Rare Rides: A 1969 Fiat 850 Special, by Vignale

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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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

  • Ted Lulis Head gaskets and Toyota putting my kids through college👍️
  • Leonard Ostrander Plants don't unionize. People do, and yes, of course the workers should organize.
  • Jalop1991 Here's something EVangelists don't want to talk about, and why range is important: battery warranties, by industry standard, specify that nothing's wrong with the battery, and they won't replace it, as long as it is able to carry 70% or more of its specified capacity.So you need a lot of day 1 capacity so that down the road, when you're at 70% capacity with a "fully functioning, no problem" car, you're not stuck in used Nissan Leaf territory."Nothing to see here, move along."There's also the question of whether any factory battery warranty survives past the original new car owner. So it's prudent of any second owner to ask that question specifically, and absent any direct written warranty, assume that the second and subsequent owners own any battery problems that may arise.And given that the batteries are a HUGE expense, much more so than an ICE, such exposure is equally huge."Nothing to see here, move along."
  • Roger hopkins The car is in Poland??? It does look good tho...
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.