Fix It Again Tony: Fiat 124 Spider Duo

fiat-124-barn-find

So after making the 12 hour journey back to Wyoming to visit family for the holiday, one of the first things I did upon arriving back in town was to check on my 1974 Fiat 124 Spider. Now those of you who have been following us for a while already know I’ve had this little secret hiding in a garage for a while now. She runs and drives, but isn’t quite ready to make the journey all the way back to Boise. Having done a considerable amount of work on my little Italian, I know how much goes into keeping these cars on the road. I also know how fun they can be and just how rewarding it can be to keep them going. Obviously when I saw these 124’s that Chuck F sent in, they spoke to me. At just $500 for two cars I couldn’t resist talking about them! Have a look at the duo here on craigslist in Elberton, Georgia.

Fiat 124 Spider Interior

When I first bought my Fiat I had a lot of people tell me I would regret that decision. Everyone told me I wouldn’t be able to keep it running and that parts would be impossible to find. I also heard that I wouldn’t be able to work on it myself and that when it did run it would be terrible to drive. With their great Pininfarina styling, I figured it was well worth the risk and I have to say, I’m glad I did it! These are amazingly fun little cars to drive, with great brakes, respectable handling, decent power, a brilliant soft top, and that great sounding Italian twin cam motor. For the money, it is hard to find something better.

1969 Fiat 124

There are only a few real drawbacks with these cars. First and foremost is rust, which is a never ending issue. Mine was quite solid when I bought it, but there was some rust hiding under the paint and in the floors. It wasn’t particularly difficult to find replacement sheet metal, but replacing metal is always a major task. The second negative has to do with parts supply. It isn’t a matter of not being able to find parts, as there are actually a number of great parts suppliers. The problem is the expense. Compared to any other popular ’70s roadster these cars are spendy to restore. Which brings me to the last issue – they don’t have considerable resale value. That isn’t really an issue for those who simply want a great car to drive on a budget, but it makes it nearly impossible to justify restoring cars in this kind of condition. Of course that could change in the future. I’ve already seen values go up considerably since buying mine.

1969 Fiat 124 Spider

I’m doubtful either of these Fiats will ever be fixed again, even by Tony. They are so far gone that it would make more sense to buy a solid car and just use these two for parts. The seller claims the white car has a complete engine and that it turns over, so it might be worth buying them just for the motor. If the black car were more complete it might be an easier sell, as it is a pre-70s example with the round front markers and smooth hood. These are the most desirable of the 124s and aren’t particularly common by Fiat standards. If I needed some major components and these cars weren’t so far away I would be tempted to pick them up simply for parts. If your in the Atlanta area and need parts for a restoration or have been looking for a great labor of love, these would definitely be worth taking a look at! All I know is if it weren’t snowing here in Wyoming, I’d be out cruising in my 124 right now!

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Comments

  1. Rich

    This is not too far from me. Tempting to at least go take a look at these.

    • Brian

      You should be able to pick it up reasonably, it’s been listed on CL for a long time.

  2. Horse Radish

    More like Finally in a Tomb.
    or
    fixing is atrocious torture.or forget it, another time

  3. Richard V

    I owned a ’74 Spyder and loved it! As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts the soft top is a breeze to lower and raise and can even be done from the driver’s seat at a stoplight. One mod I did was advance the ignition timing to 36 degrees BTDC at 3000 RPM rather than the CA spec of, as I recall, 0 degrees at idle. Made a big difference in performance.

  4. Dave Wright

    I am a big fan of projects…….but with the low value of these cars, you could buy a decent running car for less than the cost of a good paint job.

  5. Tim H

    I have not driven one, how does the driving experience compare to a Miata?

  6. George

    They are responsive and reasonably quick, Italian arm position, and when in good condition, one of the most beautiful popular sports cars ever. The Miata is less original but a lot more bullet proof.

    These unfortunate cars are ready for recycling. I can’t imagine anyone taking them on.

  7. Richard V

    Anyone here have any experience with the later Spyder 2000 FI? I had one in my shop many years ago but don’t recall how it compared.

  8. Don Andreina

    Better looking than the Alfa, and small bumper versions which makes all the difference from a visual standpoint. Now if only they were in better nick…

  9. Dave Wright

    Pinnafarina bodies are always nice, the twin cam 124’s have an interference engine, a fiber timing belt that needs changed frequently, a problem that sent many of these cars to the junkyard before there time. I had a 124 station waggon for a while in Europe with the push rod engine that ran well and was easy to maintain. The Alfas are much better designed with there sodium cooled valves, forged crank and rods, timming chain. The engines are much less troublesome. I am sure the survival rate on these cars is very low between the legendary Itiaian poor parts support and weak engine design. These look like projects for an aficionado of self flagellation.

    • Jimmy

      Nope- takes an hour to change a timing belt, no stretched timing chains. Far better engine than the Alfa and better car too.

  10. Stuart

    I had two 124 Spyders, a ’72 and a ’75. Yeah, the ’72 was rusty, but I bought a fiberglas fender and rockers and tweaked some other stuff, a roll bar, rejetted the carb and put a header and Ansa exhaust. Drove it for 3 years in all of its orange, grey primer and white fiberglas glory. Did it leak oil? Hell yeah. Burn some? Sure. Electrical gremlins? Of course. A blast to drive? Absolutely. In the years since I’ve had two Alfas, two Miatas and a 911 cab, among others. But that Fiat gave me about 20k miles, including three trips from Virginia to NY and one spring break to Florida. Not bad for a $125 car. I gave it to my sister who drove it to Indiana, its final resting place.

  11. John M

    Looks like “two” parts cars to me. One of them has nearly gone back to nature. Now, if this guy can get somebody to pay him $500 to haul these things away….more power to him.

  12. Carl B.

    1970 Fiat 124 Spyder vs 1970 Datsun 240Z.
    There couldn’t have been two more complete opposites sitting on the showroom floor. Both had beautiful styling, but that is about where any similarities ended.

    The Fiat 124 was a wonderful sports roadster if it was cared for in a manner expected of it’s Italian Owners. The main problem here in the US, is that it wasn’t cared for in the manner expected of its Italian owners. So yes, neglected factory maintenance not being done on time, combined with the abuse dished out by US owners, lead to many winding up in junk yards way ahead of their time. I hasten to add – what is considered normal use by American’s would be considered unusual if not abusive use by its Italian owners.

    One of the major strengths of the Datsun 240Z was that its intended owner was American. The Z Car was built to absorb abuse and beg for more. Engines and drive train components that were over-kill from the beginning, were proven bulletproof over their lifetime.

    If you looked at both side by side {as I did} it was easy to see that the quality of paint and panel fit was superior on the Fiat 124. The quality of the materials used on the interior were also superior on the Fiat 124. However by American standards its engine was woefully underpowered and delicate, thus always pushed beyond the use originally intended.

    If you have a fully restored Fiat 124 Spyder today – and care for it as required – it can be a beautiful experience. You just have to keep in mind that all the components except the body are delicate. Treated as such, the car can be very reliable.

    These two – might be $500.00 worth of parts there for someone. Best of all worlds – 124 Body refitted with all the components from the Miata.. LOL

    • grant

      I have to beg to differ on your assertion that the Fiat used superior build materials. Both it and the Datsun were prone to severe rust. Only difference was the Datsun would rot away as you drove it, and the Fiat would disintegrate as you worked on the engine.

    • Jimmy

      Nope- bullet proof APART from the bodies which rust terribly. Easiest car I’ve worked on especially the single 34DMS models. Try tuning carbs on a Lambo V12- that is difficult.

    • Jimmy

      Underpowered? Nope. Most versions are 100-120bhp factory easily able to make 130-150. They only weigh 2,000-2,300lbs.

  13. Robert J

    If you are looking to get the wife to leave you so you can date that hottie from the office, just drag these two hard cases home and set them in the driveway. Viola! Instant bachelorhood.

  14. ConservativesDefeated

    Comments are a hoot! Had a beauiful white one with red interior….of course that was………gulp .33 years ago. A 1974…. it never let me down over five years of using it as a daily driver. Of course it was a California car and was in excellent shape, but what I remember is the driving position and the really cheap interior fit and finish especially on the dash. I also had a 124 Coupe earlier that I also had good luck with.

    But restoring one from scratch?

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