Junkyard Find: 1973 Fiat 124 Sport Spider

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Where do all these junkyard Fiat 124 Sport Spider s come from? You don’t see them on the street, you don’t see them half-covered by tarps and raccoon nests in driveways, and you don’t even see many of them at Italian car shows. And yet I’ve been seeing these cheaper-than-an-Alfa-Spider Italian sports cars at wrecking yards, at about the same rate, since I started visiting U-Pull-It in Oakland in the early 1980s. Here’s the latest example, a little green devil I spotted at U-Pull-&-Pay Denver last month.

Just in this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’75, this ’78, and this ’80, and we might as well add the 124’s little brother, this ’71 850 Sport Spider.

I’d like to show you photos of the Twin Cam engine that may or may not still live under the hood of this car (who knows, maybe someone with a sense of humor has swapped in a BMC B engine), but the hood release was stuck and I didn’t feel like freezing my fingers futzing with it for more than a few seconds.

The warning lights in these cars are junkyard gold— high-quality chrome and real glass lenses. I’ve used them in such projects as the Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox, the scratchbuilt instrument panel in my ’65 Impala project, and other projects. I didn’t grab these, because I’ve already got a lifetime supply in my parts stash.

What I’ve learned from all these 124 Sport Spiders that I’ve seen about to get crushed over the years is that one of these cars would make an excellent Ill-Advised Engine Swap Project. Hmmmm… it seems there’s a shop building swap bellhousings to bolt the 3-liter V6 out of an Alfa Romeo 164 to a non-transaxle, rear-wheel-drive Alfa transmission. If we listen to the Alfa Mafia, that engine makes 270 horses with mild (i.e., terrifyingly expensive) intake and exhaust modifications. Or, if you want to be boring (and not go broke), there’s always the Miata drivetrain donor.

This ad is for the ’80, but it’s pretty much the same car as today’s find, only with more smog control and uglier bumpers.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

More by Murilee Martin

Join the conversation
2 of 54 comments
  • Snaab9-3 Snaab9-3 on Feb 02, 2013

    Its a shame because at first glance the bodywork looks very tidy, and I really like that green color. If I had the time, money, and an actual garage to work in this would have been a great project. I can see it now...late nights in the garage wrenching on the little Twin Cam, until I get so frustrated I sit on the garage floor chain smoking...dare to dream....

  • Briang1964 Briang1964 on Feb 12, 2013

    So just how do I get the hood, and bumpers off this car and in my California garage.

  • Leonard Ostrander We own a 2017 Buick Envision built in China. It has been very reliable and meets our needs perfectly. Of course Henry Ford was a fervent anti-semite and staunch nazi sympathizer so that rules out Ford products.
  • Ravenuer I would not.
  • V8fairy Absolutely no, for the same reasons I would not have bought a German car in the late 1930's, and I am glad to see a number of other posters here share my moral scruples. Like EBFlex I try to avoid Chinese made goods as much as possible. The quality may also be iffy, but that is not my primary concern
  • Tsarcasm No, Japan only. Life costs by Rank:#1 - House (150k+)#2 - Education (30k+)#3 - Automobile (30k+) why waste hard earned money in inferior crap => Korean, Chinese, and American cars are trash. a toyota or honda will last twice as long.
  • Tassos In the 90s we hired a former PhD student and friend of mine, who 'worked' at GM "Research" labs, to come work for us as a 'temp' lecturer and get paid extra. He had no objection from GM, came during the day (around 2 PM), two hours drive round trip, plus the 1.5 hour lecture, twice weekly. (basically he goofed off two entire afternoons out of the five) He told me they gave him a different model new car every month, everything (even gas) paid. Instead of him paying parking, I told him to give me the cars and I drove them for those 90 mins, did my shopping etc. Almost ALL sucked, except the Eldo coupe with the Northstar. That was a nice engine with plenty of power (by 90s standards). One time they gave him the accursed Caddy Catera, which was as fun driving as having sex with a fish, AND to make it worse, the driver's door handle broke and my friend told me GM had to pay an arm and a leg to fix it, needed to replace almost the whole damned door!