- The #1968 #Fiat-124-Spider / #Fiat-124 / #Fiat / BUYING GUIDE / WORDS Nick Larkin / PHOTOGRAPHY Stuart Collins
Lovely styling, a delicious twin-cam and a surprisingly sturdy build, the 124 Spider ticks all of the classic sports car boxes.
The 124 Spider is surely the answer to many a classic motoring prayer. A delightful combination of Italian looks, a lusty twin-cam engine, (mostly) reliable components and, because the cars were mysteriously never officially imported into Britain, imbued with a certain exclusivity. Somewhat surprisingly, the car is reasonably well built, although a dire lack of rustproofing means any potential purchase needs meticulous inspection for rot.
The Fiat 124 Spider was designed and built by Pininfarina, which eventually branded the car under its own name from 1983-1985. Of the 198,000 124 Spiders produced from 1966-1985, around 170,000 were sold in the USA, many in so called ‘dry states’. Several thousand have now migrated to Britain, where there is good specialist and club support.
WHY YOU WANT ONE
Just look at the pictures! A good 124 Spider is a joy to drive and own, and close exposure to one will soon have you lapsing into Italian sports car clichés.
Based on an adapted 124 saloon floorpan (yes, the same one that became a Lada) the cars are generally solid and lack a nasty Mediterranean temper. Though never built in right-hand drive form, conversion by a specialist is possible for about £3000. If the car you’re viewing is already a RHD model, find out who did the work.
Fiat 124 Spiders sound wonderful, their performance is more than adequate, and they’re equipped with a five-speed gearbox and disc brakes? You can even put the hood up without leaving the driver’s seat. Surely those factors alone should put these cars on your shopping list.
WHICH MODEL IS IT?
These cars had various incarnations during long their production run, but here are the main ones. Many enthusiasts favour the 1438cc, 90bhp AS model (1966-1970) for its purity of line. The BSI of 1970-1972 had 1608cc and 110bhp and is often recommended as the best overall choice. The CS (1972-1973) boasted the Fiat 132’s 1592cc unit and the 1800 CSi (1973-1978) offered 1756cc and, later, impact bumpers. Later cars were 1995cc and were at times available in fuel injected form, turbocharged and VX DS with 135bhp and a #Volumex supercharger. Just 500 Volumex models were built, and like the turbo cars, some experts reckon they are best avoided.
Pininfarina took over total production of the car in 1981. Cars developed various bonnet and wheelarch bulges, as well as larger bumpers. There was also an Abarth version, which falls outside of our remit here.
UNDER THE BONNET
Fiat’s Lampredi-designed twin-cam engine is legendary. It lasts well and is easy to work on, but in the Spider, you should watch out for rear end rattle and damaged sumps. Fiat 132 engines – where you can find them – can be substituted without too much modification. Carburettors can suffer from wear, particularly the spindles on Solex units, so check it runs properly. Later cars are fuel injected by Bosch, and tend to be more reliable, with good parts and specialist backup.
SPARKS AND VOLTS
As with many Italian cars, the electrical system decays, causing issues. A rewire is straightforward, but time consuming.
STEERING AND SUSPENSION
Front wishbone bushes and balljoints are prone to wear. Track rod ends can be worn or seized, as can drag links. If you are buying a car converted to righthand drive car, you need to find out who carried out the work. The worm and roller steering set-up is reasonably easy to work on, which is good, as it can suffer from wear and even seizure. Check for excessive play.
Early cars were built from good quality steel, with the rot only setting in from the late 1970s. Look at the door bottoms, particularly at the corners. Outer sill covers are not structural, the important stuff being behind them, while inner sills last well but are costly to put right. The crossmember supporting the engine and front suspension can crack and/or be the victim of accident damage. Also watch for floor rot due to damp carpets, rusty wheelarches (they are double skinned) in the area where the front wing meets the sills, the inner wings the boot lid and inside the boot.
Dashboard tops can split, but new ones are available. You can also get new hoods. Driver’s seat backs can break due to people leaning back to grab the hood!
SPECIFICATIONS (1968 SPIDER)
TORQUE 83lb ft@4000rpm
MAXIMUM SPEED 106mph
FUEL CONSUMPTION 28-32mpg
TRANSMISSION RWD, five-spd manual
WHAT TO PAY
1972 FIAT SPIDER VALUE £8000, 45-yearold male living in Cambs, club member, car garaged and used as second vehicle, 3000 miles pa: £82.31 or £99.54 incl Agreed Value
Engine rebuild £6000
Outer sill £210
Prices from DTR (www.dtrsports.com)
CLUB & SPECIALISTS
Fiat Motor Club GB www.fiatmotorclubgb.com
Sporting Fiats Club www.sportingfiatsclub.com
DTR European Sports Cars Croydon.
0208 645 5050, www.dtrsports.com
Middle Barton Garage Oxfordshire.
01869 345766, www.middlebartongarage.com
This car has been expertly converted to right-hand drive. Engines were 4-cyl 1438cc, 1608cc, 1756cc and 1995cc.