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Along Came A Spider: 1972 Fiat 850 Sport

The Bertone bodied Fiat 850 Spider is based on the humble Fiat 850. It’s a great example of how Fiat would take a plain sedan and turn it into something really special. Sadly, there aren’t many Fiats left on the road these days and these 850 Spiders have become quite rare. The rumor was that Fiat was getting their steel from rusty Russian ships. Whatever the case, Fiats rusted so badly that the US issued a recall in 1980 due to corrosion issues for the 1970 and 1971 850s. Fiat agreed to buy back cars with rust problems. Thanks to Michael for finding this example listed on craigslist in Yucca Valley, California for $1,500. If the ad is gone, it is saved on the Craigslist Adsaver. It has been stored inside since 1993 in the dry climate of a California desert, so perhaps the rust damage is not too extensive. The seller says there is no structural rust but it has “rust-through behind the passenger seat and at top of interior passenger side sill”. The seller did provide pictures of other areas of rust on the body. The convertible top, as well as the hard top, are included in the sale but unfortunately, there are no keys.

The interior appears in sad shape. The seats will need upholstery and foam. Upholstery and a good cleaning would make the interior usable.

It looks complete under the lid except for the air cleaner. The tiny 903cc 52 hp engine doesn’t take up much room. The engine turns, but it has not been started.

It looks solid underneath, at least in this picture. It has rusted through behind the driver’s seat and in the trunk.

This little Spider looks nice from this distance. The soft top folds down into the compartment behind the passenger compartment. Sadly, there are very few of these left 850 Spiders left in the US. These were fun little cars that looked great and were fun to drive. There are none listed on eBay and just one other listed on Craigslist for $1100 in Santa Monica, California. That one has also been sitting for many years. If someone really wants a Spider, they may have to start with something like one of these two Spiders. If one of these is not too rusty and the engine is OK, perhaps it could be restored as a driver for a reasonable sum. I hope at least one of these Spiders will escape the crusher. There are lots of goodies available to add zest to these little Fiat engines, including many bits from Abarth. The question is, of course, is given the amount of rust visible, how much more might be hiding in some expensive places? I prefer the earlier Spiders with the shorter nose covered headlights, but the later cars with a bit more horsepower still look pretty nice. There is life beyond Miatas and all the British sports cars.


  1. Jerry

    My cousin had a Fiat in the late 70’s. What a piece of crap. It’s a good thing to have less Fiats on the road.

  2. On and On On and On Member

    Rusty Russian ships? I figured there was a good reason.LOL. Between my dad and I we had three Fiats, a 68 a 70 and a 72. We took care of our cars, but they rotted before our eyes.

  3. Peter

    The Ca location reminds me of that ‘Duell’ movie where the Peterbuilt truck crashed through the snake boxes.

    • Jered

      Such a good movie.

    • On and On On and On Member

      1971 movie, may have been Steven Spielbergs first award winning one.

      • Peter

        Movie highly recommended for paranoids ( : Actually had a guy do sometjig like that to me. He would not let me past and kept blocking the road if Itried to pass.

  4. Andy D

    I actually had one of these in 1975. Robin’s Egg Blue with a Black stripe on it. It was a huge piece of junk. I drove it from Florida up to Pennsylvania in February when I got out of the USAF. It had no heat, the linkage would pop off the carburetor, had to rebuild the carburetor as soon as I got it home…….finally I said the hell with this and traded it on a 1966 Impala SS……best move I ever made!!!

  5. Beatnik Bedouin

    These are really fun cars to drive – you feel like you’re doing 100 mph at 35…

    I’d watch out for hidden structural rust on this one, as what’s able to be seen in the photos is a bit of a warning. I’ve heard that Fiat got a good deal on cheap Soviet-made steel, which turned out to be less of a bargain than originally imagined.

    It would be a fun project for someone, but don’t expect to make any money on the result.

  6. John T

    I remember a buddy of mine had one of these way back when in the early 70’s. It was a blast of a go-cart and would run all day long on a dollar’s worth of gas … when it ran. Unfortunately it was breaking down constantly and turned into a real “Fix It Again Tony”. My buddy finally gave up and moved on to a new slant six Plymouth Duster. It was not as much fun to drive but was a whole lot more reliable.

  7. David Frank David Frank Member

    And you know the quickest way to check for rust on a car, right?

    (see if it says Fiat on it!)

  8. Dick Johnson

    Why is there what appears to be toilet paper on the left front tire. A hidden message?

    • Beatnik Bedouin

      LOL! Must be new tires, as the labels are still on ’em. I like DJ’s interpretation better, however… ;-)

  9. Michael

    Fix It Again Tony

  10. Victor Anderson

    I had a friend that had one of these back in the mid 80’s. We got the thing up to 75mph going (errr floating) down a hill — ‘terrifying’ is best description for that experience hahaha. Always kind of liked the looks of these cars though – the big risk is to make sure that the frame is not rusted out. I’ve always thought it would be fun to take one and update the brakes and suspension on it and put a motorcycle engine in it — like a 1100cc or bigger bike motor with 3 or 4 times the HP of the fiat motor. You’d have a pretty quick and fun ride if you did that and it probably wouldn’t cost a whole lot to put it together either. Strip the vinyl off the hardtop and paint it and the car it’d look pretty sweet and of course it’s sound wicked with the right bike motor it.

  11. Ralphie

    Of course the engine hasn’t been started. It’s FIAT.

  12. Jubjub

    Cool little cars. I looked at a ‘72 a few years ago…looked just about like this one. It wasn’t rusty but I really hated that it had originally been bright green, which was peeking out of the so-so orange paint…and the seller wouldn’t budge enough on the price. They must’ve sold a ton of these in ‘72. Seems most that come up for sale are that year.

  13. mikeH

    In the mid sixties, the Communist bloc contracted with Fiat to build cars behind the iron curtain. The Lada [not the original name] was a Fiat 124 sedan and the Zastava [the Yugo in NA] was a Fiat 128. The Italians built the factories and taught the Russians how to run them. Interestingly, 2 or 3 years after turning the factories over to the Russians to run, the Italians had to come back because the factories were so screwed up they were producing almost no automobiles. Anyway, since the Communists had no hard currency, they worked out a deal to trade steel for expertise. That’s how the Communists ended up with Fiats and Fiat ended up with rusty Russian steel.

  14. Rex Rice

    Years ago, my wife bought my brother’s 859 Spider, (against my advice), which turned out to be a great car. With its large 5 main bearing crankshaft, it would cruise all day at 6500 rpm without getting a speeding ticket or breaking anything. With a hard top for Winter & a soft top for Summer, it felt like 2 different cars.

  15. John E. Ropelewski

    You always hear about the car that “I never should have sold”. This was one car that I’m glad I sold and I never want another.

  16. Mark

    Had one sold my 1970 nova SS and picked up my sisters 850 POS. My stupid brother in law cross threaded an oversized spark plug that blew out at 60 on the freeway. Darn thing kept blowing head gaskets and these older cars need gas tank replaced mine was corroded kept plugging the carb. But it was fun when it was running.

  17. Mark

    Fix it again tony

  18. chad

    We had 3 or 4 of these, not ur average american’s car. No wonder the Japanese cars do well here. One for tinkerers, folks who know their vehicle. Also hada buncha 124s (spyder & sedan) and a few Alfas. At the time this 1 was made Fiat musta been #2 world wide behind GM (always up there somewhere). Some problems w/all da big co.s
    Never had much problem w/any of them but they our got attention on a reg. basis. Lancia (B. coupe) was a nice 1 too. No complaints here.

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