Big Meat Ball: 1970 Fiat 238

The idea of camping is a strong American tradition that came about in the 1920’s-1930’s with automobile becoming cheaper, and more reliable, to explore the wide open spaces. But in this instance we have a very uncommon Italian based camper made by my favorite small car company. This 1970 Fiat 238 was an Italian utility type van that was converted to a camper. Perhaps not the most reliable camper, but certainly a unique one, this Fiat is currently offered with a “buy it now” price of $20,000. Find it here on eBay out of Ocean Side, New York.

Looking inside of this “bubble top” camper reveals a nicely finished interior, but no real camper elements. Likely beginning its life moving and delivering, this Fiat lacks some basic camper necessities. Other 238 camper models have a fridge, stove, sink, and sleeping area in the back. Much like any camper. Despite not having camper gear, this Italian still has a lot of potential. This Fiat would be a “shoe in” at classic racing events if you campaigned an Italian race car.  It could easily be a camper, or a support vehicle for a race weekend.


The cockpit is in very nice shape with a lovely upholstery that almost appears to have umbrellas woven into the material. The simple rubber mats indicate a simple, yet business oriented interior. The seller gives little detail about this Fiat other than it would make great promotional vehicle, or service van. This Fiat is certainly unique, and would stand out. With its odd proportions almost appearing tall, and somewhat short in length would still make it an ideal camper.

In remarkably solid shape, this Fiat looks to have lived a pampered life. There is no damage to speak of from this portly Italian. No Rust, dents, or dings. The paint has a lovely reflective quality, and the fiberglass “bubble top” looks to be in excellent shape as well. Appearing in excellent condition, we assume that this Fiat is a driver with a healthy drivetrain. What would you do with this interesting Italian?



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  1. Alan (Michigan)

    Ultra-Cool, totally unusual vehicle.
    The term “Pregnant Guppy” comes to mind.
    Love how the section above the rear doors appears to be hinged to swing up. The arc of those rear doors must surely be limited, or they will be dented by the bumperettes.
    The bare-bones interior could be added to as needed for a specific purpose, but any heavy use would certainly detract from the value. It is of course silly that the seller has made zero mention of the fitness of the van to be actually driven. Nothing at all about the drive-train, brakes, or other necessities if motion is intended, rather than use as a static display. The exhaust pipe being whitish in appearance does not indicate to me that it has been recently hot.
    From the photos, I wonder what is sticking down inside the LF wheel?

  2. chad

    Mud flap – like on the rear, that side.
    What power train, etc.?
    The thing w/’campers’ motor homes etc is twofold – gotta tend to the ‘living space’ as well as the driving stuff. I just went thru a win-a-bagel & it’s 85% new mechanical. “The other 1/2” is gunna take alot!
    Wiki sez “1200 or 1400cc gas” but that’s it…

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Not the Mud Flap…..

      I was wondering if maybe an ambulance, or fire department vehicle, in a prior life?

  3. dirtyharry

    I have seen plenty of camper conversions and even Fiat Camper vans. But this? I doubt this was a typical conversion and certainly makes a great platform for any conversion you think appropriate. This one makes me think possible Fire Dept. Vehicle? This is a link to a Fiat Commercial showing the variants of the 238, but not this one. Interesting find, requiring an equally unique buyer.

  4. Mark S

    Cute as a bugs ear, but not $20K cute.

  5. Racingpro56

    With the lack of camping accoutrements here, I’m also thinking this was an ambulance in a former life. In any case an interesting find. Not 20 large interesting though.

  6. BradL

    I believe this one started life as an ambulance. Most 238 campers I’ve seen are pop-tops and have a covered gas inlet between the front/side doors and the cooktop behind the front passenger seat. An ambulance would have a seat in that location.

  7. JW

    Cool but not $20K cool !!!

  8. Pollock

    I wonder this one was registered in Finland once (licence plate and 80 km sticker?

  9. Howard A Member

    I have little interest in this vehicle, but it appears, the ambulance or ambulanza guessers are correct. The windows in the top appear to be added later. This was a pretty common conversion, from what I’ve read.

  10. michaedo

    My roomate had one. Stupid bad gas mileage for
    the power it delivered.

    • williamcleary

      80 km. sticker prob. a suggestion only! ;)

  11. Bill McCoskey

    This is likely a very recent import. ALL used vehicles imported into the USA must have the entire chassis steam cleaned prior to loading on the boat/airplane. This often leaves a whitish condition under the car, especially if the steam cleaning process stripped off the common “Waxoyl” undercar protectant [normally applied yearly], a product similar to Ziebart.

    I lived in Central Europe back in the ’70s, it’s a former ambulance, with additional windows set in the roof. A friend of mine in Europe says the upper rear door panel was spring loaded to swing upwards, when both rear doors were opened. [Probably gas struts He sent me a drawing of what it looks like in Ambulance configuration [see pic].

    I would question if the car has a full Federal import certification from DOT and EPA. I don’t see any seat belts & shoulder belts for the front seat, these were required starting 1 Jan 68 on ALL road vehicles in the USA. They will need to be installed before the vehicle is approved for importation, with clear import paperwork provided. This could also explain why the vehicle is still on it’s Italian license plates.

    And 80 KPH is 50 MPH. Not gonna make any friends if you take this out for a drive on the interstate!

    • Blyndgesser

      Cars over 25 years old when imported are exempt from EPA and DOT requirements.

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