL even though it was running, but as a struggling bachelor she paid for the repairs it needed, in essence giving me the sweet ride. My dad was 6’6″ (black) in TN so you can imagine the attention he got unfolding himself out of the small sardine can. He loved it (drove it in parades) and because my mom always wanted it at least in theory, she liked the idea of having it but since she couldn’t drive a stick, she never drove it. The car was bought in Italy when my uncle (mother’s brother) was in the military and my mother (the baby of 10) always asked him to sell it but he would not UNTIL… my father started restoring a ’63 Thunderbird. My uncle had to have this marvel with strange opening doors and turn signals that blinked in 3 stages. The trade happened!
Fast forward…as a tv news reporter at 6’4″ when I drove it I turned heads too. In 2004 I lost my left leg to a motorcycle accident by hit and run. I could no longer drive a stick but kept the car running. I am married now and have a son and daughter (ages 1 & 3) and thought maybe I could keep it for them but unfortunately I think I’m going to have to sell it. Breaks my heart. Needs interior work but runs like a sewing machine. I feel so torn about selling but it is time. Wchriso@AOL.com best offer accepted. I’m in Bham’ AL.
The hooks you’re showing are for the cover or boot when the top is down to cover it.
I have owned 5 Fiat Spiders throughout the years. Love the design, the Italian lines and the simplicity of the car. I currently own two, a 74 and a 79. Living in Florida I am contemplating aftermarket. A/C but don’t know if the engine can handle the drag.
Just recently purchased the 74. Love the bumpers. Pre 5-mph crash mandates.
Looks great with those wheels. Don’t saddle the poor thing with A/C…just drive it when the weather’s mild. You do have other, newer cars with good A/C I’ll wager…