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Two Owners! Covered-Headlight 1968 Fiat 850 Spider

If you are reasonably quiet – I mean maybe not even as quiet as you would be in a movie theater – you can hear a Fiat rusting somewhere. That fact alone makes this almost rust-free, two-owner 1968 Fiat 850 spider here on facebook Marketplace worth investigating, but aside from its clean body, this example is compelling for other reasons. Top of the list is its covered headlights. This car was designed in Bertone’s studio (Giorgetto Giugiaro was the penman) so Fiat could have a sports car to offer alongside its other 850 variants. Launched in 1965, the pretty spider didn’t make it to the US until 1967 – right at the moment that regulators were nixing glass-covered headlights. From mid-1968 on, the 850’s headlights stood up off the bonnet line – an ungainly solution that afflicted everything from Jaguar XKEs to VW Bugs. The seller is asking $9000 for this rare car, and it’s located in Portland, Oregon. (By complete happenstance, I know the seller – and I can vouch for the quality of his cars.)

Another mark in the “plus” column belongs to the motor. In 1967/8 cars coming to the US were equipped with an 843 cc four-cylinder making about 43 bhp.  But alas, emission control regulations were sending car makers scrambling for solutions – and Fiat chose to duck the problem by decreasing displacement to 817 cc’s. Engines under 50 cid were exempt from the rules. This car still has an 843 cc mill, completely rebuilt by the seller with receipts available. The clutch is new, the original radiator has been re-cored, the carburetor was rebuilt, and as you can see, this owner cares as much about how his cars run as how they look: the engine bay is nicely detailed. Yes, that gem of a header is original, and front disc brakes were standard on the spider. The 850’s swanky looks are better than its performance – you can row through the four-speed manual up to 90 mph, but you better have a long straight to work with. Despite the engine in the tail, handling is excellent thanks to suspension geometry designed to accommodate the rear weight.

The floor pans have been sanded and epoxy-painted; one seat bottom was re-upholstered; the optional wood-rimmed steering wheel was restored. The original rubber mats were carefully cleaned and reinstalled. An after-market vacuum gauge is under the dash, and the car’s first owner installed a Realistic removable radio. All the lights and gauges work. The top frame is with the car, along with two hardtops – one a very rare factory item. A driving video is included in the listing.

So those headlights. Yes, the illustrious Lamborghini Miura shares those, but lesser known is that the 850’s tail lights are also installed on the Miura. The parts bin supplied both cars with interior door handles, too. While sharing a few parts isn’t enough to make this spider into a supercar, prices have been on the rise in the last decade. You’ll pay more for these early cars than the later less attractive versions but they’re still very reasonable. This example sold for $15,250 with an uprated engine; Hagerty pegs an “excellent” car at $18k. Our subject car is a paint job away from a much higher price.


  1. Nevada1/2rack Nevada1/2rack Member

    Have a good friend with one of these in red when we were in HS. Being a good size kid (varsity left tackle as a sophomore!) it was comic entertainment to watch him get in with the tip up especially.
    It came to an end when he was speedshifting out of the parking lot one afternoon and the engine dropped out..
    Bought a ‘69 Boss 429. Amazing he lived to tell about THAT car. Sold it and bought a Mazda/Ford Courier when he got his football scholarship to Dixie College!

    Like 4
  2. alphasud Member

    Such a pretty little car with the emphasis on little. Park one of these next to a Miata and it would look like a pedal car. Unfortunately size does matter when driving on public roads. The owners son at the Alfa dealer I worked at drove one and one morning on his way to work a cement truck didn’t see him and pulled out in front of him. He went under the truck and if it weren’t for a ER nurse in traffic behind him he would have lost his life. As much as I like these cars I couldn’t own one for that reason.

    Like 2
    • Jim

      I used to own a Spitfire. It always amazed me how I could see under semis when I passed them. It never stopped me from enjoying it though. I’d love to have this…or maybe a Midget or another Spit.

      Like 7
      • luckless pedestrian

        Had 3, X1/9s over the years… always had the same sensation when passing (or being passed by) semis… Imagined doing those movie stunt maneuvers of passing underneath… no, I never attempted it… not even close.

        Like 1
  3. Jim

    That radio is something I’ve never seen before. It’s pretty cool… and period correct. This would be a great car. Wish it weren’t on the opposite coast… and the middle of winter.

    Like 5
    • mike

      I had one of these radios back in 69-70…AM only though.Used to pull it out and take into the house.Wish i still had it.

      Like 2
  4. Ricardo Ventura

    Among all Fiat models, this is my favorite.

    Like 2
  5. Mike Hawke

    Loved to redline that motor in every gear, but never had to worry about whether I was too far above the speed limit.

    Like 1
  6. bobhess bobhess Member

    Raced with one for several years. Beautiful car and the owner said it was fun to drive. It was one of those cars you got a beer and a chair and just sat down and looked at.

    Like 6
  7. Mike F

    My best friend had a 1969 in the mid-70s and it was already a rust bucket (Long Island, NY – salted roads and salt air). Never knew the engine was downsized from 850. One day, my 250 pound buddy got in and the seat fell through the bottom. We were both headed to the garage where we worked and I towed him there. We put the 850 up on the lift and proceeded to weld in angle iron and sheet metal from coffee cans hammered flat. He drove it for at least another year and sold it to someone even heavier.

    Like 5
    • Michelle Rand Staff

      That is a great story! “Necessity is the mother of invention”, or some such….

      Like 4
  8. Big C

    I guess Father Time has a way of making horrible cars seem wonderful.

    Like 2
  9. Mike

    I’m surprised that there are some of these still around. I remember back in the 80’s looking for cool affordable sports cars and every one I checked out had serious rust issues or beaten to death.

    Like 1
  10. PairsNPaint

    Back in the day, it seemed like every co-ed on the campus of the University of Maryland had one of these.

    Like 0
  11. Ron

    I have bright yellow 73 Spider, last year it was exported to the US. Hopefully the owner of this 68 has the all-important engine bay trays, they are a necessity for proper engine cooling.

    Like 2
  12. OldNSlo

    That is a very nice price for an early 850. I’ve owned a bunch over the years my first in HS was a 73 in 78. Currently I have three parked in the garage. This one needs the engine compartment lower covers installed. Failure to do so will result in unwanted and serious consequences as the radiator fan pushes air towards the front of the car, without the covers the hot air never escapes the engine compartment and overheating is a forgone conclusion. It’s not easy finding a nice one as they were all recalled for floor rusting out and most went to the crusher. All that said these cars are the most fun you can have with your clothes on and they get 40mpg.

    Like 3
  13. Kim

    1960s through the late 70s I can’t think of a car that wasn’t rust prone. As a multiple sports car owner and restorer of cars of this era I’ve found the Fiat no worse than any other imported car. Yes I too had a 1971 850 which I wrecked beyond recognition and that front end crunch zone saved me in a rather brutal fight with a Camaro that made a left turn in front of me. This example is really tempting for me. I don’t think I can restore one for less money.

    Like 1
  14. Chris Webster

    On the rust front I can only say that the Fiat 125S my parents bought new in 1970 had one small bubble in the LHF guard/fender/wing when sold out of the family in 1984.
    Considering it was shipped to New Guinea, then to the UK, driven across Europe than shipped to Australia, that’s not bad.

    Like 1
  15. Raymond B Clark

    I had the Abarth OTS 1000 version of this. A really fun car to drive but my ex borrowed it while I was putting breaks on her VW Ghia and totaled it :(
    My only issue was the window winders didn’t work in freezing weather.

    Like 0
  16. donald Doxtater

    I had a 1968 spider convertible in 68 ,it only cost $1700 new . The only problem was the battery was in the front and would go dead in the winter months so it was basically a summer car. I traded it for a Dodge Coronet after a year , i enjoyed driving the car and the gas mileage was fantastic about 40 mph on trips .

    Like 0

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