Junkyard Find: 1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
Back 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).
124 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.
These 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.
I’ve always admired the clever placement of the truck lock on these cars.
My 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.
If you like these junkyard posts, you can reach all 1,650+ right here at the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand!
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

Comments
Join the conversation
2 of 18 comments
  • SoCalMikester SoCalMikester on May 28, 2019

    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.

  • BillSellwood BillSellwood on May 29, 2019

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

  • 2ACL Not as bad as some have quipped, but half the appeal of a sport compact is the car on which it's based. The Ion was one of the worst in segment, blunting the outreach of GMPD's work. More marginalization hit in the form of competitors evolving into some of their most compelling interations. $8.5k? KBB tells Joe Average to aim for half that. Within the context of those specifically interested in this model, the magic words for asking more than market seem to be 'Competition Package.' If the best the seller can do in a short ad is vaguely reference aftermarket audio, they don't deserve a premium.
  • The Oracle I can’t wait to see the UAW attempt to organize the Chinese plants when they come.
  • Redapple2 They strove to excel and improve in this era ( on the cheap? ). They gave us Saturnasty and Northstarubish and the F150 grew in dependability and features over the Silveradoffal. -gm- a legacy of utter garbage.
  • Tane94 Yes and yes to both questions. GM and Fird have long used built-in-China components in their vehicles -- the GM 3.4L engines used in past SUVs being just one example. Why is the US so scared of China's manufacturing prowess? Why is the US so scared of China's ascendency to world super-power? Look at China's high speed rail network, including mag-lev trains, and then US trains. I would buy a China-built vehicle with no trepidation.
  • Theflyersfan Adding to what Posky said (and for once, I kinda agree with what he wrote), and as an auto enthusiast it kills me to think this, but why should auto makers care about enthusiasts any longer? Hear me out... It can be argued that the first real enthusiasts were those coming home from WW2, having served in Europe, and fell in love with their cars. And Detroit responded. That carried over to the Boomers and Gen X. The WW2 generation for all sakes and purposes is no longer with us. The Boomers are decreasing in number. The first years of Gen X are nearing retirement. After us (Gen X), that's when we see the love of cars tail off. That was the generation that seemed to wait to get a license, grew up with smart phones and social media, got saddled with crippling home and student debt, and just didn't have the same love that we have. They for the most part are voting on do-all CUVs. Yes, automakers throw us a bone with special models, but they tend to be very expensive, saddled with markups, high insurance rates, and sometimes rare. Looking at you Audi and Lexus. Friends of mine who currently have or have just raised teens said their kids just don't care about cars. Their world is not out in the open and enjoying the moment with the roar of the engine. It's in the world they created for themselves at their fingertips. If they want bland and an appliance, that's what will be built.
Next