By on February 25, 2014

06 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSo 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.
13 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinCars 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.
01 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHow does this even happen?
17 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car comes from the era of separate emissions requirements for new cars sold in California.
10 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI 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.
14 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinDefinitely not worth restoring, but maybe someone will grab the Twin Cam engine for a nicer Fiat.
IMG_2237Given 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.
19 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe last owner of this Fiat was against Proposition 86.

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20 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1976 Fiat 124 Sport Spider...”

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    This is scary!!

    I once saw the photo of a Japanese WW2 truck abandoned in the jungle of some remote pacific island, and I don’t think it was half as rusted-out as this Fiat!

  • avatar

    Maybe the car was corroded by its owner’s cigar fumes.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    As someone who once worked at a junkyard, I don’t understand why the guys running this one would put this vehicle on the line. There’s nothing to pull from it! (Yeah, you could argue the engine, but seriously, how many people out there are looking for Fiat 124 engines?). Less rusty cars than this one were immediately sent to the crusher at the place I worked at.

  • avatar

    Wow. This looks like they left every weld joint and attachment point unprotected. My favorite detail is the SKIN of the trunk lid on the ground after separating from the framework.

    The tennis ball is a nice touch too, probably used to halfass seal that rust hole when it was much smaller.

    I would place time of death by mechanical problem around 1990, judging by the state of the fuel filler area. The 2006 era matchbox was probably tossed into it’s decaying corpse.

  • avatar

    Was that TV ad filmed in Griffith Park ? .

    It looks familiar .

    Poor little Fiat ~ are the engines & trannies good for re powering anything else ? .


    • 0 avatar

      The optional 1800 engine mated to the 5 speed manual wasn’t bad, it got something like 115 hp. Even if you can find one in decent shape, my brother-in-law found the carbs were a bear to adjust. Good luck finding parts though, lack of parts availability was why my bil sold his ’77 and bought a used TR6. He later called that a frying pan to fire experience.

      • 0 avatar

        I had to look again at your post, I’d have thought a ‘frying pan to fire’ experience would have been going from a Fiat 124 Spyder to a Lancia beta. But yeah, the TR6 had it’s issues too.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      You could install it in it’s more pedestrian brother, the 124 sedan which was equipped with the SOHC 1800. Or dare I say find a Yugo to drop it in. Yugo 16v!

  • avatar

    It’s a shame; such a nicely styled car, made so poorly. I had to chuckle at the TV ad featuring Fiat’s corrosion protection, which must have consisted of an acid bath.

    • 0 avatar

      The Fiats of the ’70s were sweetly styled, inside and out, and when new with everything working right, they were fun cars to drive. It was almost criminal that they were built so poorly, but lack of shop expertise and an almost non-existent parts distribution chain really did them in. A 2-4 week wait for parts was typical. My brother in law suspected they accumulated orders from dealers and shipped them in batches from Italy once a month.

  • avatar

    Wow, rustiest Fiat ever. Judging by the way the wheels look, this thing sat with hubcaps on it before it came to the yard. Could they have been in good enough shape to sell…?

  • avatar

    I installed one of those “slow down” lights to replace the “fasten seat belts” light in my old ’73 Alfa Spider because it amused me. The “Slow Down” light was from a mid-70s Alfetta and was a perfect match for the other warning lights in the console, so it looked stock.

    Any time I gave somebody a ride in the car they would ask “so when does the Slow Down light come on?”

    “It’s an Italian car. NEVER!”

  • avatar

    Sad end for a pretty car. :(

  • avatar

    It’s a Fiat built in the 70’s, that’s how it got that way. Corrosion prevention was making sure the cars got out of the factory before they had to touch up the paint. In a sense this wasn’t such a bad example, I’ve seen this vintage Fiat end up this bad when they were only four or five years old.
    On the other hand, the Cal EPA stickers seem to have held up very well!

  • avatar

    Fix It Again Tony.
    I always thought these cars were MGB clones, and not just in looks. It took Mazda to finally make a reliable 2 seater in this class.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    you need a slow down light in a Fiat?
    Actually,My mum had a new 1967 850 Spider ,the nicer looking one with the miura headlights. It was a family favorite but as we kids got bigger we couldn’t fit,so it was sold off. Before that terrible day though,we saw one other that was rustier than the red one featured here. A lot rustier….and it was driving.
    It had been shipped as deck cargo to New Zealand around 1970 so was doomed . It was what the english describe as ‘rather Frilly,around the edges. ” . What edges that were left, that is.

    • 0 avatar
      Ron B.

      In the advert I had to ask, I wonder if anyone ever took them up on the “limited corrosion warranty ” ? or did they mean that it will corrode, even with the PVC under coat?

  • avatar

    Reminds me of a neat car toy I had growing up. Wind it up, put it down, and when it hit something solid, it would fall apart in pieces.

    This one looks like a cross wind would leave a stream of debris.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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