Low Mile: 1981 Fiat 124 Spider Turbo

I didn’t even know that Fiat produced a turbo 124 Spider! But apparently 700 of these models were built for the US market. Located in Flanders, New Jersey, this convertible sports car is listed here on eBay and is currently bid to $8,799 with a whopping 29 bids. The auction still has 4 days remaining. This model of the Fiat 124 Spider is said to cover 0-60 in 8 seconds.

What really stands this car apart from the others is the fact that it is turbocharged. The Turbo Fiat 124 Spider was produced as a joint partnership between Fiat and Legend Industries. The 1981 Fiat 124 Spider was fitted with a twin-cam inline four-cylinder engine which was boosted by a Legend installed turbocharger. This increased horsepower from 102 hp to 120 hp and boosted torque from 110 lb-ft to 130 lb-ft.

Another cool feature on this car is that the transmission is a 5-speed manual gearbox that would make zipping around-town fun. With only 25,000 miles on the odometer, the car appears to be in great shape. The cost of the turbo upgrade was around $2,700 for the Mitsubishi turbocharger and special exhaust manifolds. The car is said to have no rust and is close to mint condition.

In the early 1980s, my older brother had a red Fiat 124 Spider. He was constantly working on the car and had all kinds of electrical and mechanical problems. I remember a mechanic telling him not to drive it over 60 mph or the freeze plugs would drop out of the block. Has anyone owned one of these? What is the premium that turbo models sell for?

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Comments

  1. MT Lieb

    Never had a turbo but had 5 spiders, 2 carbs and 3 FI’s.. With a little knowledge and a smitten of mechanical know-how I drove mine a good bit with no problems. Never had any major repairs needed, took a little more minor work to keep them running. Hurricane Georges took 3 of them. Enjoyed them all. None were daily drivers.

    Like 2
  2. Francisco

    This is an excellent Ebay vendor. He always has nice cars at decent prices. I’m glad Barn Finds features him and his vehicles.

    Like 4
  3. bobhess bobhess Member

    Would be interested in why the jacked up suspension. Never saw one of these that high off the ground. With the present setup you need to take corners very carefully. Still, nice to see one in good condition.

    Like 1
  4. XJSLord

    Right around this time, the US gov’t mandated that headlights be a certain height above the ground. Cars later in their production cycles, such as this fiat, we’re raised to make the height requirement instead of redesigning the headlight placement.

    Like 7
  5. Brakeservo

    I worked for a dealership that sold these, they weren’t FIATs but rather Pinninfarina 2000s because Fiat was gone from the USA. The X1/9 was sold at the same time as a Bertone.

    Like 1
  6. Stan Marks

    I like this car. Super clean, even though I prefer red.
    As one who strongly believes in presentation, the tires & bumpers could use a coat of ArmorAll. Makes a difference. IMHO

  7. John

    I had a 124 Spider. Mine was driven over 60 mph on more than one occasion.
    Its freeze plugs never fell out. It was a wonderful little bugger to drive. But they made its body out of a metal-substitute (apparently) that dissolved in wet weather. The body simply evaporated away. I remember waxing it once and when I pushed on the panel in front of the windshield, my finger went through it. No visible surface rust, but it went away from underneath. Still, I loved it.

    Like 2
  8. Brakeservo

    Fiat researchers worked long and hard to perfect rust, heretofore the bailiwick of the British immediately post WWII.

    And their efforts paid off, working with cheap Soviet steel as a base, they finally came up with a metal perfect for Fiat cars at the time – it didn’t need water or salt to rust!

    Exposure to oil, paint, sunshine, clean air, wind or even human touch was all that was needed. Wax and a photographer’s flash would do it too.

    Like 4
  9. arizman2

    I have had the pleasure of owning several 124 spiders. I raced all of them starting with a ’71 that I raced in the Sports Car Club of amerca’s “showroom stock” series. This car had the lap record at Seattle International Raceway.

    Others I autocrossed, took top time of the day at several meets, one I remember was in eastern washington, a friend was somewhat perplexed that his 427 vette could not beat a fiat spider around the course.

    I never had any problems with any of the 124’s and adding the dual downdraft weber 40 IDF carburettors that were standard on some european 124’s along with a set of camshafts really woke the motor up.

    I still have one that has been sitting for years, I raced it in E Production where it was not as competitive as I wanted, there were just too many english sports cars with a vast array of competition equipment available. I remember running down the back straight at Portland in this car when the throttle stuck wide open at the end going into the first left hand kink, when straight off into the infield with brakes on full not slowing the car to any appreciable extent while the harness was preventing me from reaching the ignition switch, was able to reach it finally and the car finally came to rest.

    Fun cars, very reliable when taken care of properly. I always see negative comments about them being problematical but that was not my experience at all. as for the turbo, meh, seems to me for the increase in power, being relatively small, it seems like a problematical trinket that I’d avoid,

    Like 3
    • Brakeservo

      Hey Arizman2 – I liked to think that I held the Bentley Mk VI lap records at both S.I.R in Kent and Portland International Raceway, and I probably would if such records were kept.

      But I’m in Arizona now (too much wet and cold for another winter on PNW), if you’re anywhere nearby I’ll buy you a beer when it’s safe to do so again!

      • arizman2

        Actually I set the lap record for showroom stock sports car at a SCCA Stan Burnett Memorial race at SIR. I think that was in 1972. Perhaps you or someone else broke it later. I don’t even know what a Bentley Mk VI is !

      • arizman2

        Forgot to mention that I am in Arizona too ! I’ll go for the beer and buy you one too !

      • Stevieg

        By the end of 2023 I will be in Arizona too. I would love to buy you both a couple brewskis (as we call them here in Milwaukee).

  10. Doug Smith

    We missed a convertible after I sold my Jeep CJ5 so we bought a 69 124 Spyder. What were we thinking with 3 kids (pre mandatory seatbelt). Loved that car, both girls learned to drive with it. Fun to drive especially with the top down. Could obtain 40 mpg at a steady 68 mph on regular gas. Sold it when time to maintain her became an issue, now that I’m retired, would love to have it back or one like it. 4 wheel disc brakes, twin over head cam with a hemi, and Weber carb, and 5 speed and a full size spare, come on!

    Like 2
  11. Jcs

    To be accurate this is not a 124, it is a Pininfarina 2000 Spider. The name change came along in 79.

    Very cool little cars with a huge enthusiast base they are a lot of fun.

    The last of the bunch (which this would be one of) are considered the best, having overcome most if not all of the models long history of reliability and rust issues.

    Always loved the interiors of these little beauties.

  12. Matt

    I had a ’68 ‘ 124 Spyder – ran the holy hell out of it, and like my TR4 it came back every day for more. Smooth as silk 5 speed transmission, puit the top down with one hand.
    Great car…
    matt

    • Brakeservo

      Yes, 40 years ago I replaced my daily driver 1960 Austin Healey 3000 with an early ’70s 124 Spyder and although there was only 12 or 13 years between the two, the 124 was like an exotic! The revvy twin cam engine, a five speed with synchromesh on each gear that worked, multispeed wipers, four wheel disc brakes, coil springs all four corners, a top that went up and down easily and really kept the rain out, wind up windows that didn’t rattle, a working heater and defroster. It presaged the Miata of 1989.

      Irony though, now 40 years later, the value of that Fiat is but a fraction of that of a Healey 3000.

      Like 1
  13. Robert Woodward

    In 1981 this was still sold as a Fiat Spider. It wasn’t until 1982-83 the Spider and X/19 were branded as anything other than Fiat. I owned a 1983 Bertone X/19 and did a lot of research at the time to learn about the marketing change.

  14. Brakeservo

    Re: Arizman2 – I’m a bit south of Tucson. Call me sometime if you’re nearby. 52O 7I9 5252

    • Stan Marks

      Just make sure you guys wear your masks and stay 6′ apart.

  15. Jerry

    LESS than 20 added HP with a Turbo??!!
    WHY bother??

    Like 1
    • StanT

      Torque, and better rev power band. I had an 82 Turbo Spider.

  16. jokacz

    Fix
    It
    Again
    Tony

    • Bear

      Feeble
      Italian
      Attempt at
      Transportation
      :-P
      (but I’d still LOVE to have this example in my garage!!) :-)

      • ChingaTrailer

        You talkin’ ’bout dat
        Failure
        In
        Automotive
        Technology??

  17. Shane

    FYI….it appears that the auction ended $14,100, but that the seller relisted the item (it was listed as “no reserve”, so perhaps the buyer fell through?). Then, when it was relisted, the price started at $1,000, but the listing was “ended early because there was an error in the listing.” If I had to guess, I’d say that someone swooped in and offered the seller a deal he couldn’t refuse?

  18. Araknid78

    Ended: Aug 11, 2020 , 7:11PM
    Winning bid:US $14,100.00
    [ 51 bids ]

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