1 Of 5 In The U.S.? 1969 Fiat 238 Van

From 1967 to 1983, Fiat built a mini-van that – at first glance – looks a lot like the famed VW bus of the same era. It was based on the chassis of an existing product and used a down-tuned version of the Fiat 124 motor. It came in a variety of body styles for both commercial and personal use. The seller tells us that there are only a handful of these vans in the U.S., so it wasn’t waiting in showrooms for customers to buy. This rarity is located in San Jose, California and available here on craigslist. A price has not been set; rather the seller is fielding offers, which means it might not necessarily change hands. Thanks to Barn Finds writer Dave Frick for bringing this one to the light of day!

 

This 1969 edition of the Fiat 238 looks to be in great overall condition, with no obvious damage to the paint or body. The passenger compartment has three doors (one on each side and one in the back), eight windows for easy visibility, seats eight people, and has an odometer that reads just 70,000 miles. Apparently, these vans were popular vehicles to turn into campers, also like the VW bus. Because it had front-wheel-drive, the floors were low and flat enough to work out nicely for sleeping and living quarters for those who didn’t mind them in somewhat of a compact environment.

We’re not told how this Fiat found its way to the U.S., but a logical assumption is that it was purchased by a serviceman overseas and it came home with him or her. The seller says the van is mechanically sound and operates as it should, including the 4-speed manual transmission. The engine should be a 1200cc four-cylinder that would have been set-up to produce 43 hp. So, you’d get to where you were going, but you’re weren’t going to get there fast.

Since it doesn’t seem these vans were imported to the U.S. in numbers, it’s hard to gauge what this one should be worth. You wouldn’t think it would be bring more than a VW bus of the same vintage, but if you look what those are going for online you might be surprised: $20-80,000 for the crop that’s currently out there. So perhaps the seller is looking more to gauge what the value of what he has is rather than he actually wants to sell it. The photos provided were taken at a gas station, which seems like a spontaneous action rather than one that was carefully planned out.

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Comments

  1. Arno

    It appears this van spent some time in France. The licence plate was issued in 1968, so maybe 1969 is not the exact production year, provided the licence plate is original to this car. As to know when it was imported in the US is another story…

  2. manuel ohnemus

    This is an 850T, part of the Fiat 850 family, with the 850 engine mounted in the rear. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_850
    The 238 was bigger and had the 124 engine mounted in the front.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_238

    Like 7
    • Elanguy

      Thanks for clearing that up. I was almost ready to believe that there were front and rear engine versions of the 238.

      But now that I think about it I had a friend who had an early 238 when we were in Italy in 1973, front engine. And this is obviously an 850T.

      Similar styling including a fake grill on the front of the 850T.

      Like 1
  3. Geoff

    Pretty sure this is a rear drive, and that certainly doesn’t look like a 124 engine. More like one of the 600 or 850 derived motors.

    Like 3
  4. mark Member

    This is not a 238 with a 124 engine and front wheel drive. Its the smaller rear-engined 850 based van. How is it possible that the seller doesn’t know what he has?

    Like 6
  5. Lorenzo Corsani

    Hy Guy, in confirm you from Italy that this is a Fiat 850T
    https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_850T

    Like 3
  6. KEVIN L HARPER

    It is FWD and that is the fiat 124 engine but in OHV form not the more familiar twincam seen by us in the states. It is either 1100cc or 1438. A twincam could probably be adapted fairly easily.
    There are a few of these in the states and counting this one I know of 5 but one is a parts car.
    I looked at buying one of these out of Spain a few years ago, it was a Fiat road side service vehicle, complete with tools, it was neat but more of a novelty.
    As far as price I can find decent ones for 10 to 12 and prices escalate to the 20k range, add 2k to ship it over.
    It seems that guys who buy these are pretty well off and use them as an accessory for their car collection, usually Ferraris, they are just a decoration trinket for them.
    As a fan of the more mundane Italian cars I would like to have one, but there are so many other Italian cars at similar price points that this falls way down the list.
    If you want an interesting vintage van in the states a corvair van is a much better option.

    Like 1
    • KEVIN L HARPER

      Well I stand corrected it is not a 238. But the 600/ 850 variant. Dang vans I need more coffee.

      Like 2
    • Martin Horrocks

      I´m with Mark on this one, fairly sure that what I´m looking at is an 850 van, otherwise why the cooling vents on the rear lanks, the engine lid at the rear deck and the 850 engine. The 238 is bigger and has an underfloor engine behind the driver´s seat.

      There´s a nice variant on the 850 I see here in Spain made by Siata, but that´s for another day.

      Like 1
      • mark mitchell Member

        Hi Martin, Can you find me a good Siata/EBRO version in Spain? I have looked online but have not found many for sale. Thanks!

      • robert mortensen Member

        are we not talking seat from spain, company

        compadres?

  7. Geoff

    As I suspected, turns out this is a Fiat 850T. Not a 238. Not sure why the seller doesn’t know what he owns

    Like 1
  8. Geoff

    Not at 124 based FWD 238! This is a 850 based rear engine rear drive.

  9. Pablo

    It’s a rear engine, rear wheel drive Fiat 850T – probably with a 903cc engine.

  10. REMO CERIOTTI

    Hello to everybody.
    I’m Remo from Italy and american cars collectors.
    This is not a van based on Fiat 124 (medium range car that was famous for his spider – that was famous in USA- but it was originally based on Fiat 600 (remember the transformation in Multipla of end of 50’s beginning of the 60’s used in particular as a taxi in Rome or for the nuns’ convent). The the engine was upgraded to 850 and at the end to 903 cc (45 hp) based on Fiat 127 (was built from 1971 to 1988). The final edition of this van was at the beginning of 80’s.

    The Fiat 238 was really based on the chassis of FIAT 124 a nice car from the end of 60’s and part of the 70’s. It was bigger compared to this one 850 van.

    Hear you soon

    Like 4
  11. Mike

    Cool oddball van, but that outward opening side door is one hell of a design flaw.

    Like 2
  12. Araknid78

    The speedometer is calibrated in km/h. So at 70,348 km you’re talking about roughly 39,000 miles or 94,600 if it’s gone around once.

  13. Charlie H

    I HATE these “I’m kicking the tires” ads. If you want to sell it, set a starting price!

    Like 3
  14. vespaholic

    I reached out and got no reply from the seller.
    This is a Bull $h1t ad.

    Like 1
  15. Joe Elliott

    OMG; how does stuff like this get written/published? They author evidently knows that a 238 is FWD, yet included the photo of this 850T’s longitudinally rear-mounted engine from the Craigslist ad, while uncritically repeating the seller’s false assertion that it’s a (totally unrelated) 238! Yikes.

  16. mark mitchell Member

    I was able to reach the seller, and found out they want $20,000 for it. This is considerably more than other similar 850 vans have brought on Bring a Trailer-

  17. chrlsful

    nother “which way is it headed?” (as its grand dad the Multip.). 4WD? no. &
    “why doesn’t he know what he has” = a flipper. They even get some of their pic mixed up so who knows what’s there…

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