By on January 31, 2022

1970 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSince 2007, when I started writing about interesting vehicles in car graveyards, I’ve seen at least a couple of discarded Fiat 124 Sport Spiders per year. In fact, I was finding these cars in junkyards when you could still buy them new, back when I was hitting the yards of Hayward in search of parts for my ’69 Toyota Corona. These days, most Sport Spiders you’ll find at your local Ewe Pullet will be 1976-1980 models (I still haven’t managed to find any junked examples of the Pininfarina-badged mid-1980s Spiders that Malcolm Bricklin sold as Azzurras), so today’s ’70 is quite a rare Junkyard Find.

1970 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in Colorado junkyard, rust - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car has generous helpings of cracking body filler and some rust in the usual spots, but it wouldn’t have required extreme measures to get back on the road in presentable condition. The problem is that you run into the fact that very nice early-1970s Fiat 124 Spiders sell for less than what a semi-serious restoration costs for a rough one.

1970 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe U.S.-market 1970 Sport Spider got this 1.6-liter Twin Cam engine rated at 96 gross horsepower. The 124 Sport Spider’s British arch-rival, the MGB, got 92 horses from its primitive-but-sturdy pushrod 1.8. This car weighed just 2,085 pounds, so it had a much better power-to-weight ratio than the 1970 Ford Mustang convertible with the base 200-cube straight-six engine (21.7 lb/hp versus 24.6 lb/hp).

1970 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in Colorado junkyard, LH rear view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOf course, that new Mustang ragtop set you back just $3,025, while the 124 Sport Spider cost $3,304 (in 2022 dollars, that’s about $22,310 for the Ford and $24,370 for the Fiat). If you wanted a new 1970 MGB, that car cost just $2,875 (about $21,205 today).

1970 Fiat 850 in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOf course, American Fiat shoppers in 1970 could still buy the smaller, rear-engined 850 Spider. That car weighed just 1,555 pounds, had a 40-horse 903cc engine, and cost $2,168 ($15,990 now).

1970 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in Colorado junkyard, carburetor - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThese cars had Weber carburetors until Fiat switched to Bosch fuel injection for 1980.

1970 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThose two holes in this dash panel once held some beautiful steel-and-glass indicator lights, which I always grab for use in various projects. The ones in this car were gone when I arrived, but I have a pretty good stash in reserve.

1970 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in Colorado junkyard, wheel cover - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI regret not buying this hubcap for use as garage art, but I wanted to leave it for 124 Sport Spider owners doing some junkyard shopping.

1970 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 1970 Sport Spider came with a five-speed manual transmission, which was racy hardware at the time (and still available in a few new cars today). 124 sedans and wagons got the good old four-on-the-floor rig that year, while an optional GM-supplied TH180 three-speed automatic could be had in a 124 Sport Spider starting in 1979.

1970 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in Colorado junkyard, AOPA sticker - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt makes sense that a pilot would want something sporty when traveling in two dimensions instead of three.

1970 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI enjoy photographing junkyard machinery with old film cameras, and I returned with my 1917-vintage Conley Kewpie a few weeks later to capture this Fiat on 120 film.


It has a trunk and a cigarette lighter! What more do you need for a nice Italian drive?

For links to nearly 2,300 additional Junkyard Finds (including many Fiats), head over to the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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24 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1970 Fiat 124 Sport Spider...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Played football with a guy who had one of these bought ‘new’ in the early/mid 1970’s. A ‘double blue’ custom paint job (CFL fans will understand that reference). Lovely when it ran.

    The Miata is what these types of vehicles should have been.

  • avatar
    Gayneu

    I owned one of these briefly. I had a job with a company car so was able to take the risk on a used 78 in the mid-80s. Like Arthur Dailey said above, it was fund when it ran. The thrill was gone after 2 years. Ironically, I have owned a Miata since 2010.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Is it possible to even find a rust free example of this car?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      These and the MGBs came with rust as a factory option.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      In the 80’s there was a recall from Fiat to rectify the chassis and front suspension rust issues on the 124 Spyder from the 70’s on.
      This was around the time they were pulling out of the US market but Malcolm Bricklin jumped in to keep selling the Bertone X-1/9 and Pininfarina Spyder which were of better quality fit and finish.
      Overall they’re still better than a long in the tooth BL Triumph or MG with 4 wheel discs, Twin cam-4 and post 1980 fuel injection.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      As Derek from Vice Grip Garage would say, “it’s factree!”

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    I don’t purchase Makes that begin with the letter F.

    Also a good idea to avoid Model names beginning in F [example: Toyota ok; FJ Cruiser no good].

    Probably safest to avoid Makes and Models even containing an F (sorry, Alfa).

  • avatar
    probert

    “It has a trunk and a cigarette lighter! What more do you need for a nice Italian drive?” I want the cigarette lighter in the trunk.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    This Spider’s about to get squashed!

  • avatar
    someoldfool

    A friend bought an early 70s new and FIAT bought it back. The front suspension pieces would rust so badly and so fast that the wheels would unexpectedly fall off. I’m surprised this one wasn’t repurchased by FIAT too. Maybe it was only in rust belt areas. Another friend had an early X1/9 and both front wheels fell off due to rust. But FIAT didn’t buy his back.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    My neighbor bought one of these when it was a year old, and fully reconditioned. He raved about the design and layout, until the first problem cropped up.

    It never spent more time in the shop waiting for parts than on the road – the Fiat mechanics had their own supply of most-frequently needed parts, but they knew they had a captive customer, and charged accordingly.

    When he got rid of it after just over a year of ownership, he admitted the only thing reliable on the car was the gauges that told him when something was going wrong.

    • 0 avatar

      @Lorenzo LOL, reminds me ownership of Russian car. Only repairs were much cheaper and I did all repairs myself, parts were super cheap but of course did not last long.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “reminds me ownership of Russian car. ”

        Still seems to be lots of old Ladas on the roads there. Although, some of the VAZ 2105s are as recent as 2010. Those 4WD UAZ vans/trucks seem to be plentiful. They don’t seem to use much salt on the roads either. Just clear a strip for a lane in each direction with snow left in the median. Probably why they don’t rust away.

    • 0 avatar

      @Lorenzo LOL, reminds me ownership of Russian car. Only repairs were much cheaper and I did all repairs myself, parts were super cheap but of course did not last long.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    My best friend in high school had a 850 he and his dad restored. Pretty quickly they were adept at doing an engine-out rebuild or repair in just one weekend.

  • avatar
    LRSIII

    I bought a 1970 Fiat 850 Spyder new in the Spring of 1970. It had a 58 horsepower engine, not a 40 horsepower engine. Had it a couple of years, and then sold it to the sister of a friend of mine. She took it to Minnesota, I believe, and it rusted out pretty much immediately. Interestingly, or perhaps not, the 903 cc engine was the “big block.” Hah! When originally introduced, those cars had an 843 cc engine (I assume that’s why the car was named an 850). They went down to 817 cc for the 1968 and 1969 models years in the US because engines below 50 cubic inches were exempt from EPA exhaust emissions standards. For 1970, Fiat finally sucked it up and added some emission controls, but went up to 903 cc to compensate.

    I still remember I bought it new for a grand total of $2318. A 124 Spyder was far too rich for me at the time!

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    A friend let me race his 124 Showroom Stock racer one time back in the 70s. My primary memory is that the steering feel was sublime. Very nice predictable handling.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    One of my classmates at nuke school in Vallejo bought a new yellow 124 Spider with his re-enlistment bonus. The average wait time for parts (from Italy) was 5 to 6 weeks to repair it when it broke. And it broke a lot. I’d chauffeur him around in my ’66 Corvair Corsa during his down times. He wasn’t a happy owner…traded two more years of his life to the Navy for a car that didn’t like to run much.

  • avatar
    randy in rocklin

    Since you mentioned you had a 69 Corona, we fit 7 guys in that Toyota when I was in high school. It was a 5 speed to boot. The second gear almost always crunched. Those Spyders were cool. I didn’t know they still made 120 film.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Our record of humans to interior space was 9 in a VW Type III notchback. Fit that many a number of times into a Type IV squareback/shooting brake, and a fullsized late 1960s Pontiac sedan. 7 in a Gremlin. And 11 in a Dodge minivan, by removing the back 2 rows of seats.

      Perhaps that can be a future Question of the Day?

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      120 roll film is still available. Amazon, B&H Photo, Midwest Photo are some places to purchase it.

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