One Of 1,000: 1960 OSCA Fiat 1500 S

Just when you think you are pretty savvy with all things automotive, you come across a brand or model that registers a great big goose egg in your collective memory. Well, a Fiat, that’s no big deal but an OSCA cabriolet? Search me fish, I’ve never heard of it. At first glance, I thought I was viewing a Datsun 1600 or 2000, nope, it’s a Pininfarina styled Fiat. Let’s take a closer look at this 1960 example, it is located in Lake Bluff, Illinois, and available here on craigslist for $11,500. Thanks to Ikey H. for his most unusual tip!

The listing title is a bit confusing but here’s the skinny, the Fiat Pininfarina was manufactured between 1959 and 1966 and is considered a Pininfarina that was marketed by Fiat but it was a joint project so the Fiat brand is appropriate. Originally, this model was powered by a 1200 CC engine that was not considered robust enough so along came a powerplant from OSCA, a racing and sports car manufacturer that was started by the Maserati brothers. The OSCA engine displaced 1500 CC’s and was quite a bit more powerful than the standard 1200 CC unit. Ultimately, Fiat started its own production of the OSCA engine and in 1960 renamed this sportscar the Fiat 1500 S Cabriolet. The Fiat Pininfarina, regardless of engine, was produced in both cabriolet and coupe body styles with total production reaching about 34K copies in its eight-year run but only about 1,000 examples were produced with the OSCA engine. That makes this Fiat 1500 S pretty rare!

The information on this Fiat is scant, with no statement as to whether or not it runs. The twin-cam, 1500 CC, in-line, four-cylinder engine generates about 80 HP when operational and drives through a four-speed, manual transmission. There is no mileage listed but the engine compartment is surprisingly clean. Considering the obscurity and awareness, or lack thereof, parts locating for this OSCA powered Fiat could be challenging. Those 1500 S models produced from mid-1960 on were equipped with rear disc brakes, it would be worthwhile to know if this example is so equipped.

The exterior presentation is fair. The seller advises that rust repair and general restoration are needed but he doesn’t elaborate beyond that. The door bottoms and rocker panels look problematic so I would be concerned about the floors too, though the included image of the trunk-well shows as solid. The finish is quite mottled, it appears as if it has been rattle-canned.  It’s really not very presentable as is. The trim is dull and the chrome bits, the bumpers primarily, will need a replate. We’ll go with the assumption that there is a material top folded down, under the boot but it remains to be seen what sort of shape it is in. Supposedly, Fiat provided a removable hardtop for the Cabriolet body style, probably a very rare piece today.

The interior looks fair but it’s hard to get a complete look at it from one image. Obviously, the seats need to be reupholstered but the dash, door cards, and the instrument panel, again what’s revealed by one image, look OK. The advantage of a two-seater such as this is its diminutive size. There is a whole lot less of an interior to restore than there would be on say a similar era Lincoln or Cadillac.

The rarity of this Fiat is in the engine more so than the car (body and interior). Finding replacement parts for the interior or exterior, if needed, may not be that impossible a task. The engine, however, is another matter entirely and the likely, non-operational aspect of this Fiat is cause for concern. Rare engine or not, the price seems a bit steep for this car and the choice of advertising medium doesn’t seem like the most effective place for such a rarity. So here’s the question, anyone familiar with this Fiat 1500 S Cabriolet and if so, what else can you add to the minimal details that we now know?

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  1. Christopher A. Junker

    When the Maserati brothers left the firm, they set up OSCA which originally were small displacement pure race cars. A Fiat-OSCA motor is basically a de-tuned racing engine. Briggs Cunningham had great success racing them under his team colors of white with two blue stripes. This is worth restoring due to history and rarity.

  2. Pat

    A classmate in 1970 had one of these. Really unique in comparison to other British sports cars, xke, tr4, big healey, Mgb and mg midgets others drove.

  3. Jim Mc

    It’s Lake Bluff, IL; the “north shore” of suburban Chicago. Ooooh, fancy! Ha ha!
    But seriously…this is a rare lil’ driver and and might be a deal in you showed up with folding money on hand and could cajole’em into a few grand less than the ask. Despite the rockers and the rattlecan coverup it’s not often you see a sixty year-old unrestored Italian ANYTHING with that little rust (the trunk…wow). 80 horses and a stick goes a long way on a small, sweet top down ride like that. Nice find!

    • Jim ODonnell Jim ODonnell Staff

      Oops, thx, location fixed.

  4. Beyfon

    This is quite a find, the OSCA’s are very cool. Too bad the seller didn’t bother with too many detail pictures. As a real side note one truly strange thing is with the Veglia speedo and tach. Numbers below an imaginary horizontal center line are flipped 180 degrees. It looks really strange – seems like it reads 0, 01, 20 and at the other end 90, 100, 011.

  5. Jim Mc

    Here’s the exact same car (same Lake Bluff seller, too?) with an expired eBay listing and an ask of $15,800 posted on March 2nd of this year:

  6. Jim Mc

    And here’s a current Hemmings listing also for $11,500 with a lot more photos.
    I’m getting a little obsessed with this car, it’s just too darn cool! Wish I had the funds for it. Here’s hoping a good buyer snaps it up and gives it the restoration and subsequent open road it deserves.

  7. LeNoah

    Looks a lot like a ’59 Lancia Apia I had in the 70’s. It was a Vignale body.

  8. Michael

    I had one some years ago, very nice convertable built in the traditional Italian way, the early ones had BIG alfin brakes, and front and rear ARB’s the later improved with disks and a 5 speed back when that was exotic, the top is a one hand affair with a couple latches. I have the workshop manual if someone needs a copy in other words it was a little Maserati!

  9. CJinSD

    What am I missing that this isn’t the lowest hanging fruit we’ve had here since forever? Abarth FIATs command big money, and OSCA is certainly blessed with an illustrious history as the successful producers of significant cars like the MT4 and being a project of the great Maserati brothers. Why isn’t some European’s car broker snapping this up and then flipping it for thirty thousand Euros to someone who wants to restore it? Failing that, shouldn’t it reappear in the perpetual inventory of the Beverly Hills Car Club for fifty grand? If it wasn’t so far away, I’d be trying my hand at car flipping.

  10. John Oliveri

    As a kid growing up in the early 70s NY, a guy down the block had one of these, doubt it was a special motor but still, drop top fun car, it started out red, but wound up black primer, w white pinstripes, whitewalls and full wheel covers, he had a Schaffer beer tap handle on the shifter, used to pile a bunch of Lil kids in and go for crazy rides, nice guy, passed away at 21 from heart problems, never forgot him, or those rides

  11. Bullethead

    Surprised it hasn’t sold since it’s priced about as low as it could be, even as a project. A driver level 1500S is around $22-25K, perfect cars bring $50-60,000. For a skilled amateur restorer this could be a money maker… for a dedicated hobbyist, a very nice summer driver.

  12. Araknid78

    I had a car very similar to this in the late 70s. It was a 1963 Fiat 1600S. Essentially the same car with a few notable differences. The engine was bored out slightly to give it the higher capacity. Also, while I had it I learned that the 1500S had rear drum brakes, a single weber carb and 14-inch wheels. My car had four-wheel discs, 15-inch wheels and dual weber carb. When you take the top off the air cleaner, it fit into a neat depression in the hood creating a functional air scoop. You will note in the picture of my car how the hood scoop is off center. and sits right over the carbs. The 1600s was never imported to the US so there was not a single word of English on the car. Everything was in Italian. It was also my first experience of converting km/h to MPG on the fly.

    Great car. Loved it lots

  13. Araknid78

    Here is a picture of the engine compartment

  14. Joe Elliott

    OK; is there any market in which these were actually marketed as “Fiat Pininfarina?” Where did the author come up with that?

      • Joe Elliott

        Umm, nowhere does that site say “Fiat Pininfarina.”

      • Jim ODonnell Jim ODonnell Staff

        Did you miss the title?

        “1960 Fiat Cabriolet Pininfarina”

      • Joe Elliott

        Did you miss the distinction between “Fiat Cabriolet Pininfarina” and “Fiat Pininfarina?” Your article refers to it as the latter, and I was wondering why, because it was never called that officially, and I’ve never heard it referred to as such colloquially either.

      • Jim ODonnell Jim ODonnell Staff

        I found the name extensively in research. Here’s a 1967 example for sale:

        I guess the reference to “cabriolet” is not included in the description because it’s pretty obvious that’s what it is.

  15. cnrlsful

    I had the 1200 and the 1500 B4 I moved up to the 124 Spyder (this was my 1st car in abt 1970). I did not have a DOHC tho (I’m pretty sure) Sold it to a guy (the 1500) from the MidWest, came and picked it up in a straight job. (Pretty odd for back then) . Looked like the red and green pic here. The lill 1200 could go 60 in 1st gear. That was amazing to me. A lill different than my Rambler American i6. If this is it (yeah right) he took it out there and painted it (mine wuz white) cuz it needed it but other wise looks the same. Just put in in storage at abt that time…

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