By on June 10, 2012

In all my years of snouting around in junkyards, one thing has remained constant: a sprinkling of Fiat 124 Sport Spiders. They were fairly common in junkyards in 1983, and they’re just about as common now. Where do these Fiats come from? Will the supply of forgotten project 124 Spiders ever run out? Here’s the lastest example, a fuel-injected ’80 I found in a Denver self-service yard.
Fiat switched from a carburetor to Bosch fuel injection in 1980. The 1995cc Fiat Twin Cam made 86 horsepower in 1980, which beat the hell out of the final-year MGB’s 62.5 horsepower (I can’t resist comparing all Malaise Era cars to the MGB, because of that hilarious half-horsepower).
This one has a not-so-terrible interior, which means it was stored indoors prior to its final tow-truck ride (the Colorado sun can obliterate a convertible’s interior in a single summer).
I’m assuming these garish stripes were added on after the car’s initial purchase, but you never know with Malaise Era machines.

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37 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider...”


  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Your right, that interior DOES look great, slip the console back into place, pick up the misc crap from inside it and it’d look just fine.

    Sadly, the body isn’t so good, that right rear quarter would need to be completely replaced, judging by how it’s been crunched, and both rear wheel wells look like someone scraped them good on something and have begun to rust out as a result.

    Otherwise, the car looks intact and nearly drivable.

    Nice find.

    BTW, saw a dark red 80’s era Alfa Spider yesterday at a strip mall parking lot near where my Mom lives and yes, it looked to be in very, very nice shape. Been seeing a bunch of those and the 124 spiders over the past couple of years out and about, especially since the Fiat 500 began selling.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Mrs. Robinson: Benjamin, I am not trying to seduce you.
    Benjamin: I know that, but please, Mrs. Robinson, this is difficult…
    Mrs. Robinson: Would you like me to seduce you?

  • avatar
    nvdw

    I actually drove one of these US-spec Spiders once (in Europe that is). They are quite nice really, even with all the emissions nonsense and a power sapping three speed auto. Loved the typical Malaise Era additions (80 mph speedo, exhaust warning light).

    I’m guessing this is the Euro Corner, considering this Spider is flanked by a Volvo 940 and a VW Golf?

  • avatar
    77MGB

    I had one of these back in the early 90’s when I was in my mid-20’s. It was a 1978 model which the prior owner had fitted with dual Weber carbs. (a whomping 95hp, maybe?) It had been babied – garage kept and sunny day only condition, and only 35k on the clock when I bought it. At 60k, having never had a single problem with it, I sold it for the same price. I count myself as a particularly fortunate person for getting to enjoy 3 years with the Fiat Spider and somehow escape unscathed. It was, without a doubt, the most fun car I’ve ever owned.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      Fiats of this era were notoriously unreliable, but there were the exceptions that gave years of trouble free service. One of my sisters owned a 1979 X-1/9 purchased in 1985 and kept until around 1995. During this decade of ownership the car rusted badly, but never suffered a mechanical breakdown.

  • avatar
    Garak

    The less environmentally friendly euro-spec 2.0 TC managed over 110 hp, it was a fun engine to put in a Lada. Transformed the sluggish box into a true street sleeper (at least by late 1980s standards…)

  • avatar
    red60r

    The NHTSA bumpers didn’t help Bertone’s styling. As for seeing these cars so often, maybe they keep coming back (re-inCARnation?).

    • 0 avatar
      eunos

      Pininfarina, to be pedantic about it. Bertone designed the X19 if I remember correctly.

      Had a bright orange 74 124 spider in the early 90s. Like 77MGB, I got 3 good summers out of it without any hiccups (well, I did have to add a quart of oil per week because the engine leaked like a sieve, but I just considered it the cost of doing business with an old Italian)

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    I’ve always wanted an alfa or fiat spyder, but my ’95 Miata would get jealous…and I’m sure my Miata kicks those car’s butts in every department, including style.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Was this really related to the Fiat 124 sedan at all? Looks so different. But maybe the unseen bits underneath might be related.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Yes Mrwhopee,

      The big difference was obviously the body but it also was the only version of the 124 to have an OHC motor, the sedans all had the OHV units instead, but yes, very much related.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Dustin Hoffman drove an Alfa in The Graduate.

    I’ve always felt these are one of the most beautiful designs ever made for a sports car….

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    I just saw one of these this past week in its natural habitat…on the back of a wrecker. Go figure.

  • avatar
    onyxtape

    One of my first memories of childhood was standing on the side of the road while my father was pointing the fire extinguisher towards the engine bay of this beauty.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    Red I.A.P. springs are worth taking, if you’re brave enough to try…

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Hard to believe (for me, anyway) that one of these is sitting in the boneyard. But we hardly ever get exotics around here.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    I had the exact same year and color bought new in 1980. A lot of fun to drive as a single guy in Dallas. Then Fiat abandoned North America in 1982 and you couldn’t get parts so I traded in for a Pontiac TransAm. Don’t know which car was worse.

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    Twinkie colored door panel with dirt brown trim, just like our ’83 Toyota truck. I would expect better for a sports car, but hey, it was the early 80’s.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Actually, very fun in the “driving a slow car fast” manner. I thought my Miata drove exactly like my 124’s for what that is worth. Lots of Fiat parts around, mail order admittedly, and presuming you find a rust free one, fairly cheap to restore, and much better built than the equivalent years’ English catastrophes. Other than the usual valve adjustment shim imbroglio, fairly straitfoward to work on. Hints: Weber carb, pull the anti-smog crap (old enough to get away with in most jurisdictions), headers, Abarth exhaust, Koni/Bilsteins, put the top down, your love in the passenger seat and a sunny day in the country is much fun. Still a tinkerer’s vehicle, but you got something else important to do?

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    For years I have thought about buying a roadster for a weekend car. Do I buy British and deal with Lucas, the prince of darkness as well as other assorted maladies? or Italian with it’s ill temper and Fix it again Tony reliability. Maybe one day I will settle and buy a Miata or Solstace/Sky or whatever improved models come from Fiat/Alfa.

    • 0 avatar
      MrWhopee

      That, my friend, is why the Miata is so successful.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        You are correct sir. For the record back in the late 70’s I once did drive a friends Fiat Spyder and found it to be quite fun to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        casabajoe

        the Fiat lasted almost 20 years virtually unchanged..The Miata is a fine car but definately is not as stylish nor as roomy inside and it lacks the Fiats charm.I have owned two Spiders, more fun then anything I’ve ever driven. I can pull up next to a new Miata and people look at the Fiat while not even giving the Miata a glance. Even with its quirks I’ll take the Fiat any day !

  • avatar
    Zackman

    A cohort in the air force had one of those Fiat Spyders, which was a pretty cool car in the early 70’s – electric blue or something similar.

    I can’t imagine driving one of those things now after taking a nice drive yesterday afternoon and evening with wifey in our 2007 MX5.

    Come to think of it, other than driving on occasion my first air force roommate’s 1958 MGA in late ’69 early’70, I don’t believe I drove a foreign car until the mid-70’s, FWIW.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    I had a ’71 124 Coupe. Same car, hard top. I drove it for almost 100,000 miles with no problems. It was a fun car. My wife wrecked her similar vintage Spider in around ’81 or so. Both were, in fact, pretty decent, fairly advanced cars. Dual cams, 4-wheel disk brakes, nice 5-speed. I’m sure a Miata is a better car in every respect, but I still love the old Fiats.

  • avatar
    autojim

    I’m just trying to figure out what the 6-key pad is on the console. Alarm/security system/starter cutout?

    I can’t find any reference online in an admittedly brief search.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    Ah, once again Murilee brings back the memories. I worked in a fabric factory after high school and the boss drove one of these, a ’79 in a shade of green/gray. He called it his Italian mistress.

    Since I was young and impressionable, he liked corrupting me. On payday, we’d go on Thursday nights to the racetrack, out drinking and all kinds of mischief with the top down a lot.

    That winter was bitter cold and the thing broke down constantly, so the boss replaced it with an ’81 Datsun 289ZX. While it had a lot less character — no convertible, no wood dashboard — it performed better and was much easier to live with.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    very, very nice sports compared to what was available at the time!Good build quality,very nice compliant suspension and a nice sound from the twin cam.

  • avatar
    and003

    Murilee, if you should happen to come across this message, I have a question: do the salvage yards where you find these cars let people buy the whole car instead of just parts?


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