By on December 10, 2019

Not long ago, Rare Rides featured a top-line Fiat 2100 sedan that was rebodied at the order of Abarth into the luxury 2200 Coupe Allemano. Today we have a look at a subcompact Fiat that received a similar treatment. It’s an 850 Special, Vignale-style.

Fiat introduced its 850 line for the 1965 model year, intended as a replacement for the 600, which had been in production since 1955. A supermini in European terms, 850 was available in two-door variants of sedan, coupe, and Spider, as a three-door van called the 850T, and as a very early MPV with four doors known as Familiare. Reflecting consumer tastes, the 850 was larger than its 600 predecessor in all guises.

Contrary to what might be expected of a compact family-type vehicle, the engine of the 850 resided at the back in all variants. Sizes ranged from 817cc to 903cc, and all engines were of inline-four variety. Transmissions on offer were a traditional four-speed manual, or a slightly more complicated four-speed “Idromatic” semi-automatic.

Fiat then brought its 850 sedan, coupe, and Spider to the United States, selling them only with the smallest 817cc engine. At 50 cubic inches, its tiny displacement slid under emissions requirements. In the Sixties, the government was only concerned with emissions coming from engines larger than 50 cubic inches. Fiat upped the power a bit via increased compression, which meant premium fuel was required on the entry-level vehicles.

For 1968, Fiat introduced a revised version of the 850 sedan: the Special. With a larger engine borrowed from the Coupe version, it had a full 47 horsepower (a 25 percent increase). Other upgrades included disc brakes and larger 13-inch wheels. Considered a sports sedan, its styling was more upright than the Coupe version, and more awkward. Vignale had a look, and decided to have a go at revisions.

Vignale designed a new body for the 850 Special for a few select customers, imbuing it with some of the style of the more aggressive Coupe, and some from the sedan. The resulting car was more subdued than either of the standard versions, featuring details like a small hood scoop and inset fog lamps. The interior was also upgraded considerably, with nicer, two-tone leather trim on the seats, and more wood trim. Even the center console was wood-clad.

Data on how many Vignale versions of the 850 Special were made is not readily available, but they are assuredly rare. The Special lived through 1972 before its replacement by the very Communist-looking 127. Today’s green beauty is for sale in Italy for $8,800.

[Images: seller]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

20 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1969 Fiat 850 Special, by Vignale...”


  • avatar
    R Henry

    Always illuminating to see how differently the European and North American automobile markets developed. When this car was of great interest to stylish European bargain shoppers, Americans in that category were buying six cylinder Mustangs and Corvairs (and lots of Beetles!).

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I went to Rome in 1975. In the city, the biggest cars you’d see parked were Beetles, and they were to the more common Fiat 500s, 600s, 126s, and 127s about what a Nova or Valiant was to the Beetle in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      There are few parking places in Italian cities that would fit something even the size of a Civic. And gas was ruinously expensive in the postwar period (and remains expensive today). Where the American market developed mostly around passenger comfort and style, most European markets developed around fuel economy and the most compact possible size.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I really like the large greenhouse. Yes, from outside the proportions are a bit cartoonish, but I can imagine that though this car is very small, the interior has a great sense of light and airiness. Visibility is probably excellent.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Think of this as the Fiat 500 Gucci Edition’s grandpa. Cute, but kind of lame.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    “The Special lived through 1972 before its replacement by the very Communist-looking 127.”

    Italy emerged from World War II with rather more of its infrastructure intact than other western European nations. As a result, they were the most prosperous nation in Europe in the ’60s. Their prosperity was preyed upon by communist labor unions, which achieved quite a bit of influence and led to many manufacturing collaborations with the Soviet Union and Italy being overtaken economically by the countries that delayed their socialist impulses.

    The 127 really did look like something that should wear a Zastava badge, but the Panda and Uno were pleasant last gasps of Italian leadership in design.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Gee according to 1960 economic data for 1960 Italy’s GDP was $40.385 billion and its GDP per capita was $802. Compared to $62.652 billion and per capita of $1,344 for France and $72,328 billion and $1,375 per capita for the UK.

      Italian nations entered into agreements with the Soviet Union in order to gain access to new markets.

      Socialism is fairly widely entrenched in Italian society, and was even prior to Mussolini’s assumption of power.

      • 0 avatar
        jose carlos

        Mussolini was a socialist as well!

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Mussolini broke from and turned on the Socialists in a very violent way. He was the first fascist to come to power.

          I too have an undergraduate degree in political science. There were very few Marxist professors extant in Ontario at that time. Some ‘socialists’ but there is a considerable difference.

          In fact the majority held that Communism was an obsolete economic practice/theory, but that studying Marx was still a viable option primarily for graduate or ‘serious’ students, due to the questions that he asked and the problems he identified. Which is true. The problem with Marx is that the solution(s) he offered are not realistic, in a modern environment/society.

          However anthropologists now tend to agree that in ‘subsistence’ hunting and gathering societies, there was no differentiation in status among the clan, as each person had to contribute and their was no surplus available to provide ‘status’ to one individual/family.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I paid way too much for my college degree.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Did you pay north of $100K for a degree in Basket Weaving?

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            I’m old. I paid maybe thirty grand for a degree in political science and economics at a time when all my Marxist cretin professors were wandering around in a funk because Ronald Reagan brought down the CSSR while they were mid-sentence about how the Soviet Union’s victory over our consumer economy was inevitable.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’ve seen pictures of these, but never seen one in person. It’s like an oversized Autobianchi Bianchina, which I have seen before (a late friend that collected microcars here in Dallas owned a Bianchina).

    This one looks very nice. Also, I need to check out their site, to see what that silver car is (some kind of Iso maybe)?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    This seller has some really cool stuff, like a Fiat 130 Coupe, and a Lotus Eleven. The 850 here is the cheapest car currently listed.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    These cars, particularly the Coupe and the Spider sold very well in Canada and turned out to be a lot tougher than than French machines like the various Renaults. I was in a college student and a car nut in the ’60s.

    I see the amateur historians who weren’t there at the time are out in full force with the usual rubbish from the modern US “I’m talking out of my left ear” style. Communist styled 127? You lot are out of your tiny minds. The Eastern Bloc countries copied Fiats, and we all know the Lada story. Fiat was a huge enterprise in the 1960s, much bigger than VW or BMC, and the elitist Agnellis who owned the outfit were about as far from commies as can be imagined. And are still that way. Poopycock bottled comments from people who should know better ruined this article and comments for me.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I think it’s very cute .

    It’s been decades since I drove a rear engines Fiat, was it ‘tail happy’ or did this drive well ? .

    -Nate

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Steve Biro: It’s another CUV. Who cares?
  • Lie2me: Oops! Looks like we had the same thought at the same time
  • Lie2me: That back end sure looks mad about something
  • Arthur Dailey: Tom Selleck wore the short shorts and knee high tube sox in the 1980s’. We ‘trend...
  • SCE to AUX: That drivetrain is a turd. Edmunds is usually complimentary about their cars, but they said the staff...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber