4-speed Drop-Top: 1971 Fiat 850 Sport Spider

If you’re looking for a small, reasonably priced sports car that has a lot of potential for fun driving, you should seriously consider this 1971 Fiat 850 Sport Spider. An exceptionally clean, mostly-original example with only 47,000 miles, this little Italian convertible is for sale here on craigslist just outside of Los Angeles. The asking price is $7,800. Thank you Matt R. for the tip!

Originally introduced in 1964, the Fiat 850 was offered with sedan, coupe, 7-passenger, and convertible body styles. Designed by Bertone in Turin, Italy, this convertible features smooth simple lines and elegant details. First of all, I have to compliment the seller on their choice of location for their photos. I can imagine driving this little roadster up the winding roads around Malibu at sunset, whipping around corners and feeling a cool breeze while overlooking the valley. The high-quality photos also help to accentuate just how clean this Fiat is. The body looks to be completely free of rust, and I don’t see any issues with the trim or paint, which still appears to be glossy. I think that I can see a tiny chip on the nose, and the fog lights don’t hang symmetrical, but those are the only 2 flaws that I noticed.

The interior is also in excellent condition, although the seller says that is because it is new. Well, except for the extremely cracked dash pad, thanks to the California sun. I am always a fan of a black interior in a red car (I’m sure I’m not alone here), and this interior is fairly simple yet still inviting. The gauges and toggle switches definitely give off a sporty vibe, although we aren’t told if all the electronics are working. You can also see a new aftermarket radio has been installed.

The engine here is in the rear of the car, which helps with the driving and handling characteristics. The engine bay and engine itself both look very clean and tidy, although it looks like some of the wiring has overspray on it. Perhaps this car has been repainted at some point, which could be the reason it still looks so good. Speaking of engine, we don’t know if it is original or any details about it other than that it runs well. It’s probably the 903 cc engine, which would have produced 52 horsepower (although some sources say that they may have even produced upwards of 60 horsepower). Mated to the 4-speed manual transmission, this would make this light car very quick, nimble and fun to drive. Summer may be winding down in some areas, but there is still plenty of time left for the next owner of this beautiful drop-top to enjoy some fair-weather cruising.

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Comments

  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    If the money gets you a rust free chassis this could be a good buy. Bolt the front equipment on straight, get the right offset wheels back on it, lower the suspension back down to factory height(You don’t want to do any spirited driving with a rear engine car with the suspension hiked up to clear the wheels), and you probably have a fun daily driver.

    Like 9
  2. Charles Atlas

    My 1986 Ford Escort Pony 4 speed is dying to race this Italian buzz bomb…who’s gonna win?

    Like 9
    • Lou Grant

      You got spunk!

    • Terry

      A Yugo could beat that Fix Or Repair Daily.

      Like 3
      • Brian S

        I think you mean Fix IT Again Tony… Fix or repair daily would be a Ford.

        Like 2
      • Quidditas

        Ha, Ha. First On Rubbish Dump also jumps to mind.

        Like 1
      • Matt

        Ok to clarify, FIAT is Fix It Again Tony .. Ford is Found On Road Dead, First On Race Day or to the extreme F..ing Old Rebuilt Dodge

        Also a friend of mine had one of these when we were in our 20s and he needed to remove the fuel tank,we decided that it would be easier to run it dry than drain the tank…so 1/2 tank and off we went from 10am until dark and it still had 1/4 when we decided to go home. They get over 40mpg and really not a sports car , I think its only 1 liter engine and not like its older big brother the spider that was double that.

      • jwaltb

        Found On Road Dead.

    • Big Mac

      Me thinks its a tie!

      Like 8
      • Healeymonster

        These were a blast to drive, but the most interesting and best version was one that I saw at the Duel at De Anza autocross back in the eighties. It had the tiny motor swapped out for a RX7 rotary unit. That thing screamed around that track and held the top time of the day for a good while.

  3. grant

    For some reason this looks to me like something that’s been given a quickie refurbishment in someone’s garage. The misaligned bumper corner and light, the panel gaps are ish, etc. Nice and shiny but I’d look it over close. Maybe they did okay. Or you may end up doing a lot of things over. The Midget will be sorted soon…

    Like 2
  4. CJinSD

    It’s nice to see one of these in any condition. As recently as the early ’80s, there were still a few on the road in my hometown. The X1/9 that replaced the 850 Sport Spider in FIAT’s lineup was quite a leap forward, but these still remind me of a time when you didn’t need to spend six figures on a new car to have interesting options.

    Like 8
  5. Terrry

    I remember when I was in high school my sister bought one of these new, in Seattle then took it with her when she moved to SoCal. There, she got t-boned by a ’65 Chev on the passenger side. Totaled the Fiat, but she didn’t get a scratch.

    Like 4
  6. Blyndgesser

    I loved mine. I went through four or five carburetor rebuilds because of rust in the tank, and the head gasket had to be done a few times, but it was a lot of fun. Not a lot of transportation, but a lot of fun.

    Like 4
    • Tom

      Yup. loads of fun and on a windy road, with the rear engine and independent suspension no one could touch it. I replaced the window winder 3x, the transmission output shaft, multiple axle boots, the clutch, and the engine (broken timing chain). When it was working it was great fun! Met my wife when i had mine. Been married 42 years!

      Like 1
  7. Mike

    Maybe this a safari build based on the tall tires and lifted appearance.

    Like 3
  8. Scott

    This would have originally come with a full width front bumper with an overrider bar. I don’t mind the conversion to a split front bumper, but it’s not original. The remaining bumperettes are sagging or bent, and the front turn signals (not fog lights!) are obviously in need of alignment.

    A minor point, but these were designed *and built* by Bertone using Fiat mechanicals. Here’s a photo of the Bertone plant with 850 Spiders alongside Alfa Romeo Montreals. https://i.pinimg.com/originals/58/22/15/58221554bccf25798fe1186f9bce91f0.jpg

    The key point of inspection on this car would be the X frame underneath. As others have said, reset the suspension to stock height and install wheels with the correct size and offset, and you’ll vastly improve the handling.

    Like 6
  9. Jim Fuller Member

    During 1967-1972 I had a Fiat=Lancia=Ferrari dealership in Boston.The little 850 than cost about $2k but the steel worm ate most of them quite quickly. Several folks did the Abarth conversion, then about $1k which made them very respectable road runners (note the suggestive Abarth sticker in the front but sticker only). The paint is, obviously low caliber, they didn’t bother to tape in the engine area nor the door latch on the drivers side. The 850, like the Corvair, needs exactly the correct tires at the correct tire pressure to get the most out of it.

  10. its1969ok

    Sure sits awful high…

    Like 2
  11. Willowen Member

    That is a pretty one. Yes, I’d like to see it without the “improvements”, but that is mostly when-you-find-garage-time work. This is not a car that needs bigger tires, though those who prize grip over handling would disagree. I’d never really noticed how much prettier the late cars are than the originals, but to my eyes they are. Still not as handsome as the coupes, but a lot closer I think.

    I have never driven one, and ridden in one just once, a first-generation car. I was not impressed with its level of structural stiffness – we were on a rough freeway, and the mid-body flexing was obvious, though at 70 or so not scary.

    The coupe I rode in (back when they were new) was stiff as a brick and one heck of a lot faster, especially with a well-practiced driver at the wheel. My all-time favorite thrill ride!

  12. Carbuzzard Member

    For the record, the 850 Spider would take 20 seconds for 0-60 mph, per R&T testing. On the other hand, it would go 95 mph at 7000 rpm.

    It was a sports car, just as much as an MG Midget was a sports car, just different. You could use it if you didn’t abuse it, and those who actually performed the scheduled maintenance did have Fix It Again Tony.

    The problem was that the maintenance intervals were very shot. You had to lube the kingpins at 2500 miles or they would seize. The engine didn’t have an oil filter. It had a centrifugal oil cleaner. It had to be cleaned out when the oil was changed. But no one did ii. But everyone bitched when the car broke due to their lack of maintenance.

    That engine made one hp per cubic inch, which in 1970 was high performance. But it only had 54 cubic inches. Even at 1,600 lbs, it wasn’t going to be fast.

    Those oversized wheels/tires will make it accelerate slower thanks to the talker effective gear ratio. With the 49/60 weight ratio f/r, handing required a lot of attention. Fiat recommended a low front tire pressure to make understeer unrelenting and lawyers happy. Even out the tire pressure and drive like the mini-Jack-the-bear it was.

    OK, end of rant.

  13. CASEY Andersen Member

    Test drove one back in 78 . Had to push it back to the owners house. Bought a new 78 124 spyder. Great car. Glad the 850 quit when it did.

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