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Moving Sale: 1968 Fiat 850 Spider

Historians will look back and see that Americans migrated from state to state more during the last ten years than at any other time in our history since World War II.  While there are many different reasons, what we have discovered is that these moves aren’t easy and that finding adequate housing at a reasonable price is a challenge.  That challenge is even more daunting when you have classic cars to properly tend to.  This 1968 Fiat 850 Spider for sale on Craigslist in Albuquerque, New Mexico is a very nice example of a seldom-seen car.  Sadly, the seller has to find a new home for this Fiat before they move.  Having owned this running and driving example for just a year, the seller is offering it at a reasonable $5,000.  Is that a fair price for an 850 Spider?  Thanks to Rocco B. for this very interesting Fiat find!

The 850 Spider was an offshoot of Fiat’s popular 850 sedan.  Built to provide basic transportation, the 850 was a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive economy car that was built from 1964 through 1973.  Fiat decided to export the sedan, coupe, and Spider body styles to the United States.  By the time they were to hit our shores, US emissions laws had a loophole for engines displacing less than 50 cubic inches.  Fiat made sure that the cars were equipped with an engine that was slightly less than those magical 50 cubes.  In an attempt to boost power in a country that was waist-deep in a domestic horsepower war, Fiat bumped the compression ratio up to the point that these cars required premium octane fuel.  A top speed of 90 mph could be achieved if the stars aligned and the wind was at your back.

Bertone was called upon to design the Spider and did so remarkably well considering its pedestrian origins.  The company also produced the bodies for this convertible in its Turin factory.  With its hideaway canvas top and prominent headlights, the car’s design helped it contribute to the over two million total Fiat 850 variants sold overall.  Despite its tiny size and lack of tire burning speed, the car developed quite the fan following in the United States until the rust set in.    These cars soon became known for developing heavy corrosion damage.  This was a real problem for a convertible that relied heavily on its unibody structure for its strength.  Long after they were sold in this country, the US government issued a recall on the Fiat 850 for issues concerning rust.  A recall years after production stopped on a vehicle was unhear of then and now.  Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Fiat’s quality.

Looking at the pictures of this 1968 Fiat 850 Spider, it is refreshing to see a complete lack of rust.  While there may be something hiding underneath the bright white paint or beneath the copious number of rugs on the floor of this convertible, it does look to be in great shape.  The seller says that it “runs and drives alright.”  They also warn prospective buyers to not expect much power.  To help boost those 843 ccs of fury, the seller has recently installed new spark plugs, replaced the fuel lines and filter, changed the oil, and installed a new battery.  The car also comes with a spare carburetor, a factory shop manual, and one of the ubiquitous Haynes shop manuals that all early imports seem to come with.

So, if you are looking for the most distinctive import at your next cars and coffee meet, then you might want to contact the soon-to-be moving owner of this 850 Spider.  If it is a solid example and the $5,000 asking price seems fair.  Just remember that they are motivated to sell this Fiat soon.  Fiat may have made a lot of these, but the survival rate was extraordinarily low.  When was the last time you saw one?

Comments

  1. Georges Brodeur

    I had a 68 in 1980. The engine was 803 cc and I had it bored out .030 over. The 850 name was not it’s displacement. It was a blast to drive and I was able to make it to 95 mph on the freeways of San Jose. Unfortunately the rust caused the engine mount to split and the whole rear panel started falling apart. These cars were hard to find in 1980. Someone stole my carburetor and I ended up selling it to some kid with the 1969 model I had. As tempting as this one would be, I would have to go for less than a grand for me to be interested.

    Like 2
    • MLA CARTRIGHT

      You mean 903cc. The 850 series came in 817cc 843cc and finally 903cc

      Like 1
  2. Bamapoppy

    Buy it. Someone who lives close, buy it. Especially if you’ve never had a convertible! Everyone should own one at least once in your life. I had a ‘74 124 Spider and loved every day I had it whether it was running or the other 50% of the time it wasn’t.

    Like 10
    • ChasMan

      Yes. Sounds just like my 1974 124TC Coupe.

      Like 0
  3. luckless pedestrian

    Ad actually says $4500… If it’s as clean as it looks, that is a screaming deal… If it wasn’t on the other side of the country I’d be all over this… I don’t buy cars sight unseen.

    Like 2
  4. Ron

    Mines a bright yellow 73, my fourth and last one. My first was a 67 back in 1969 and I was hooked.

    Like 1
  5. Christopher CLINE

    Note, this has a centrifugal oil screen and not a spin on oil filter. Fun engines to work on but be warned the threads in the head that hold the rocker arm towers in place the pull the threads out. Heli -coil work for awhile. The standard head was cast iron, not aluminum alloy. Buy a cast iron head and mill it for higher compression. Leave the exhaust alone, is a very good free flowing design. This is a 55 mph car, treat it that way and you will have a lot of fun. ASE MASTER-AUTOMECHANIC.

    Like 2
    • MLA CARTRIGH

      The 850 series engines and the older
      600 engines ALL had aluminum cylinder heads. NEVER iron heads!!!

      Like 1
  6. Loop

    Looks fun, but I am 6’4″ 270. I will have to look for one in my size

    Like 2
  7. William Wood

    My Boss’s son bought one (used) in the early 70s, I drove it making deliveries. Loved Every Minute!

    Like 0
  8. Pedro

    I owned a 1971 850 Spider with both tops. The engine was a 903 not the 843. I put lots of miles on it and had two engines for it, both 903. I sold it when I deployed. Great little car. I am 6’3” and always had room.

    Like 2
  9. John

    I had the 850 coupe version. I found that the rear suspension swing axles made it a challenge, especially on wet pavement (I sincerely hope no one ever drove one on ice). It would lift its inside wheels on even modest turns. even slight body roll would cause the rear track to become narrow and for the bottom of the rear wheels to tuck in. Reverse camber roads caused you to reconsider your relative standing with your Creator.

    At the time, I loved it. I used to zoom through the gears dreaming of Abarth and the Mille Miglia. It finally rusted to the point it was no longer safe. That took about three years. I really had few problems with it mechanically except for over-heating. I dreaded its inability to reach highway speeds. I traded it for a Sunbeam Alpine. I dearly loved the Alpine. It mostly made me forget the Fiat. At $4500 its probably a cheaper thrill than ingesting controlled substances — but its no less dangerous.

    Like 4
    • John

      That is a remarkable set of coincidences.
      -I am also John
      – my first car was a bright blue ‘73 Fiat 850 sport spider with a stuck engine. I got it going again, sold it and used the profits to to a ‘65 Sunbeam Alpine IV that I loved for many years.

      Like 1
  10. KENNETH TIVEN

    owned 68 85t9 coupe, 79 124 sports coupe and 67 Abarth spyder version of 850. all fantastic fun to driver and got many years good use, did most of why own maintenance. Still have social valve adjust tool for 124 engine.. will give to anyone who needs it, 959-242-4165…. Arrived in Chicago in in January 79 blizzard with the trio of Fiats and promptly bought a Subaru wagon with 4WD to insure transport with baby in the household. If you looked after the Fiat it was relatively reliable as were all cars of that vintage. I would storm the Edens Expressway into downtown at 85-100 in the abarth if traffic was light some early summer mornings.

    Like 0
  11. MLA CARTRIGHT

    Check the number of bolts on the water pump- it may not be a “real” ‘68.

    Like 0
  12. Carbuzzard Member

    I used not abused my ‘71 850 Spider to the max. 7000 rpm every shift, enjoyed the rear balance. And it was a monster in snow. Blasted Chicago city streets, screamed across I-80 at 3:00 a.m. Dan Ryan Expressway? Mine.

    Muffler on the one-piece exhaust system rusted away and ran it straightpipe for several years.

    It had a zero-sixty speed of 20 seconds, but who cared. Just maintain, maintain, and fix it again Tony? Nope.

    I’m driving a ‘90 Miata now as my daily driver except for snow. I’m reliving my youth. Why not ?

    Like 1
  13. chrlsful

    Nother great line-up of all 17 ‘cars’. And I say that not
    cuz I owned, drove, worked on, or friends had ‘em.
    Wish I hada nuff time to read up on all, reminisce, etc.

    Miata, 850, karman ghia, 914, etc. Great ideas. Hopefully
    they’ll come around together again w/the EV here in merica.
    If so we’d B a world leader again.

    Like 0

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