Fiat’s revival of the Fiat-124-Spider title will, no doubt, regenerate interest in the original car to carry the name, which debuted at the Turin Show 50 years ago. Almost 200,000 Spiders were built and many of them went to the USA. Over its 29-year production span the 124 Spider had five different engine capacities offering varying degrees of performance. Its purity took a dip in #1975
when the USA imposed serious emission restrictions and inflicted the cars with heavy, impact resistant bumpers. A compromise was achieved in the 1980s with the introduction of the Spider 2000 (later Azzura) for the USA market. The similar Spidereuropa, as the title implies, was for the European market. These cars were a complete revamp of the original 124 having the benefit of efficient fuel injection and were generally better appointed. / #Fiat-124
Meanwhile, the UK market considered that the technically advanced, stylish, twin-cam 124 Spider would not be competitive with its national treasure the MGB (basically a two-door Austin Cambridge), so right-hand drive 124s were never officially imported into the UK. The cars that do exist are all conversions, save for one Spidereuropa that was presented by Pininfarina at Earls Court in 1982 to tempt Fiat dealers to place orders. Sadly it didn’t happen.
The first Spiders that did actually make it over to the UK were personal imports, like my own red Spider imported in 1977 after serving with the RAF in Germany. I repeated the exercise in 1983 after another RAF Germany tour with my second car, a 1980 Spider 2000. After seeking out like-minded enthusiasts I became a founder member of the Fiat Twin Cam Register, which sparked off my interest in writing. So the 124 Spider has a lot to answer for...
The classic car boom in the 1990s saw many USA 124 Spiders come back to Europe to feed the demand in the new market. Although these cars were bodily sound, the asthmatic USA spec engines were a disappointment and provided lack lustre performance. Some enthusiasts that were handy with spanners uprated their cars by fitting tuned European engines and replaced the soft suspension, which I did with my final Spider, a blue car that is still operational with its current owner. Some cars were better prepared than others leading to many half converted abandoned projects appearing on eBay.
The best prospects today are cars in original specification or properly restored condition. These cars are now quite rare, but they are out there as a trip to the wonderful Padova Show will prove. Occasionally a Spider will come up for auction and one such car is in the catalogue for the RMSothebys Monaco sale on May 14th. It’s a Spider 2000, almost identical to the one I brought back from Germany in 1983. With just 25k recorded miles it has to be the best example currently available. Accepting that the glamorous sale location will probably enhance the sale price, the figure achieved will set the bar for future prospects. Very tempting.