Rare Rides: A 1969 Fiat 850 Special, by Vignale

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a 1969 fiat 850 special by vignale

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]

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  • Conundrum Conundrum on Dec 10, 2019

    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.

  • -Nate -Nate on Dec 11, 2019

    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

  • SCE to AUX I charge at home 99% of the time, on a Level 2 charger I installed myself in 2012 for my Leaf. My house is 1967, 150-Amp service, gas dryer and furnace; everything else is electric with no problems. I switched from gas HW to electric HW last year, when my 18-year-old tank finally failed.I charge at a for-pay station maybe a couple times a year.I don't travel more than an hour each way in my Ioniq 1 EV, so I don't deal much with public chargers. Despite a big electric rate increase this year, my car remains ridiculously cheap to operate.
  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.