Vintage Road & Track Road Test: The New Fiat 124 Sport Coupe and Spider – “Outstanding”

The arrival in the US of the new Fiat 124 Spider and Sport Coupe in the fall of 1968 was a major event. The Spider in particularly was a major blow to the increasingly obsolete British roadsters, with its lively DOHC four and a top that was a revelation.

R&T did an analysis of both models as well as a road test.

It took almost two years for these models to be US certified. The firs impression was “refined”, but the 1.4 L engine’s torque was was found lacking. This engine was just too small for American taste, and of course would be replaced in due course with a 1.6 and then a 1.8 L version. Much better…

Nevertheless, it was still faster in acceleration than the 1.8 L MGB. And it sounded much more refined.

The Spider’s 5-speed transmission was better suited than the coupe’s standard 4-speed, which left it rather buzzy at highway speeds (4400 rpm at 68 mph).

The modern chassis allows for both a refined ride, even over bad roads, thanks in part to their very rigid bodies. These are both traits that Italian car makers espoused, and contributed to their positive reputation in this regard. And of course the handling was “outstanding” too.

The four wheel disc brakes were excellent, and the passenger compartment came in for lots of praise too.

Who would have imagined back then that the 124 Spider would become such an evergreen?