By on May 28, 2019

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBack in the early 1980s, when I began my junkyard-crawling career in the East Bay, I would find examples of the Fiat 124 Sport Spider on a depressingly regular basis. I still find them today, in about the same quantities; the only difference is that now they’re 40 years old instead of six years old.

Here’s the latest: a black ’79 without a speck of corrosion, spotted in my old East Oakland junkyard stomping grounds (though at a yard that didn’t exist in 1982).

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, seats - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars124 Sport Spiders can be purchased for next to nothing in restorable condition, and such has been the case for about a half-century. This means that any broken or registration-challenged example lives perched on the edge of doom, teetering over the abyss with the front wheels pointed straight down at the nearest Ewe Pullet. These cars sit for years or decades in driveways, garages, and yards across the land. A few get fixed and returned to the street. For most, that little shove over the cliff comes… eventually.

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, engine - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThese cars were much more fun than the engine specs might suggest. This one came with the 2.0-liter Fiat Twin Cam, rated at 86 horsepower.

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, 2000 badge - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’ve always admired the clever placement of the truck lock on these cars.

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, warning lights - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMy collection of FASTEN SEAT BELT lights, mostly harvested during the 1989-1992 period, includes several dozen of these units.


From the Fiat 508 Balillo Spider of Benito Mussolini’s Italy to the 124 Sport Spider of the Ayatollah’s gas lines, Fiat had been there for those wanting temperamental sports cars at a reasonable (and rapidly depreciating) price.

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18 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider...”


  • avatar
    Vanillasludge

    Who says Italian cars don’t have good resale value? I’ll put on my gorilla arms and go for a drive now.

  • avatar
    Garak

    Many of those Fiat twincams found their way in Ladas where I lived. When the Fiat body rotted away (as they did extremely quickly back in the day), you could easily transplant the engine to the Russian car. Without emissions equipment that 2.0 made something like 110-120 hp, a respectable number in the period.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I was looking at this solid body and thinking too bad I couldn’t get my hands on it when my ’76 124 Sport Spider with its new interior and top, built 9,000 RPM engine that toasted a Mercedes-Benz 380SL in a race, and smooth-shifting transmission rusted itself into chunks. Then I remembered that it was parted out thirty years ago. Maybe I should just buy an S2000 before they hit six figures.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      (chuckle)

      120hp in a ~2200lb Lada 1500 would be a really sleeper back then! (“Sleepersky?”)

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I ran across a 1975 one yesterday in th Arcadia LKQ yard, someone had pulled the cylinder head .

    Interestingly the clock’s face was opaque just like this one, my brother bought it and we’ll see if my plastic polish can save it or not .

    These were certainly fun to drive .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I’m confused, didn’t just do this last week?

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2019/05/nearly-dead-in-the-u-s-fiat-turns-to-brazil-for-rekindled-love/

    I see, different story, same car

  • avatar
    statikboy

    Two things that surprise me: an actual back seat and 4 wheel discs…

    • 0 avatar
      Garak

      Fiat put 4-wheel discs in the boxy 124 sedan in 1966, they were an early adopter.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        One odd thing I remember from my FIAT days is that every brake rotor on every car equipped with disc brakes was the same for two decades here. That made the rear brakes last forever and the front brakes’ job rather hard at times.

        My ’76 Spider had more of an upholstered parcel shelf than an actual back seat. It had no rear seat belts and perhaps an in of sponge under the upholstery. I did carry a passenger once, but it was an expendable one.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    $1799? Ahahahahaha.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      It seems like the people who still have these cars think they’re incredibly valuable. It isn’t uncommon to see driver quality cars for $6K to $9K. There’s also a resto-mod place that specializes in 124 Sport Spiders. Roadster Salon claims to be doing $90K+ restorations on 124s, plus the cost of the car. $1800 for a rust-free body is rounding error.

      When I came in to run a friend’s shop two years ago, one thing I inherited was a Passat W8 similar to the car next to the Fiat. I asked a few people who seemed particularly foolish if they wanted a car with half a Bugatti Veyron engine for pocket change, but never found a victim. We had the car because it had broken someone’s spirit to the point that they gave it to us in BHPH condition to settle a $300 bill for fluid exchanges…on the Passat W8.

      I tried getting the $300 from the junkyard that bought most of the cars and trucks that weren’t worth our efforts. I knew $300 was rich, but our parking spots were worth far more so I was willing to let it go for less. Their final answer was that they wouldn’t pick it up for free. A local dealer group runs an auction that looks like a wholesale auction but is open to the public. It is the best place to unload junk to people who think they have a clue but don’t. With an expensive new battery and a fresh state inspection sticker, the less-than-worthless Passat W8 sold for something like $1,100 with buyer premium. Best of all, it never found its way back to our shop. That auction is also the only place to sell 3.7 liter and 4.7 liter Jeep products that only run until they heat up.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I had a ’76 one of these, same color, but with red interior. It was pleasant if not very fast. We slapped in a roll bar and belts and did a few SCCA showroom stock races with not much effort. I even managed to win one in the rain at Road Atlanta, then spun a bearing at Sebring. After that, it was returned to street duty.

    It was a pleasant enough car, but I’m not much of a ragtop person so it got sold.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I’d still take the 124 Spyder with its quirks over a Britain Leyland roadster with its leaks and occasional visit from Lucas the prince of darkness.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    basically goes to show how much of a ripoff BHPH places are. there was a lot of room to drop the price before it went to the scrapyard.

  • avatar
    BillSellwood

    The body design of the spider still gets positive reactions. An early assignment for a young Giugiaro.


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