Junkyard Find: 1976 Fiat 124 Sport Spider

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1976 fiat 124 sport spider

So many Fiat 124 Sport Spiders get junked, and the process has been going on for my entire junkyard-prowling career. In the three years of this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’78, and this ’80, and we might as well add the 124’s little brother, this ’71 850 Sport Spider. I don’t even photograph every 124 Sport Spider I see, because they’re almost as common in wrecking yards as ’85 Camrys. Today’s ’76, however, holds the Junkyard Find record for Scariest California Beach Neighborhood Rust.

Cars that live within a block or two of the Pacific Ocean in Northern California (I found this car in one of my favorite East Bay yards during a recent drive around California in a new Mirage) often rust in a weird top-down pattern. For example, the truly frightening ’84 Toyota Van we saw last October. California cars with bad weatherstripping often rust inside the trunk, as water leaks in and sits for months during the long, rainy winters. This Fiat managed to rot from both types of California rust.

How does this even happen?

This car comes from the era of separate emissions requirements for new cars sold in California.

I have quite a collection of these SLOW DOWN lights, which were used to warn of an overheating catalytic converter (presumably the CATALYST indicator light warned of some other cat problem). Ferrari 328s had them, too.

Definitely not worth restoring, but maybe someone will grab the Twin Cam engine for a nicer Fiat.

Given how cheap these cars are, we see surprisingly few 124 Sport Spiders in the 24 Hours of LeMons. I can think of a couple of Twin Cam-powered examples, and then there’s the Volkswagen TDI-powered Smokey Unit Fiat. This car is pretty quick, but its real advantage in endurance racing is its tremendous range on a tank of diesel.

The last owner of this Fiat was against Proposition 86.

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2 of 20 comments
  • Allan850glt Allan850glt on Mar 02, 2014

    That thing is scary rusty! Hell, I live in Buffalo and even with our long winters and heavy use of salt, never have I seen something so rusted away in my 35 years. Even having lived deep out in the sticks (Orleans County) for a few years during my adolescence, not even old relics left out in fields or friend's awful field cars, nothing looked like this. Some lazy owner obviously never bothered to wash or wax this little thing. I need a tetanus shot just looking at it.

  • Dannew02 Dannew02 on Mar 11, 2014

    Actually that's what most cars end up looking like where I live (Wisconsin) I've personally owned and daily-drove cars this rusty. WHen the stolen STOP sign used to cover the hole in the floor falls onto the street because there's more hole than floor, it's time to look for a bigger sign... GOing thru puddles and the splash gets the headliner wet (and the under dash wiring, so you have to wait for it to dry out to resume your trip) was always fun, too. American cars seemed to rust just slightly slower than imported cars, or maybe there was just more mass to dissolve. This is why I've never been in an air-cooled VW, or the Datsun 510s I keep reading about online, because every one of them sent to my part of the midwest dissolved before they were 10 years old.

  • SilverCoupe I am one of those people whose Venn diagram of interests would include Audis and Formula One.I am not so much into Forums, though. I spend enough time just watching the races.
  • Jeff S Definitely and very soon. Build a hybrid pickup and price it in the Maverick price range. Toyota if they can do this soon could grab the No 1 spot from Maverick.
  • MaintenanceCosts Would be a neat car if restored, and a lot of good parts are there. But also a lot of very challenging obstacles, even just from what we can see from the pictures. It's going to be hard to justify a restoration financially.
  • Jeff S Ford was in a slump during this era and its savior was a few years away from being introduced. The 1986 Taurus and Sable saved Ford from bankruptcy and Ford bet the farm on them. Ford was also helped by the 1985 downsize front wheel drive full sized GM cars. Lincoln even spoofed these new full size GM cars in an ad basically showing it was hard to tell the difference between a Cadillac, Buick, and Oldsmobile. This not only helped Lincoln sales but Mercury Grand Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria sales. For GM full size buyers that liked the downsized GM full size 77 to 84 they had the Panther based Lincoln Town Cars, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Ford Crown Victorias that were an alternative to the new GM front wheel drive full size cars that had many issues when they were introduced in 1985 and many of those issues were not resolved for several years. The Marks were losing popularity after the Mark Vs.
  • SCE to AUX Toyota the follower, as usual. It will be 5 years before such a vehicle is available.I can't think of anything innovative from them since the Gen 1 Prius. Even their mythical solid state battery remains vaporware.They look like pre-2009 General Motors. They could fall hard.