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Fun Size! 1972 Fiat 850 Sport Spider

Want a red Italian convertible, but don’t want to break the bank? Then you might consider this 1972 Fiat 850 Sport Spider. Located just about a hundred miles due west of Miami in Marco Island, Florida, this pint-sized classic is advertised here on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $6,500.

Foreign sports car manufacturers universally struggled in the mid-Sixties with U.S. emissions regulations. While British car makers de-tuned engines, Fiat took a different path. On careful reading of the law, it became clear that engines smaller than 50 cubic inches weren’t subject to it. As a result, Fiat lowered the displacement of the 850’s rear-mounted engine from 843 cc to 817 cc while increasing compression to maintain performance. This necessitated the use of high octane fuel, but the Italians had neatly skirted the offending regulations.

The model was revised in 1968, however, rendering “850” nothing more than the number on the rear. Displacement was increased to 903 cc, with horsepower climbing from a sprightly 49 to a jaw-dropping 52– more than justifying the addition of “Sport” to the model’s name. Performance upgrades aside, the re-worked front end lost the glass over the headlights and gained a somewhat more froggy appearance. The Sport Spider would continue in production until 1973, when it was succeeded by the mid-engined X1/9.

This example shows little of the rust that was so bad that it forced a government recall between 1978 and 1983. The pictures reveal an unusually clean undercarriage and what appears to be only surface rust near the spare. The current owner reports that the car “runs very strong,” though there’s no word on whether it’s ready for the road. Yet, from what one can see of the engine and interior, there’s nothing obvious that would keep the new owner from driving it home. Given the condition of the car, the 50,541 miles on the odometer may well be accurate; regardless, the car shows every indication of having been extremely well cared-for over the past forty-odd years. Boasting a new soft top and the original tool kit, this little red Spider may be the nicest example of a second-generation 850 on the market right now.


  1. Gale

    Had one in the seventies and it was a blast! It had enough power to get you where you wanted to go with maximum fun. I have to imagine parts are getting scarce but if you have a good source this may be a good buy.
    Being a Lotus guy I see this as an Italian Lotus Seven!

    Like 2
  2. Howard A Member

    Everytime one of these comes up, I’m reminded of my neighbor friend in HS had a 850 Coupe. It, through all the years of my life, has remained, the worst car I ever dealt with. There was a huge interest in 2 seat roadsters in the 70’s in America, just about anything had a chance of selling. These couldn’t compete with the masters of the 2 seat roadster, the British, heck, even the Renault Caravelle was better, but these were cheap. I read, like $1500 bucks new in ’72, when an MGB was twice that. People bought these figuring, how bad could they really be? I’m sure the mileage is correct, they were lucky to get that. Transmission woes sidelined many, and not sure about parts, if any. I always felt sorry for the Europeans that had to put up with Fiats on a daily basis. #1 seller in Europe,,they say. That’s unsettling,,,

    Like 0
  3. Bultaco

    Fiats rusted more voraciously than the very rust-prone British cars, but having owned both (a’63 MGB currently) the Fiats were no less reliable than MGs or TRs or A-Hs. The Fiats were a little more thoroughly engineered (some had 5-speed transmissions before 1970). Either are reasonably reliable if maintained properly. That said, I wouldn’t want to drive an 850 Spider anywhere outside of local country roads. A highway car it is not.

    Like 3
    • Damgerous Dave

      I had to give you a thumbs up just for your user name.

      Like 1
  4. Gregory Stegall

    Zero to sixty takes 17.9 seconds!

    Like 0
  5. chrlsful

    several were great cars for our family. Daulphene, Simca 1000, Renault 10, fiat 128, when the kids were olde nuff to get out of mommie’s car she went to several of these. Winners. Like to put some abarth speedy bits on one.

    Like 0

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