No Reserve Donation: 1971 Fiat 850 Spider

It’s difficult to say why seemingly decent cars and trucks get donated, but there are some standard reasons: the kids didn’t want dad’s project; there were no heirs; the owners were moving and didn’t want to deal with selling a car. All of them are perfectly fair, but it’s still hard not wondering what happened that a seemingly very decent project like this 1971 Fiat 850 Spider ends up at one of the predominant yards for selling donated cars and trucks, most of which look to have spent several years on a bender of neglectful owners. Not so for this Fiat listed here on eBay and ending Tuesday at 1:30 with no reserve, as it clearly was loved at some point.

While the values for the 850 haven’t ever been particularly high, I do believe more enthusiasts are waking up to the fact that finding a good one is not easy to do. In fact, for a while I wasn’t even really giving these cute little roadsters much of a look because they so often showed up for sale in terrible, often rusty, condition. That doesn’t appear to be the case here, as this 850 sports pretty orange paint and a black soft top that looks perfectly serviceable as-is. The back window is a bit cloudy, so hopefully that can be replaced separately from the convertible top itself. Chrome bumpers look good, too, and the OEM steel wheels are well-suited to the car.

To me, this is an interior that was restored, or at least refreshed, not too long ago. The seat upholstery is simply too good to be original, and it may not even be to OEM specifications – but the simple truth is that most low-buck convertibles of this vintage don’t look this sharp inside by accident. The carpets, uncracked dash, nicely preserved OEM steering wheel, and near-perfect wood trim inserts in the dash are all the sort of details that you’d only find on a restored, or very well preserved, car. Of course, like most donation cars, it doesn’t run – but the gamble is whether it’s just a fuel pump or a more ominous fault.

Still, all signs point to this Fiat being a car that was looked after by an enthusiast, so it seems unlikely that a catastrophic engine failure is what sent this one to the donation lot. Perhaps the Fiat’s spunky rear-mounted four-cylinder failed to fire one morning, and an elderly owner didn’t drive it again before either being moved into a community or passing away, with the sons and daughters on the other side of the country at a loss for what to do with it. The good news is an enthusiast will likely pick this Fiat 850 Spider up for peanuts, and hopefully find a simple fix when it shows up on a flatbed. Why do you think it got sent to the donation center?


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  1. Charles A Simons Jr

    In the description from the seller

    THE BATTERY WAS REMOVED FROM THIS VEHICLE AND WILL NEED TO BE REPLACED’ (all caps are in the sellers ad…i don’t like caps)

    Like 1
  2. Martin Horrocks

    If the engine needs work, it can´t cost a fortune.

    I like these cars, without ever wanting to own one. A cheap way into a Gandini era Bertone car if the Miura boat has sailed…..

    Like 2
    • SubGothius

      Giugiaro designed the 850 Spider while he was design chief at Bertone. Gandini could not have been involved, as he only joined Bertone when Giugiaro left in 1965, the same year the 850 Spider debuted.

      Like 2
  3. Carbuzzard Member

    If the engine is completely beyond reasonable repair, maybe you can locate an old PBS conversion kit and install a Fiat 1600 twincam from the 124. I have a friend who did it way back when…

    Like 1
  4. Steve R

    Sold for a high bid of $4,850.

    This charity sells approximately 100 cars a week. They don’t have the time nor the inclination to diagnose what’s wrong with the cars. If a car won’t start on its own or with a jump, they probably list it as “not running”. Remember, they are located in California and are considered to be a dealer by the state. They have to abide by whatever their regulations are concerning “consumer protections”. Their cars have been featured on this site more than a few times, this is how they always written their ads so they have their system refined for that volume. Charities like this are concerned about selling a high volume of cars with the least amount of hassle, not maximizing profit, erring on the side of caution, when describing a car, makes their life infinitely less complicated in the long run.

    One thing is for sure, if I lived in that area I’d keep a close eye on their listings. There used to be a charity in my area that sold a lot of donated cars. Me and my friends were able to purchased more than a few desirable cars at ridiculously low prices.

    Steve R

    Like 5
    • Martin Horrocks

      Useful advice! Thanks.

      Like 3
  5. matt

    The 850 was not a good handling or forgiving car; and I am NOT an automotive expert, but to railroad, or “cowboy” a car like this around, is to ask for a visit to the undertaker.
    That is what a friend of mine found out some 35 – 40 years ago.

  6. t-bone bob

    Ended:Jun 08, 2021 , 10:30AM
    Winning bid:US $4,850.00[ 35 bids ]
    Item location:Orange, California,

    Like 3

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