By on October 12, 2011

After seeing the sad little yellow Fiat convertible in a Denver junkyard, let’s admire a happy little yellow Fiat convertible that’s still managing to evade the cruel jaws of The Crusher.
These things didn’t change much during the first few years of production, and I’m not a sufficiently maniacal devoted Fiat aficionado to spot the subtle model-year identifiers on this car, but I’m going to guess it’s a ’70 or ’71 model. I found it parked in front of a Denver church on a Sunday, so it may be one of those much-sought-after “little old lady only drove it to church on Sunday” cars. If so, I’m impressed by the little old lady’s choice of a 40-year-old Fiat over, say, a Buick LeSabre.
This car appears to be a super-original, rust-free example; probably not worth a ton of money (if we are to go by the Hemmings Motor News Classifieds), but a lot rarer nowadays than its British competitor, the MGB. The ’71 124 Sport Spider listed at $3,382 and boasted 90 horsepower, while the ’71 MGB sold for $2,875 and had 92 horsepower. Having driven both types, I’d say both are pretty poky, but the Fiat seems faster.

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28 Comments on “Down On the Mile High Street: Fiat 124 Sport Spider...”


  • avatar
    Morea

    TTAC is showing some serious love for Italian cars lately!

    Remember, “If it’s not Italian it’s just transportation.”

    and the corollary, “If it is Italian it is only sporadically transportation.”

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    …….you’re on a roll, Murilee…..can’t you find an X1/9 to make today a Fiat sports car hat trick?………make it a yellow one and you really are a magician.

  • avatar
    V572625694

    A 1972 Sport Spyder was the first five-speed SOHC DOHC car I ever drove. I remember it fondly; my mother bought it new and drove it (and fixed it and fixed it and fixed it) until the rust worms finally consumed the structure and it became unsafe. Great little car, and as Murilee says, it felt faster than a comparable MG.

  • avatar
    Syke

    That car brings back memories of a certain woman in Erie, PA, about 1972-1973. Screwed my brains out and taught me how to autocross.

  • avatar
    zbnutcase

    Fix It Again Tony!

  • avatar

    excellent find, murilee. it looks identical to my dad’s ’74.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Here in western Pennsylvania, the road salt would have converted that entire car to iron oxide twenty years ago.

    What a great find.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    My older brother bought a new wine-red 124 Spider in 1974. What a sweet little car to drive, but what a pain to own, especially for one who was not mechanically inclined. We shared a rented house for a year and if he needed to go somewhere for a weekend, he would leave me with the Fiat and take my extremely-well-used ’65 Mustang 6 convertible. The ‘Stang was crude, beat-looking, and tired (you’d be tired too if you were driven to southern Mexico and back), but at least it could be counted on to get him to his destination and home again. Not that I complained much – I got to use a pretty red sports car on dates.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    My first bought-by-me car was a 1969 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe, before it got the blunt nose that is so en vogue today. Also before it got the lawn timber bumpers, the air pump and other lousy pollution control and before the suspension was reset to plow like the rest of the farm tractors, ala my 1974 124 Spyder. 1969 – 5 sp MT, DOHC, disc brakes at all corners and pretty neutral handling – a much better car than the 1974 and unprecedented features in a cheap car at the time. Of course, it rusted away. Also, when I did the brake pads, I always replaced the rotors too. They were cheaper than the pads and certainly wore out as fast.
    Anyhoo, Murilee’s real Italian hat trick would be finding a pre-1972 Sport Coupe. If it weren’t rusty, I might buy it. Fat chance.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Having driven one of these from New Jersey to central Colorado in the summer of 1970 and also having driven an MG around the time, I would have to say that the Fiat was the better driver. It was less “darty” than the MG and seemed to have pretty neutral handling. As you would expect, the dual OHC engine developed most of its power in the top end which gave it — to use Nissan’s description of one of the iterations of its 3.5 liter V-6 — a “power swell.” By contrast, the OHV engine of the MGB ran out of breath pretty quickly up the rev range but had more tractor-like grunt in the low end. The Fiat seemed quite comfortable doing 75 on the Interstates to Colorado; my recollection of the MGB I drove is that it didn’t really seem happy being pushed over 70.

    A classmate and I made the drive in a day and a half, and I don’t recall being fatigued driving the Fiat. Relability issues aside, I think it was a better car than either the TR4 or the MGB (not that either of those was a paragon of reliability, either).

    All three seemed crude compared to the Porsche 356 Super 90 that I drove . . . but that’s another story.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I don’t regret my decision to buy a FIAT 124 Sport Spider, but I’m not nostalgic about the front cross member rusting until it relinquished its grip on the lower control arms.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I remember back in the late 70′s early 80′s Fiat actually bought back or recalled front cross member rusting 124′s/Spyders. I had a college professor with one at the time.

      For years I always wanted as a second car for weekends a 124 Spyder, Alfa Spyder or a MG, Triumph. I think to myself which is the most reliable or do I just settle for an early 90′s Miata and spare my knuckles and avoid Lucas the god of darkness?

  • avatar
    bud777

    I believe that this is a 1971. The 1974 had bumps on the hood. I could not see if it was a 1400cc or a 1600cc, but the 1600cc came out in 71. I bought this exact car new in 1971 for $3350. I traded in an XKE and I liked driving this so much more. For one thing, it started in the rain. It was nimble and much more comfortable than an MGB, or even the Jag for that matter. I think I remember about 25mpg, and the top was the best convertible available at the time. You could put it up stopped at a red light. I never felt a lack of power and it cruised comfortably at 75. I sold it at 60, 000 miles to my brother when i moved to Alaska and I still miss it.

    I had a 78 years later that rusted quite a bit, but still an enjoyable car. I would pay in the high teens for a perfect low mileage example even today.

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      ……the sellers are lining up, but hang in there for a perfect 1980(?) with “Iniezone”……then remove the system and install dual Webers……..you’re right, easiest roof ever.

  • avatar
    1977fiat124

    Great car. I have an identical 1977 Fiat 124, pale yellow with 59k original miles! It also happens to be for sale. New tires, top, brakes, many new parts. Runs great! Anybody interested?

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    One little factoid I found on the web is that these spiders were the ONLY iteration of the 124 that had the DOHC motor, the other versions of this model soldiered on with the OHV/pushrod motors.

    These were first introduced in 1966 and finally ceased production in 1985, a long run indeed.

    This one looks to be a very nice example indeed. I have spotted several of these around Seattle this spring/summer and recently saw a nice red one being driven about a month ago.

    I’ve also spotted several of the Alpha Romeo Spiders as well, mostly from the 1980′s and spotted a nice light orange 850 spider that looked to be restored zoom up the street outside work over the summer.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Fiat 124 Coupé and the 1974 FIAT 124 TC Sport Sedan shared variats of the Lampredi DOHC engine. I once used a 1974 124TC sport sedan as a parts car to source a turn signal housing for my Sport Spider, so I know they really did exist.

  • avatar
    akirachan

    Nice. I was about to purchase a 73 back in 2000, but my inner-mechanic told me he was on strike, so I didn’t. But my inner-stoner wishes he did. Now both of them agree on a pre-fiat Lancia Fulvia, but the inner-wallet doesn’t think it can deliver the goods!


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