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Fiat 124 Spider. Under-rated roadster offers Italian flair and sprightly performance for under £20,000. How come you ...
Fiat 124 Spider. Under-rated roadster offers Italian flair and sprightly performance for under £20,000.

How come you can buy an enticing sports spider that taps directly into the DNA of Ferrari styling and V12 engines for little more than an MGB? That’s just one of the mysteries of the Fiat 124 Spider.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the MGB and its 1940s-derived pushrod engine. But wouldn’t you prefer a spirited, rev-happy and readily tuneable twin overhead-cam four designed by Aurelio Lampredi, who created the prodigious large-capacity Ferrari V12 race and road car engines of the 1950s, clothed in a body by the man who fashioned the Ferrari 275 GTS at Pininfarina? The similarities between that sublime million-pound Ferrari and the 124 Spider, which Tom Tjaarda penned slightly later, are plain to see.

In 1966 the new 124 Spider was a generation ahead of the well-established MGB, with all-round disc brakes, five-speed gearbox, superior appointments and comfort, and a one-handed folding convertible top that many rate as the best of its time, and infinitely superior to the MGB’s.

Even though the original 90bhp 1438cc Spider conceded nearly 400cc, it beat the Brit to 60mph in 11.9 seconds and all out, too, to 106mph. I don’t want to bash the much-adored B, but today’s ballpark market values force comparison, even though in its day the MGB was far cheaper than the Fiat - and that’s if you could have bought one in the UK. The 124 Spider was never officially listed for UK sale and was only ever produced in left-hand drive, although there are quite a few aftermarket right-hand conversions around.

However, the Spider was a hit in the USA, which accounted for around 85% of the 178,000 models produced from 1966 to 1985. There it came in cheaper than the Alfa 1600cc Duetto Spider, but had the edge in pace and, most would say, in handling too, which is sharp, nimble, chuckable and secure.

Indeed, the 124 Spider in Abarth guise was a major player in international rallies in the early '70s, while Alfa Spiders excelled on palm-fringed Pacific coast boulevards.

Like the MGB, the Fiat Spider was produced for nearly 20 years; unlike the MGB, the Fiat was continuously developed with engines growing eventually to 2.0 litres, but bigger is not necessarily better as US cars from 1970-on were detuned, then fitted with emissions equipment that further sapped performance; however, this can easily be undone. Impact bumpers came in 1974 with higher ride height, which didn’t help handling.

In Euro spec, the 110bhp 1600 of 1970 could notch up 112mph and the 119bhp 1800 topped out at around 116mph, with a 10-second 0-60mph time. The later 2.0-litre cars, initially for the US only, couldn’t match their predecessors, but Bosch fuel injection on later cars restored some of the lost performance.

In 1982 Pininfarina, which had always made the bodies, took over full manufacture, and as a fitting swansong from 1983 to the end in '85 produced the 135bhp, 120mph Volumex supercharged version.

The 124 Spider’s only fault perhaps is the stigma of its Fiat name. If it were an Alfa, what with all its hot-blooded connotations and romance, you’d have to pay a lot more for one. Mystery solved.

PRICE POINTS
PRICE AT LAUNCH: The 124 Spider was special order only in the UK and not officially price listed. For cost comparison when new, in the US in 1968 a Lotus Elan cost $4545, an Alfa Duetto was $3950 and the Fiat $3181. For further context a Triumph TR250 (TR5) cost $3175, with the MGB at $2670. On that basis, if listed in the UK, Fiat would most likely have pitched it below the Alfa Spider (£1895) and probably ahead of the Lotus Elan (£1598) - over £600 more than an MGB.

1980s AND 1990s: In the latter part of the '80s price guides pitched top-notch Alfa Duetto Spiders at £15,000, MGBs at £7500 and 124s at a lowly £4500; that’s just not right. In the post-boom early-’90s, Alfas dipped to £12,500, MGBs were static while the Fiat was valued at £5500, marginally up in real and relative terms, but still not right. In the UK auction arena £5250 paid in 1997 for a freshly restored 1971 Spider was top price of the decade.

TODAY: In 2013 at a US auction an exceptional show-winning 1969 Spider 1400 made a truly exceptional but unrepresentative £29,200; in the UK no Fiat 124 Spider has ever topped £10,000 at auction. An uprated 1967 Spider with 1800 engine that made £7920 in 2014 was a decent car. That’s still MGB money; however, very higher-quality Fiats with the trade are currently on offer at up to £22,000. A Spider 1600 at £17,000 is described as perfect, while a ‘stunning’ 1977 1800 car in UK-friendly RHD is up for £15,950.
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  •   Andy Everett reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Rediscovery #Fiat-124 sport coupe 1600 and 1800 / #Fiat-124-Sport-Coupe-1600 / #Fiat-124-Sport-Coupe-1800 / #Fiat-124-Sport-Coupe

    Same year, same colour but different displacements for both #Fiat 124 Sport Coupe: a left 1600, right 1800. Both received a new face appeared AV late August #1972 with separate grille-mounted optical double platinum. Seem fog of 1600 are a period option.


    If today many manufacturers fail to decline over twenty models on the same basis, in simply making the "badging" and minimal cosmetic changes, it was not the case when back 50 years back. Best, downright could start from zero and disseminate almost in an identical range of cars that borrowed anything to each other. This is the case of the 124 Sport Coupe that has not only his own body, but has retained the sedan as its suspension and wheelbase. Everything else is new, starting with the engine! Other times, other customs ...

    It could not be different from the sedan that cut and spiders that were declined. At Fiat, we did not go with the back of a spoon, which not surprisingly, a trend that already happened with the #Fiat-850-Spider and assembled by #Bertone . The only difference is that this time, it is not an external coachbuilder in Turin manufacturer offering a new version, but the Internal Style Centre, headed by Gianpaolo Boano. Entered the market in March #1966 the Fiat 124 has, at first glance, nothing glamorous. It is a pure technical product, remarkably well thought out and, in a modest appearance, marks a clear break with the past. For the first time, this is not, in fact, the office studies who designed the concept, but that of the production that has imposed his views. Result? An extremely simple car, easy to manufacture, maintain and repair, lightweight (855 kg load) and reliable. A future global success since it will be assembled by several brands ( #Seat , #Tofas and #Lada #VAZ Russian) until ... 2011.

    Is the rivalry between the two teams of engineers that grows to fully review the copy for derivatives? Without a doubt. How else to explain that apart from the suspension, the Sport Spider sublime built by #Pininfarina borrows nothing from the sedan? Not even its wheelbase! But above all, what other explanation could advance the studies who developed the Sports Coupé and have chosen, once again, that the running gear elements while maintaining this time wheelbase sedan? Take the engine. The wise 4-cylinder 1197 cm3 five bearings and is replaced by a much more noble mechanics. A double overhead camshaft studied by Aurelio Lampredi. 1438 cm3 for power increased to 90 hp DIN and a nice bonus torque of 11 kgm available from 4,000rpm. Small wonder that, by the way, is only the first in a long line that will last until the 90s, Lancia K Turbo 1994 being the last to use it. It is associated with a box 5 of the convertible (fifth overdrive), a box 4 of the coupe.

    The brakes, always drives on four wheels, are now recipients. The dashboard and interior have nothing in common with the sedan and we also note an important difference compared with this time at spider: the cut, the windshield is glued, chrome entourage participating more tightness becomes a pure aesthetic element.

    This is a first for Fiat. As for drawing Boano, he moves away from both the sedan might have trouble finding and cabriolet with whom he shares, however, a small family resemblance.

    Sold much cheaper than its competitors (ITL 1,490,000 against 1,695,000 in the Giulia GT Junior in particular), the Sport Coupe is so successful that it will quickly evolve into a second series presented in November 1969 at the Turin Motor Show. By visual uniformity of concern with Dino, the whole AV facade is revisited, integrating four projectors iodine and rectangular flashing in the bumper. The AR and AR optical trunk lid are also redesigned, as the dashboard that receives a clock, a matte colour instead of the fake wood to house the instruments, cloth seats instead of leatherette (the - C remains present on the sides of the backrest and seat), etc. Little quirk that it is difficult to understand: the AV deflector has been reduced in size and, hence, there is no interchangeability of AV ice between the first two series.

    It was at this same time that his shoulder Sport Coupé Fiat 1400 version 1600 which drift mechanics that of 125: 110 hp, two dual carburettors body to manoeuvre and a higher compression ratio for a top speed which rose from 170 to 180 km/h. The suspension is relaxed at the expense of handling but for the benefit of comfort, especially as the AR anti roll bar disappears the landscape, accentuating his temperament understeer. The third and final series starts on 27 August 1972. Aesthetically, the changes are debatable but in the times, it seems. The rectangular grille slightly rounded edges is framed by dual lens mounted on separate panels. The bumpers are in three parts, bananas equipped with a rubber protection. The face AR receives trapezoidal headlamps, more imposing bumper with a horizontal range and the rear trunk door is extended to the floor, which facilitates access to the boot. Inside, the bottom of the dashboard is of metal cladding and the shape of the seats provides better lumbar support.

    Technically, the trend is even clearer. If, for the record, we note the return of the anti-roll bar at the rear (Fiat acknowledged its mistake), mechanical supply is completely redesigned. The 1400 first passes the trap. In five years of existence, he had convinced 30% of buyers cut. The 1,608 cm3 is replaced by the 1,592 cm3 derived from 132. With an important result, because it is much less athletic, especially associated with a unique dual carburettor body, solely to reducing consumption. The power is thus lowered to 104 hp DIN and although the top speed is unchanged, reversals and sensations are more bourgeois.

    At his side landed a new version equipped with a 1756 cm3 developing 114hp, also fed by only one lung and produced until March 1976. The last cut Fiat before long (see box). Find one now almost a miracle, most of whom perished on the ground. Then two! In the same year (1973), in the same colour (red Sierra), with the option box 5 and belonging to two brothers, it was simply unimaginable.

    When I was twenty, explains Roberto Mensio, I rode every day with a coupe 124 green. One of the last copies of the second series, the best of the three in my opinion. But at the time, I wanted one of the ultimate models. I thought a modern twist could not hurt. Having seen a dozen, I found this in 1600 I used until 1989 after some minor work. "This is that chance puts him in the presence of another coupe, a 1800 one, stopped on the roadside, open cover. "I offer my help, thinking it was a problem with the fuel pump, a classic on the third series. And there, the guy told me that it should rather be the turbo! I think of a joke, I lean and I actually discovered a Garrett turbine!

    Fascinated, Roberto made an offer to the owner. Who four months later, agreed to cede its Sports Coupe which was only 41,000 km on the odometer. "I wanted to sell the 1600, but I finally gave my brother Massimo. I took advantage of turbo of 1800 until 1992 but in town it was heating a lot, so I put everything back home. "So, as I am taking the view stealing two cars, performance is pretty equal between the two models, the pair slightly higher Milleotto being barely perceptible. Tasty its double overhead cam head, without being as addictive as Alfa Romeo, is promising, but use both engines admit some discretion on this generation. The fault lies in part only dual carburettor body, but also a wiser distribution diagram. So, the nervousness of the second series has somewhat evaporated in favour of a outros increased suppleness and use more consistent with what is expected of a pure passenger car. With five box and the bridge of the previous version, we could have hoped for. It's just not worse.

    We consoled by saying that, suddenly, the car is much better adapted to current circulation rules, limitations and other constraints that inter say to drive fast. And if one wants to keep still a vague feeling of sportiness, there is always the solution to push the first three reports, taking full advantage of this torque between 4,200 and 6,000rpm. The handling of the case and locks incite farms.

    For cons, the return to the Panhard rod to the RA undoubtedly is good for the coupe gaining neutrality, despite its rigid axle and coil springs that are a bit too soft, triggering times of roll damping effects that are struggling to fight. I assure you, this is really sensitive that when a string of abrupt changes of support and not at all in high-speed corners, which was the case on the second series. Regarding cars Mensio brothers, I encounter another phenomenon: If 1600 has retained the original air rises, the 1800 is equipped with 185 (two sizes above) and a limited slip differential. So, if it is less fun to "steer" it becomes downright polite in his reactions. Wrapping a Senator serenity. For me, the major difference in character is only there. Not in the engine but in this tire choice.

    You will understand, the coupe has the name of Sport. It behaves honestly, but do not try to chase the stopwatch. He knows how to stay in his place, offering a snowman illusion and without surprises complicity. It is pretty well established in wraparound seats participating in good general comfort and welcoming four people because the rear seat is actually usable by adults, which is rare enough in this category to be reported. The cabin is fairly typical Fiat however enjoying a beautifully arranged battery of instruments on a board ribbed aluminium look great. You get total: tachometer graduated up to a generous 220 km/h, with tachometer red zone starting at 6,400rpm, fuel gauge, oil pressure, water temperature and watch. The centre console includes two adjustable vents in addition to two others on each side of the dashboard. Is that we are dealing here with a heating system that is both powerful and effective way that betrays a little more bourgeois vocation of this cut. Just as the presence of the radio or the optional wide trunk. Or habitability. If I dared, I would say that this car is actually a cleverly disguised sedan coupe. I dare.

    The distribution is hidden by this very elegant painted housing. The manufacturer recommended replacement belt every 40,000 km... A word... By recovering a Panhard bar at rear, the coupe found the stability he had lost with the radio option, you could to install a power antenna which reads the engine. It is under the trunk carpet that hides the spare wheel.

    Gianpaolo Boano drew a coda tronca back, taking it relates both stylistic and aerodynamic very popular in the late 60s.

    The 4-cylinder designed by Aurelio Lampredi is a double overhead camshaft head with toothed belt drive.

    Read also
    • Fiat 124: Frog or princess
    • Fiat 124 Sport Spider and Coupe: Buying Guide
    • Fiat 124: The Universal Car
    • Fiat 124: Conquering the world
    • Fiat 124 Sport Spider 1600: mid-Mi-bourgeois sport
    • Fiat 124 Sport Spider: The Good Deal?


    The major difference with the two previous series, these are the lights and trapezoidal significantly larger bumpers, with banana with rubber protection.

    The coupe has always been entitled to a generator, which was not the case of the Spider.

    Technical passport Fiat 124 Sport Coupe 1600 3rd series Incidentally, the data from the 1800s.

    ENGINE
    Type AC.000 Fiat 132 (132 AC1.000). 4 cylinders in line, ready longitudinally AV. Cast iron block, alloy cylinder head. Five crankshaft bearings. Valves V controlled by two overhead camshafts driven by toothed belt

    Displacement: 1.592 (1.756) cm3
    Bore x stroke: 80 (84) x 79.2 mm
    Compression ratio: 9.8: 1 (8.9: 1)
    Max power: 104 (114) DIN hp at 6,000rpm or 108 (118) DIN hp with the optional five-speed box
    Max torque: 14 (15.6) DIN m/kg at 4200rpm
    Power: double barrel carburettor #Weber or #Solex C34 DMS 34 ESIA 5
    Ignition: 12 V 45 Ah battery, coil and distributor
    Cooling: liquid radiator and pump.

    TRANSMISSION
    Wheels rear drive, limited slip differential optional
    Clutch: dry
    Transmission: 4-speed synchronized + March (5 optional box) shifter on floor

    Gear ratios 4: 1st: 3,797 - 2nd: 2,175 - 3rd: 1,410 - 4: 1 - MAR: 3,652
    5 gear ratios: 1st: 3,667 - 2nd: 2,100 - 3rd: 1,361 - 4: 1 - 5th: 0.881 - MAR: 3,526
    Axle Ratio: 3.900 (hypoid bevel) with BV4, with 4,300 BV5.
    STRUCTURE
    2-door coupe, 4 places. Self-supporting monocoque body made of sheet steel

    Front suspension: independent with wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar, hydraulic shock absorbers
    Rear suspension: rigid axle, four longitudinal push rods, Panhard bar, hydraulic shock absorbers
    Brakes: Front disc / rear, brake booster assistance through
    Handbrake: mechanical, acting on rear wheels
    Direction: screw and roller
    Turning circle: 11.7 m between walls
    Rims: steel (alloy Cromodora option) 5Jx13 inch

    Wheel and tyres: 165 HR 13, HR 13 185 optional
    Dimensions (L x W x H): 4,170 x 1,670 x 1,340 m
    Wheelbase: 2,420 m
    Routes front / rear: 1,340 / 1,310 m
    Ground clearance: 0.125 m
    Trunk volume: 0.221 m3
    Empty weight: 995 kg.

    PERFORMANCE
    Top speed: 180 (185) km/h
    Consumption: 8.7 (8.4) litres/100km.
    PRODUCTION
    March 1966 - March 1976: 299,686 copies.

    LISTING
    The last set is the least publicly. For 4,000 euros you can find a copy in fairly good condition. But be careful to corrosion, the number one enemy of this model which is struggling to take off because of this recurring phenomenon (Source: Ruoteclassiche).

    This 1800 Cromodora equipped with wheels and a tire goes up twice in the beginning, better holding the pad. But what is gained safe, fun is lost.

    Data for four seats, the 124 Sport Coupe has a seat that can actually accommodate two people in relative comfort. Place reserved for legs is limited, especially if the driver or his neighbour recede headquartered maximum.

    Welcome aboard a car inclination to sports if we rely decorum, but rather gentrified as evidenced perfectly padded seats and very generous in size. We were optimistic at Fiat by providing a graded meter to 220 km / h!

    The wide door provides easy access to rear seats. Its finish is simple but decorated with touches of chrome that enhance black leatherette. Above the center console, most of the control dials associated with a watch. A classic: The quarter windows that can open wide to better ventilate the cabin.


    Roberto and Massimo Mensio and Fiat 124 Sport Coupe 1600 and 1800 1973 "family of fans"

    On the occasion of the press kit for the launch in 1993 of the Fiat Coupe, the manufacturer turned to Chris Bangle and produced a family photo before the Stupinigi hunting lodge not far from Turin. It showed some of the cut created by the house, how to ensure witness the award between 1100 S, 8V, the Dino, 2300 or S 124 Sport Coupe. The latter, as you see it today is that of Massimo Mensio.

    "Fiat does not have in his collection and I was asked if I would lend it. What I did willingly, you can imagine. "It was also he who had presented his 1100 D. Roberto, he too is not unknown to you. He is regularly invited in our columns, the commercial agent of 51 years with a remarkable collection of models in the mid-60s and 70s, only badged Fiat: 125, 124 and 124 Sport Spider 1600.
    This is called a fan family!

    The new ventilation grille with its hubcap. If the spider is entitled to door handles with visible button, the coupe has always had this beautiful palette system.

    Face to face between two aesthetically identical models. The rims difference is the result of an option, nothing else. These trapezoidal lights appeared only on the third series.

    Do not be fooled by appearances, the 124 Sport Coupe is not a sport. She just gives the illusion. Nevertheless, we can have fun at the wheel.

    The rear trunk door was revised to finally allow access to the luggage compartment. Previously, the vertical part was fixed and we had to pass over.

    It was a first for Fiat: the windscreen is glued.
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