Semi-Exotic Barn Find: Fiat 1500

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I was familiar with the Pininfarina designed Fiat 1500 convertibles, but I had never seen a coupe before this car came up. I think it’s gorgeous! It’s listed for sale here on eBay, with bidding starting at $3,500 with no reserve, and it’s located in (and this isn’t a typo, the town really exists) West New York, New Jersey. Not only that, but the seller tells us it did come out of a barn!

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Parts of this design, especially the greenhouse area and the kick up right behind the doors, remind me of my Triumph Italia, so I was surprised to find that this was a Pininfarina rather than Michelotti design. Somehow the coupe looks a lot more attractive to me than the convertible ever has. Obviously there are some body issues, including the crease on this side and some rust in spots. That being said, for a 1960’s Fiat in New Jersey there’s remarkably little rust! The seller is pretty specific where they are in the auction listing. It’s nice to hear the floors are solid.

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I’m hoping there’s enough metal here on that front piece of trim that it can be resurrected with some welding and chroming. The bumpers look straight, and interestingly have the front mount for a european license plate. I tried in vain to read the faded decal on the driver’s side front bumper to see where the car has been earlier in its life–maybe one of you recognizes it–is the 82 the year of use? There’s also what might be some sort of inspection sticker in the windshield, but I can’t make it out either. By the way, if you’re curious, this picture is how nice one can look when it’s restored. Here’s another one.

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The rear of the car looks “Italia-ish” as well, even with the skinny bumper over riders. Unfortunately, there is some rust on the inside edge of that trunk lid–it’s not quite as nice as it looks on the outside in this picture. But the bumpers being straight and relatively clean way outweigh that for me.

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Doesn’t it make you want to clean it up a little and climb in? The seller calls it leatherette, but I think it’s real leather based on the wear creases. I’ve seen wonderful things done to make leather supple again, and you’d have to fight me hard if you wanted to have these reupholstered rather than keep the original seat coverings. Even the carpet looks like it could be cleaned and re-dyed. Note the classic “bus driver” Italian steering wheel orientation.

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Oh, how I want to wrap my hands gently around that steering wheel. I would like to know how the toothbrush ended up in the driver’s side floor board, though; there might be an interesting story?

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Another thing I’d like to know the story behind is the unusual steering gear. That’s the steering gearbox at the lower right of this picture, which transfers the motion through a link to a joint, and then down right behind the engine through another link. I did find this snippet of a picture which looks to be the same mechanism; if so there’s yet another joint and transfer of motion down below. If so, I can only imagine the amount of play you could end up with at the wheel if the joints are allowed to wear. The downdraft Weber carburetor (at least that’s what I think is under the air cleaner) shouldn’t scare anyone, and I found rebuild kits easily. The engine is currently seized, although how severe that is isn’t known yet. In case you can’t guess, I’d love to go after this project car, but it’s not in the cards right now. So it’s up to you–will one of you buy it so that I can live vicariously through you? I’d like that!

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Comments

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Thanks, BradL, not sure how I missed that but it’s fixed now! Must have been trying too hard to figure out a way to make it mine–subconsciously left it out!

  1. Scott H

    Jamie – while I wasn’t able to make out the writing on the decal on the front bumper, I can’t help but wonder if this Fiat didn’t spend time on the roads in Italy before coming over here – the blue window sticker is for ACI, the Italian equivalent of our AAA. Maybe a clue to its past. I agree, great looking lines on this model.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Thanks, Scott — perhaps it was brought back by a serviceman?

      • waynard

        That bumper sticker looks like a US airbase sticker.

  2. Dave Wright

    Fiat and Pininfarina made some very attractive cars but unfortunately under that classy tin is a Fiat…….they also built some very attractive Peugeots but again the French mechanicals were terrible. I would hold out for a similar Alfa Romeo.

  3. MikeG

    What a great little guy…if only there were parts available to put things back into order again. Maybe an opportunity for someone to learn bodyshaping techniques.

    • ccrvtt

      Achingly pretty, but where are you going to find parts? Agree that it’s much more interesting than the roadsters. Really does look like an amateur could do a nice job on it. Or maybe I’m just trying to talk myself into it… Great find.

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

        Check out Bayless, or better yet just google Fiat 1500 parts. It’s not that different from finding parts for Triumphs — a few good mail order suppliers and occasionally send for something from the home country!

  4. firefirefire

    I think that’s a Military Base permit sticker on the front bumper.

  5. ccrvtt

    And why did the Italians favor that driving position?

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Good question, ccrvtt! I had no idea, so I googled it. Other than vague references to long arms and short legs, I couldn’t find the reason. Anyone know?

      • Kevin Harper

        Italians also drove with hands closer to 5 and 7 position. When driving like this it is a very comfortable length.
        I have been driving Italian cars most of my life and I don’t even think about it. On the other hand I find Japanese cars to be the most uncomfortable. So go figure

  6. Doyler

    I’m in. Wish me luck

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Good luck! I wish I were!

  7. JerryS

    My 1968 124 Coupe was a flexible flyer in Michigan by 1973. But this looks nice.

  8. Bruce Best

    These are another elegant car from Pinnifarina. By todays standards very underpowered but a very sweet ride. I have only seen one of these is good shape and the owner also had one of the roadsters. Surprisingly similar to Alfas of the same time period and a lot more of the parts interchange then you might think.

    The biggest problem now is not the mechanical parts which you can either find or get rebuilt it is the wiring loom and the body. This would be a relatively simple restoration but whoever does it should take out the wiring loom very very carefully and label everything. There are places that will remake a wiring loom for you exactly like the original but with modern materials. PAY FOR IT. you will solve many problems.

    For suspension parts, shock and even springs are easy but that body need to be totally redone because when they were built Italy never expected their cars to be out of Italy and there is almost zero rust protection. That includes Ferrari’s on down to the most basic Vespa.

    The other critical thing is the GLASS. A windshield can cost the price of the car to replace. As for the driving position as a very general rule the men in that country have in proportion shorter legs and the cars fit them perfectly. Only the Alfa Giulietta had a seat position that would be comfortable for taller drivers.

    When you see one on the road these days you would be amazed how different they are. Smaller than you might expect and the balance of the body is almost perfect. Little details that modern cars just eliminate are there. A description of this car as a jewel in the rough is far more accurate then you might believe.

  9. Gavin

    Jamie, that steering set-up is original Fiat.
    They used this on many of the models, standard cars, not just ones that had outside body builders like Pinninfarina, Ghia, etc.
    Yes, it has a lot of ball joints that eventually get play in them but it works very well and for Fiat it meant easy building LHD or RHD cars. The firewall has all the holes for box mounts on both sides.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Cool!!! Thanks for the information!!

  10. Chris Digiorgio

    Interesting car. I acquired a similar 1960 model last year from Argentina, car is now in the SF Bay Area. The car is branded as a Cisitalia which was how they were imported at the time. It has an OSCA DOHC engine and custom bodywork. Decent performance, especially for that era. Parts can be found but best to go to specialists like http://www.fiatoscaspecialparts.nl/

  11. LD

    I had a Fiat 2100 sedan with an odd top radiator hose, tapered with did diameter at rad vs engine. Hose blew, stopped in an old parts store in Westport CT. A bunch of guys looked at & scratched their heads how to fabricate a replacement. Finally the store owner told me to go to a place in Stamford that works on old Fiats. I walked in the door ,pulled the hose out of a bag to show the owner. He said’give me a minute’ and went off to a storage room under a stair way. Before I knew it he came back with the exact replacement.
    Parts for most cars can be had, gotta keep after it. LD71 :😄

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