On the Verge: 1971 Fiat 850 Coupe

Here’s another two-door fastback, this one is a 1971 Fiat 850 Coupe. It’s listed on eBay with a current bid price of just under $5,000 and there is no reserve. It’s located in Charlotte, North Carolina and it looks like a good one to just maintain and drive, or a good starting point for a restoration. This car looks like it’s just on the verge of either being rust-free or being rusty, I can’t quite figure out which way it’s going.

As much as I love Fiat’s 850 Spider, this fastback shape gets to me. You can see that there’s a fair amount of rust on this car, I’d be worried about what’s lurking under that paint. It was parked under a three-sided car port so it was at least partially-exposed to the elements for a few decades. It does need work, things such as removing and cleaning the gas tank and going through all of the systems, but supposedly it runs great.

The 850 Coupe (or, Coupé) was introduced in 1965 and the year of this car, 1971, was the last year that they were produced. The underside looks pretty solid, but then again there’s a bit of rust under there. The story goes that this car was owned by the 2nd owner for 30 years, according to the current owner and it’s original, “the paint is 100% ORIGINAL, ZERO filler.”

The interior looks like it’s in great condition and it is. The interior is a “true time capsule. Only thing messed up is the turn signal stalk is partially broken….still works fine. Everything else is present and in amazing condition!!!” Even the pedals look great.

This is Fiat’s 903 CC four-cylinder with 52 hp and according to the seller it runs amazing. They even included a photo of the valvetrain and spark plugs, that’s about as unusual as it gets, but this seller has provided more than the usual share of good photos, a nice touch for a nice car. Have any of you owned an 850 Coupe?

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Comments

  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    My dad had an 850 coupe in 1968, and it was my favorite car for a long time. However…I don’t want to handle the rust on this one. I must be getting old, or have too many projects already. Nice find, though!

  2. Howard A Member

    A friend across the alley from us had one of these new, maybe a ’71, only red. It was a fun little car, but very poorly built. Early on, say 2 or 3 months, 2nd gear began to grind, it sat at the dealer for a month, when he got it back, many things began to fail, gas gauge, outside door handle broke, drivers window crank stripped, and it began to grind in 2nd gear again.( car was like a year old, he was really dissappointed) This time the dealer had it for 2 months, and my friend gave up, and traded it on a ’68 Barracuda they had on the lot. Some people had good luck with Fiats. This particular one was a POS. This is one of my favorite photos. I think this won some kind of prize ( 500 shown) http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-8JY2RWJyi4k/UPMLPrvzoUI/AAAAAAAAK9I/XjjfmMD3G0U/s1600/Alessandro+Bianchi.png

  3. Bruce Best

    Most of the problems these had when they were new have been solved and they are one of the best small coupes you can find concerning style. They are not really able to get out of their own way and a small child with a wagon can out accelerate one of these but if you have ever seen one properly restored and done right you would want one as much as I do.

    There is a blue one that is perfect on a YouTube video that everybody that is interested should view. I have looked at this one very closely and the rust is all surface rust I did not see any penetration. I think this could be a very easy car to restore and for the bucks it would attract far more attention than many more expensive cars.

  4. Bruce Best

    I wish to take that rust comment back I did look again and I saw one penetration near the passenger side windshield but I still stand with my comment I think this could be a very easy restoration.

  5. RicK

    I remember when you almost couldn’t give these away back in the early 80s

    • Bruce Best

      So do I but then I remember drivable XKE’s here in the Kansas City area for under a thousand dollars. If you remember that this is a fragile car, lightly built and with paint and steel not of the best quality you will go far. This was most certainly built to a very low price but with modern paints you should have a much better car then they ever could have been in the day.

      If you want bad steel look at mid 70’s Alfa and Fiats that had Russian steel that was total crap.

  6. milotus

    Someone posted seeing one for sale for around $1500,
    on one of the websites that I’m on.I think it was in Texas,& was
    in much better shape than this one.
    If anyone’s interested,I can try & get contact info for it.
    I

    • Chas

      Hi Milotus,
      I am definitely interested. I have been hunting fire one of these for a while now. Chas

  7. sir mike

    Lose the bumpers,add some Abarth goodies and go hunting Honda’s.

    • Bill

      You aint gonna hunt much with 52 hp

      • Chris In Australia

        Google Abarth OT 2000. Top speed of nearly 150 MPH. Plenty of Hondas to be bagged there.

      • Ross W. Lovell

        Greetings All,

        Chris in Australia….Abarth OT2000 was a twin cam 2000cc engine, not the 850cc version here.

        I had the 900cc version with optional Dallara chassis parts and some engine goodies.

        Loved the car, tin worm was well on its way when I had it, but it most definitely could move, but not as well as the 2000, though I would have loved that car with that engine, the power to weight ratio would have been amazing!

        Power to weight ratio was always improving the way the rust was going.

  8. Jason

    Looks pretty rusty to me.

  9. John Asumaa

    I owned two 850 coupes, a ’67 and a’70. I loved the body style, as it reminded me of an Alfa GT. The cars handled beautifully, but were horribly undepowered and poorly built. On my first one, the front hood hinge broke, at speed, and it flopped over the side, only held on by the hood support. A lousy, cast metal hinge simply cracked. The sheet metal was very thin and rusted easily, from inside out, usually, on door bottoms, around window and windshield chrome, in headlight pods, and at the bottom of a-pillars. And everywhere else,eventually. But with a Fiat 124 engine or a Hayabusa (both of which have been done) the car would be a lovely little rocket. As it was, I went through tires quickly because the car could be induced to slide under just the right conditions. I survived a rollover accident, and possible partial flip, in my first one, with no injury or ejection, even though I had no seat belt, and drove it for two more years. The other one I drove for four years. Had I known about or bothered to maintain them competently, they’d have been better, but I was only stranded twice, with a broken fan belt and bad points. They always started in Michigan winters, but the road salt eventually took its toll. All in all, I loved them both.

  10. Wagon master Member

    @milptus:

    I am also interested. Thanking you in advance for your help with contact info the one in Tx.

  11. Rock On Member

    Hey Wagon master, how is that new Pontiac wagon of yours coming along? Got any pictures to share with us?

  12. Wagon master Member

    @Rock on: I’m in scottsdale for car week and picked up some Rally II wheels for it here. Should have it painted in 2 weeks. Totally original including interior. Pics soon.

  13. milotus

    I contacted the poster who saw it in Texas,
    to see if I can get the seller’s phone number.
    The asking price was actually $1900.

  14. Wagon master Member

    Thank you

  15. Ben T. Spanner

    In 1972 or so, I traded a dead 1966 VW fastback for a running 1968 Fiat 850 Coupe. I wife saw it and claimed it as hers. We also had a 1967 Barracuda Fastback (see above). My wife would drag race city buses on her way to work. Sometimes she won. (In the Fiat)

    I got it with a bad exhaust, but a friend had a new header for $20, but I had to re drill the mounting holes. I clamped on a glass pack and all was fine.

    The key broke off in the ignition but it still worked, and so did mine. I broke the left window and the replacement was $12. The left king pin broke, but parts were cheap. This was in Central Ohio, but the car was rust free and the interior was fine. It also came with cast wheels.

  16. Chas

    Respectfully, I disagree with many of these comments. Fiats of the period were actually pretty decent cars. Sure the steel was thin and prone to rust, especially in snow bound states which used salt on the roads, and the engines were small dsplacement, and not particularly fast. But they were reasonably reliable if properly serviced and maintained.
    The problem was that Fiat had almost non-existant dealer support here in the states for either parts or service, especially in the later years when Fiat dicided to no longer concentrate on the US market. Also, that combined with an American consumer who was accustomed to huge American cars that required absolutely no interaction from their owners, and which would run for 200,000 miles with simply adding fuel, even if you ignored the recommended oil changes.
    Fiats (and almost all foreign cars of the period) required more attention and interaction from their owners and these cars punished the negligent owner for failure to comply.
    As a result the Fiats often changed hands as used cars for as little as $100 to $200, which by definition, meant that the new owner would neglect it even more as his investment in the car was so low. Consequently, the cars got a bad reputation for being totally unreliable and useless.
    However, if you can find a nicely preserved Fiat which had been properly maintained, or one which has since been properly restored, they are really delightful little cars to own and drive. The Italians are driving enthusiasts, and as such, they put sport and handling into even their cheapest econoboxes, and sometimes there is nothing more fun that thrashing a tiny Cinqucento, 600 or an 850 Sport or Spider through the twisties. You get all the thrills of racing, but you get them at significantly lower speeds!
    Sure, they are undernourished, but my attitude has always been that it takes a much more skilled driver to squeeze any real speed and sport out of a tiny displacement engine, that it does for any idiot to drive a large displacement engine car really fast. I feel the same about small displacement bikes as well.
    Finally, I often find that the people that are so critical of some of the foreign cars are frequently simply repeating wives tales that they have heard from a friend of a friend or from someone who bought a $100 piece of shit and abused or neglected it for many more years. The people who actually owned and maintained these cars tended to love them, and they often reminisce very fondly about that experience, as do I.
    I have owned several old Fiats including an 850 Spider which I still own, and I have loved every one of them. I would love to add an 850 Coupe to the stable.
    They are so simple to work on and parts are relatively cheap. They are reasonably reliable and loads of fun to own and drive. Try one. You might like it!

    Like 1
    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings All,

      Chas, I too had one of the convertibles and loved it.

      Thought the engine and drivetrain was fantastic. Wasn’t super fast but respectable and reasonably economical.

      There were comprised of some of the worst metal this side of early Honda Civics, Fiats were worse.

      Many of the electrical problems were due to the body corrosion which made the negative earth electrics useless as once rusted, didn’t pass electricity.

      Dealers did not want to address this problem. Can’t blame them, it’s not a “bolt-on” fix to repair. Do you really think that Italy had a plan for the dealers? They didn’t, ask one.

      Fiat made the decision to enter the US market. Metal quality had previously been a problem, this was nothing new. They didn’t address the issue and they paid for it with sales. The 1/9 continued that tradition and the public made the decision.

      Marcionne seems to have learned his lesson with the new 500, as he appears to understand this may be his last shot at the market.

  17. milotus

    Just read the email from a nice guy on the ratsun.net website,
    who sent me the seller’s number. It is:

    (409) 489-3219

    If you go to ratsun.net,go to the “General Discussion forum,
    & to the Sightings 2,the not a datsun but….. sub forum,it will be at the
    bottom of page 167.
    Hope this helps.

  18. Wagon master Member

    I just talked to the gentleman owner. Rust in the usual places. Not running for years, etc etc. He is sending me pics tomorrow morning. Oh God deliver me from my addiction … Thank yyou @milotus: !!

  19. milotus

    Let me know how it turns out – you can contact me at

    milota@suddenlink.net

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