Tribute Potential: 1968 Fiat 850 Coupe

1968 Fiat 850 Coupe

As many of you are already aware, I have a Fiat 124 project, so I’m a bit of a Fiat guy. Yes, I know they have their issues, but when they are right they are sweet little machines. I’ve had the chance to experience just about every major model of Fiat imported to the States, except one. While 124 and 850 Spyders are fairly common, you rarely see their enclosed counterparts. That’s especially true for the 850 Coupe, which to this day I’ve only seen in photos. They aren’t the best looking Italian out there, but what they lack in flair they make up for in quirkiness! Unlike my 124, the engine sits in the back of this coupe, which makes for some interesting handling characteristics. To me that’s a selling point, but I could see how some would disagree! If you share my interest in odd and cheap Italian cars, you can find this one here on eBay in Lakewood, California with a current bid of $1,445. Special thanks to Roy J for this tip!

1968 Fiat 850 Coupe Interior

The seller of this coupe states that it would be the perfect car to build an Abarth OTS 1000 tribute car out of. Normally, I’d have to disagree with them, as stock 850 Coupes are as rare as hens teeth. This one has just enough rust though that I wouldn’t feel bad building a clone out of it. You will have to fix the rust to make it a safe driver anyways, so it won’t be original when you are done with it and this is one case where customization would actually improve the resale value. Oh and if you don’t know what an Abarth OTS 1000 is, think of it as the track car version of the 850.

1968 Fiat 850 Coupe Engine

Making an OT car out of this one isn’t going to be a simple task, as Abarth engines are pretty hard to come by these days. There are however a few guys out there that know how to tune Fiat engines pretty close to the same specs that Abarth did. Of course if you are going to build a tribute car that isn’t a perfect replica, there are some interesting ways to make these cars fast! An OT had a top speed of 100 mph and that seems terrifyingly fast for one of these, so I think I’d be alright with between 60 and 70 horsepower in this car. You?

1968 Fiat 850 Coupe Project

I’m sure there will be at least one “Fix It Again Tony” comments made about this car, but I’m not nearly as concerned about reliability issues with this one. I think the plethora of rust will be of greater concern than anything else. Having a Fiat, I can guarantee you the rust you see on the outside is only half of it. I haven’t really looked into parts supply for these cars, but if it’s anything like the 124 then parts shouldn’t be a problem. While I see a ton of potential with this car, I’d want to check it out carefully around the shock mounts, floors and windshield frame. If you are good at welding and enjoy hunting down hard to find Abarth parts, it could actually be an enjoyable project with the final product being one of the funniest little cars around! I might think it sounds like fun, but do you?


  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    My father bought a 1968 Fiat 850 coupe like this one used from the Fiat dealer’s chief mechanic in late 1968. I loved that car…the factory tool kit was my first set of tools. Someday I’d love to have one. Now’s not the time, unfortunately.

    • Josh Staff

      That’s too bad Jamie, hopefully it isn’t the right time because you need the space for our TVR!

  2. mark

    Feeble Italian Attempt at Transportation.

  3. jim s

    should the front seats in a 68 be highback or have headrests? this one does need a total rebuild. i have not seen one of these on the road in a very long time. interesting find.

  4. Mark P

    I had a 1975 Fiat 128 sedan in the late 70’s. Loved that car, handled like it was on rails. The snow tires on the front had people asking me questions. It wasn’t fast but I could easily lose the aging beat up muscle cars on the twisty roads. I sold it to a girl who rolled it (who knows how) and bought a beat up aging ’70 Chevelle. I always remember the Fiat TV commercials with Rémy Julienne jumping Fiats across office building roofs I think in New York. I always keep an eye out for 128’s but it seems they’ve all turned to dust. The design and tooling seems to have been turned over (licensed?) to some eastern block countries as they produced cars that looked a lot like the 128 after Fiat stopped making them.

  5. Mr. Bond

    A friend had this exact car, back in the late ’70s. What a great little car. Just loved to ride in it, and drive it on a rare occasion. Couldn’t get him out if it!

  6. Bob

    Highback seats appeared in the 1969 model. 124s did not have headrests in 1968, either

  7. Howard A Member

    AHHHHH, there it is!!! Remember a while back, on the 850 conv. one, I had a friend across the alley that had a car exactly like this. The one with the “plastic transmission gears”. Kidding, of course, but it did spend more time at the dealer waiting on trans parts, then he actually drove it. Along with shoddy workmanship, dr. door window regulator broke, gas gauge quit, stuff like that. After the 2nd time the trans went, he traded it on a ’68 Barracuda. It was a fun little car, when it ran, that is.

  8. Kevin Harper

    I had one of these in college and ran the snot out of it. I ran it in many autocross’s and a few rally cross’s in the day because that is all the racing I could afford. Mine had a 903 in it but I really wanted a 1050 from an autobiancia. I also modded the front end to look some what like an abarth 1000 bialbero and moved the radiator up front. This wasn’t due to cooling but just because I liked the look, and I could dump the engine fan for a few hp as well as transfer a little weight up front.
    I never had a lot a problem with this fiat or any fiat for that matter and have come to the conclusion that people who had problems were or had poor mechainics. The only item that I broke was Trans mount and a plastic fan. The fan breaking was the impetus to move the radiator to the front and I ran an electric fan on it. The Trans mount was probably due to the standing starts at the autocross and me standing on it and popping the clutch. I still to this day still have a transmission that I rebuilt for the car ready to go in case I did have a problem. I also use to have a spare engine but sold it many years ago. It was last seen in a 850 spider vintage racer. Neither the spare engine or Trans were ever used I just bought them because they were as cheap as chips then and I thought it was good to have a spare.
    My 850 died a horrible death. My brother was driving it at speed down a mountain road and probably lifted going into a turn and spun it backwards hitting a tree at speed. It hit hard enough that the gas tank which sits over the transmission spit and caught the car on fire and burning it and the tree to the ground. He did get out fine without any serious injuries though I did threaten to inflict some later.
    I would love to have another one of these but like Jamie I have too many projects and it is on the wrong coast.
    Oh in regards to parts. Mechanic also are available but trim and body are practically non existent.

  9. Ben T. Spanner

    I traded a dead VW to a Fiat mechanic for a running 1968 Fiat 850 in the early 1970’s It had no rust and nice tires on fat Italian cast wheels. The exhaust was shot. I found a header for $28. The bolt pattern was wrong, but fixed with a little drilling. I hung a Thrush glasspack on it and we were road ready.

    My wife saw it and adopted it as a daily driver. She would drag race the city busses, and sometimes win. The key broke off in the ignition, but it still functioned even with my key. The drivers door glass broke, but the replacement was $12 from a dealer. My friend had an 850 sedan in mint green, which was even rarer.

    I sold it to a guy who parked on a one way street. It was side-swiped by a hit and run driver down the entire right side. As I recall, no cheap used parts were available. Too bad as it was a fun car.

  10. Ed OConnor

    If I didn’t know better I would say that is my old FIAT I sold to a kid in Panama City Beach FL in about 2003 or so. Sure looks like it. But they all looked the same. Would like to know the history of this car.

  11. Michael Rogers Member

    These little hummers have typical Italian instrumentation with a tach that read up to 8500 as I recall and would wind that far,–far beyond where any HP was but it made a nice noise there (no not a BOOM) A friend stuffed a 124 TC in one kinda like the factory one.

    I’d buy it but have no more space for anything but DO have lots of parts for it and others.OF course.

    If you’re going to run in H or G Mod vintage racing, these are THE parts used!

  12. Alex Redding

    Had a dark blue 71 that I picked uo in Turin, drove it all over Spain & Portugal with girlfriend & 2 cats. Put a camber compensator on it to tame the rear. Died a horrible death back in D.C. rearended by a 4 door Thunderbird. Loved that car!

  13. Austin

    I believe that is actually a 1967 850 Coupe, not a 68 Sport Coupe. Note the lack of inboard driving lights and twin tail lights. 1967 had a one year only 817 cc high compression motor. 68 brought the “sport” changes, including the high back seats.

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