Junkyard Find: 1971 Fiat 850 Sport Spider

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1971 fiat 850 sport spider

Imagine, this tiny Italian sports car hanging on long enough to evade the junkyard until the second decade of the 21st century! We have no way of knowing how many of its 40 years were spent as a “get to it someday” project car, under a tarp in a side yard, but it doesn’t have the weeds-and-mouse-poop look of a car that spent many years outdoors. I found this little jewel in the same Denver self-serve yard that gave us this ’79 Alfa Romeo Sport Sedan.

The Spring ’74 Fresno State parking sticker indicates that this car spent at least some of its early years in California.

This rear-quarter metal repair uses an innovative-yet-puzzling technique.

In ’71, car shoppers could pick up an 850 Sport Spider, complete with 58-horsepower engine, for $2,294. 58 horsepower doesn’t sound like much, but keep in mind that this thing only weighed 1,590 pounds. Compare that to the ’71 VW Karmann Ghia convertible, which weighed 300 pounds more yet packed only two additional horsepower (not to mention the price tag of $2,750). Keeping in mind the VW’s far superior reliability, perhaps a better comparison would be with the ’71 Triumph Spitfire, which dragged its 1,620 pounds about with a miserable 48 horses and cost $2,649. The 850 looks like a pretty good deal.

Look, it even has a Bertone body. Why, you’d have been crazy to take the Spitfire over the 850!

Join the conversation
2 of 23 comments
  • RandallJ RandallJ on Jul 03, 2012

    Oh boy, one of the first of my many cars I had.. Pueblo CO in 1975 for this one... (ended up smashed under the rear tandems of a fuel tanker truck when my brother borrowed the damn thing).. These things were a blast to drive.. We set up a little street track out in Pubelo West and ran the wheels off this thing.. Would love to find another..

  • Bellerophon Bellerophon on Mar 31, 2014

    I remember these cars having a centrifugal "oil filter" which was built in to the crank pulley. You separated the pulley and all the non oil matter was packed to the outside of the pulley into a sought of grey thick paste. Neat little car though, wish I had one now. Probably gets great mileage!

  • Lou_BC "Owners of affected Wrangles" Does a missing "r" cancel an extra stud?
  • Slavuta One can put a secret breaker that will disable the starter or spark plug supply. Even disabling headlights or all lights will bring more trouble to thieves than they wish for. With no brake lights, someone will hit from behind, they will leave fingerprints inside. Or if they steal at night, they will have to drive with no lights. Any of these things definitely will bring attention.I remember people removing rotor from under distributor cup.
  • Slavuta Government Motors + Government big tech + government + Federal police = fascist surveillance state. USSR surveillance pales...
  • Johnster Another quibble, this time about the contextualization of the Thunderbird and Cougar, and their relationship to the prestigious Continental Mark. (I know. It's confusing.) The Thunderbird/Mark IV platform introduced for the 1971 model year was apparently derived from the mid-sized Torino/Montego platform (also introduced for the 1971 model year), but should probably be considered different from it.As we all know, the Cougar shared its platform with the Ford Mustang up through the 1973 model year, moving to the mid-sized Torino/Montego platform for the 1974 model year. This platform was also shared with the failed Ford Gran Torino Elite, (introduced in February of 1974, the "Gran Torino" part of the name was dropped for the 1975 and 1976 model years).The Thunderbird/Mark series duo's separation occurred with the 1977 model year when the Thunderbird was downsized to share a platform with the LTD II/Cougar. The 1977 model year saw Mercury drop the "Montego" name and adopt the "Cougar" name for all of their mid-sized cars, including plain 2-doors, 4-doors and and 4-door station wagons. Meanwhile, the Cougar PLC was sold as the "Cougar XR-7." The Cougar wagon was dropped for the 1978 model year (arguably replaced by the new Zephyr wagon) while the (plain) 2-door and 4-door models remained in production for the 1978 and 1979 model years. It was a major prestige blow for the Thunderbird. Underneath, the Thunderbird and Cougar XR-7 for 1977 were warmed-over versions of the failed Ford Elite (1974-1976), while the Mark V was a warmed-over version of the previous Mark IV.
  • Stuart de Baker This is depressing, and I don't own one of these.