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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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  •   Ben Barry reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Take a sharp turn with a train back behind the front axle of the steering wheel, it takes some getting used to. #Fiat-238-Van / #Fiat-238 / #Fiat-Van / #Fiat / #Fiat-124 / #1967 /

    UTILITIES Fiat 238 Van

    With 1000 kg payload, this small van has made a lot of services to artisans who acclaimed this completely panelled finish. Despite the absence of AR glass. Or rather because of that, because it allowed to hide the container to potential scroungers...

    The first Fiat vehicle front-wheel drive, it's her, invaded the largely Italian roads during the reasons for its success? A volume load therefore delicate. Even in regions as troubled Fiat 238. A family of utilities. Not very powerful, but declinable desire, she 70 and 80, before giving way to the Ducato, clone D5 and C25 French. The reasons ease of maintenance and reliability which enabled him to face the most situations Liguria, where we performed this test. Testimony.

    Sweep input against a truth-no, all vans are not derived from a car. I almost tend to argue that many of them have provided their expertise to help develop cars. Take Traction Avant. At Renault, she appeared on the Estafette, two years before settling on the R4. Same at Alfa Romeo who tested this technical solution not on the Alfasud, but 18 years earlier on the Romeo van. And Fiat?

    He would have expected the 128 to adopt after having tried the Autobianchi Primula? Once again, you have it all wrong. It is officially born in March 1967, with the 238 ... A utility that shares certain points with 241, but only on style, performance, technical (that's a propulsion) and dimensions are different, the latter capable of carrying up to 1.4 t payload thanks to its diesel engine, borrowed from the Campagnola.

    The 238 is first of all a mini-revolution for Fiat, with a 4-cylinder transversely implanted AV to ensure the transmission to the front wheels. A 1221cc engine designed in the 50s for the Simca 8 and taken particularly by Fiat 1100 D and Primula. Here it is deflated to 44bhp to limit the maximum speed to 105 km / h and the crankshaft is always mounted on three levels. The front-wheel drive has freed the load floor and thus increase the useful volume of 5.3 m3 which passes on the van it replaces T in 1100 to 6.5 m3, the threshold is no longer finding that 41 cm from the ground. Another major advance: all four wheels are independent with a front axle inspired by Primula has its upper transverse leaf spring and its lower link arms and a rear train abandons the rigid axle of the benefit associated with trailing arms two transverse torsion bars and anti-roll bar. Last but not least important on a utility, all the elements are now lubricated for life, which greatly restricts maintenance. And thus their cost. Aesthetically, it is noted that if the descent from the old range is guaranteed by the front facade, the van part has totally been redesigned to offer, including a double side door without central post to open a mouth 1.4 m wide, but only 1,295 m.

    A first evolution occurs in 1968. Just like Primula, the 238 gives up the old engine 103 to adopt a derivative thereof which was developed for the Fiat 124 in two displacements, both with five levels: 1.197 cm3, 44 hp and 1438 cm3, 46 hp, the latter enjoying a torque increased from 8.8 to 9.8 mkg obtained at a lower speed (2300 r / min instead of 2,500). At the same time, the range widens to consist of a plateaucabine to tôlé vans, glass or high roof van, double cab, "promiscuo" (nine seats, 400 kg of cargo), 11 seats minibuses, buses school 16 or 21 seats and ambulance. For 1975, 1197 cm3 and 1438 cm3 disappears available in two formulas. Economic and settling for regular gasoline: 47 hp, 9.6 kgm torque Max 2600rpm, 105 kmh. Or nervous and filled up with super fuel: 52bhp and 10.8 kgm 110 km / h. By the way, he trades the distribution chain for a belt, quieter course, but asked to be replaced more often. It is the last major modification of a model who retired in 1977, replaced by an aesthetic evolution, 238E, introducing plastic as well as for the interior grille. It will be divided into less rustic versions and more leisure oriented with even the very end of career, a camper Andal. Far, far away from the laborious vocation of the first copies.

    The one I unearthed you had a nerdy pure, and it is in a region where his size did not benefit. Liguria! It is beautiful to die. But also a narrow trail ibex in the Alps. One kilometer wide between mountains and sea side of Sestri Levante, charming village about fifty kilometers from Genoa. On this thin strip of land crammed beaches, umbrellas, houses, shops and, throughout, a host of incredible density. You can not make a meter in the streets or in the mountains without being surrounded by a multitude of scooters buzzing like a swarm in search of nectar. All in a maze of narrow streets, sharp turns and slopes that even Chris Froome could swallow forcing his strange pedal stroke. To make matters worse, this van measuring 4.59 m long and it has no rear windows! If I back over to its owner, Fabrizio Colella, it will take a miracle ... Meanwhile, I burn some candles in petty hoping not to go up in smoke because figurezvous the engine is located under the rear passenger august ( the box is in mine), the huge air filter positioned in recovering from my back cool air through gills practiced right. In winter, it is nicely warm the atmosphere, but the summer I assure you it is not ideal. In addition, it gives you the impression to talk to the roaring forties when the climb is seeking the depths of mechanics (which unfortunately happens every 200 m on this hilly course!), Vibration and doors few bonus. .. I knew more comfortable test, but war is war, and I knew what to expect.

    The advantage of this mechanical layout is elsewhere: in instead released into the cabin on this type of cab for mounting a bench inviting two people without resistance, in addition to the driver's seat. Far from the two seats separated by a Estafette or Citroën HY. But the absence of engine compartment has other effects. The bag containing the washer liquid is thus located on the passage of wheel driver, double hydraulic fluid reservoir above ... his feet. Let's hope it does not leak, I put some new shoes! More original again, the radiator expansion tank. It is concealed by a flap on the dashboard, passenger side. And the radiator is at the centre, which is also a significant obstacle forcing the third adult to raise the knees to stand on tiptoe or amputate squarely half of shins... Do not try nit.

    This van is intended utility and staffing well be minimalist, it would be churlish to complain because it was still entitled to the door panels, a floor mat, two sun visors, two vents (for fresh air, it's not luxury, because for hot you already have everything you need between the engine and the radiator!) and a tachometer with the bare necessities: a fuel gauge and LEDs in addition to the meter graduated to an optimistic 130 kmh. It does remind you of anything? It should, it is exactly that of the contemporary Fiat 500 L... who robbed him (when I tell you that these are the cars that copy utilities, not vice versa!).

    As I expected, the driving position is anything but comfortable, with a seat without any maintenance, stiff as justice and too late to preserve my back. I hold the steering wheel as if I was in a truck and I see gout. On the front, it can still go, but on the back, I have to rely on only two exterior mirrors because, I remind you, there is no glazing AR (neither side for that matter) and therefore no retro interior. For cons, the handling of the gear lever, located directly on the bell, is rather pleasant, even if the details are not always strangely rendezvous. But that was the time when Fiat stammered his boxes...

    I must also contend with wheels located well back from the steering wheel. It does not cover the cord of a turn in the same way, and manoeuvres take another flavour. My arms still remember, they had to fight a good time for a successful niche beast, with a very firm direction at low speed and visibility near zero. Everything finally across 30 cm from the sidewalk, under the jeers of the bystanders who were laughing to no end to see me suffer.

    So much more than one of them, hefty beyond the reasonable (his muscles bulged from everywhere, handing his shirt as a string!) Beckoned me to leave him instead. "I drove a 30-year, it pulls in a handkerchief. Move over I will show you. "

    Just if it does not whistled by placing it in its 238 well-defined rectangle, at once and without sweat! "It's like riding a bike, it is not forgotten. Still, mine was not as good on the end of his life. He was Bigné everywhere, but it was the others who were returning us there. They were often too optimistic in the turns, and did you see the streets here? "

    Well, OK, I'll come back for slots. But I am not, however, very proud to have brought the van to Fabrizio intact after an epic journey through the mountains to worry about the brakes downhill. The owner had scared me and told me they were not very durable, no load arranging anything, he said. I must say I was quite reassured.

    No fading and slowdowns perfectly controlled with the help of the audience, something rare in a utility of that time, like the dual circuit. Even the stiff suspension did not surprise me.

    She was sold with the package and only gets better once the back loaded. It is, after all, the first of this van vocation transport equipment or human beings in number. And there he made strong the guy with a working length of 2,795 m, 1.68 m wide (1.18 between the wheel arches) and 1.51 m in height. 6.5 m3 volume! What calmly consider a move.

    But not to settle in Liguria. It's beautiful, all right, but it goes up and running too. I prefer the discreet billowing from the Emilia-Romagna where, I have no doubt, a 238 would be much more at ease.

    Read also

    • Fiat 615N: Light Heavyweight...

    Right, these vents allow to draw fresh air to the carburettor.

    Two side doors and windows not least on the sides or behind. This is a hard-utility. Note the positioning of the front axle, behind the wheel.

    The dual hydraulic fluid tank (for brakes and clutch) is located above the pedals.

    And hop ! Here's how you can access the 4-cylinder!

    The air filter is installed in the cockpit, which requires a long tube that leads to the gills passenger side.

    As can be seen here, a sleeve makes it possible to draw hot air to the carburettor. In winter, that was helpful.

    Transversely implanted, the engine finally offers surprising accessibility.


    TECHNICAL DATA FIAT 238 VAN

    ENGINE Type Fiat 124 BL.016. 4 cylinders in line, arranged transversely to the front and inclined 18 °. Iron block, alloy cylinder head. Five crankshaft bearings. Distribution a side camshaft chain drive, lifters and rocker arms, OHV.

    ■ Displacement: 1197cc
    ■ Bore x stroke: 73 x 71.5 mm
    ■ Max Power: 44 hp DIN in 4600 rpm
    ■ Maximum torque: 8.5 mkg DIN 2,500 rpm
    ■ Compression ratio: 8.8: 1
    ■ Power supply: a horizontal carburettor Weber (or Holley Europea) 32-OF
    ■ Ignition: Battery 12 V 48 Ah, coil and distributor. Candles Marelli CW 240 LP, N9Y Champion, Bosch W 200 T 30
    ■ Cooling: water with pump

    TRANSMISSION
    ■ front-wheel drive Clutch: dry, hydraulic control
    ■ Gearbox: manual 4-speed synchronized gears + MAR, lever floor box
    ■ Reporting: 1st: 3,910 - 2nd: 2,120 - 3rd: 1,410 - 4th: 0.960 - MAR: 3,570
    ■ Axle Ratio: 5.700 (torque 10 x 57).
    STRUCTURE
    Van six doors, three. Monocoque body self-supporting sheet steel, forged
    ■ AV chassis Front suspension: independent wheels, lower wishbone, upper transverse leaf spring, dampers
    ■ Telescopic Rear suspension: wheel independent, longitudinal control arms, transverse torsion bars, shock absorbers telescopic, anti-roll bar
    ■ Brakes: drums Front / rear, hydraulic, double circuit, AR dispatcher, vacuum power assisted booster
    ■ Parking brake: mechanical, acting on the rear wheels
    ■ Front wheel direction: screw and roller
    ■ Diameter turning circle 11.6 m between walls
    ■ Rims: Steel 5K x 14 "
    ■ Tyres: 6.50-14
    ■ Dimensions (L x W x H): 4,590 x 1,800 x 1,980 m
    ■ Wheelbase: 2,400 m
    ■ Ways Front / Rear: 1,484 / 1,489 m
    ■ Ground clearance: 0,150 m
    ■ Payload: 1000 kg
    ■ Effective volume: 6.5 m3
    ■ Curb Weight: 1220 kg
    ■ GVW: 2290 kg.
    PERFORMANCE
    ■ MAXIMUM SPEED: 105 km / h
    ■ MAX SLOPE PASSABLE: 24%
    ■ FUEL CONSUMPTION: 8.9 litres /100km.
    ■ PRODUCTION: 1967-1982: 300,000 produced (estimated), with 230,000 of the 1st series (1967 to 1977)
    ■ 1967 PRICE: 1,150,000 lire (Italy).

    LISTING
    The utilities do not really have the odds Italy, 238 less than the others. A van in beautiful condition (which is really not easy to find) is trading around 500 euros. Hard to imagine that things are progressing a lot in the coming years.


    Fabrizio Colella and his Van Fiat 238 1971

    "In memory of my father" Life Fabrizio Colella, 55 and occupational physician, rocked there about ten years, for no apparent reason. One day, his path crossed that of a Fiat 1100E 1952. "She was sold a good price, I said yes without thinking ..." He had no idea he had just put your finger in a terrible gear that would push him to buy a 1976 Alfa Romeo Super Nuova, a Fiat 500 L 1972 and a beautiful Lancia Flaminia 1965 The "worst" was yet to come, because a spark is then lit in his mind: he made up his mind to find the truck that his father used to deliver television sets and other household appliances he sold and repaired. And this is how the van arrived 238, a 615N truck 1956, 1100 T a van in 1962, a bus 625n 19 seats in 1970 and 1976. He 850T truck also took the presidency in 2001, the Circolo Italiano Truck Storici club with about 250 members and more than 1,000 commercial vehicles and trucks. It is in 2011 that he recovered in a break of Piacenza, 238 this van registered for the first time in Como March 29, 1971, it posted more than 100,000 km on the clock.

    LPG and it worked, though it was full, it was blocked by two decades of capital. Rust had started eating and the roof had been crushed because, for a while, he had to contend with vehicles stored on it! "It took me three years to refurbish it, making no follies. Taking my time and doing, for my self, all I could. "Admit that it was worth it...

    Surprise! Passenger side door reveals an expansion tank with the filler cap to the coolant! The bladder laveglace is attached to the passage of the driver's side wheel.

    The counter block is the same that will equip the 500 L.

    Right side, access is via two opposing doors, releasing an impressive load input.

    Two benches, one of which can accommodate two passengers, the central one being still quite uncomfortable. Note the vents Two pavilion side, two on the dashboard.

    When the flap PNR, it has a tray on which you can drop objects or table that can be used to make a quotation...

    The steering column is almost vertical, the stalks are grouped on the left.

    No complaints about the forward visibility. It's just perfect. We will not say much for the rear. Notice that Fiat has also not seen fit to install a retro interior. It would have been useless for lack of AR glass!

    The spare wheel takes place in a small stamped practiced in the transition from left wheel. Right side, housing was also carried out, this time for the battery.

    By opening up to 90 °, the rear doors provide excellent accessibility to the load space, which has, furthermore, a completely flat floor.

    With more than 4.50 m in length and a wheelbase of 2.40 m, the box body 238 has a load volume of about 6.5 m3! Impressive, despite his height contained (less than 2 m).

    Utility yes, but with quality finishes. The proof the presence of door fittings.
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