my junkyard travels, I see
a surprising number of
Fiat 124 Sport Spiders, as never-finished project cars leave their driveways and back yards and get discarded. The
Fiat 850 Spider, however, is one rare Junkyard Gem, the kind of thing
I’ll see perhaps once ever five years. Here’s a fairly solid ’70, spotted in a Denver-area self-service yard a couple of weeks back.
The 850 was a rear-engined, water-cooled machine, definitely more about cheapness and
fuel economy than performance. The 1966-1967 US-market 850 Spiders had engines just under 50 cubic inches of displacement, which made them exempt from the primitive
emissions laws of the time, but this one has the mighty 903cc plant (55.1 cubic inches, or about 1/9 the displacement of the 1971
Cadillac Eldorado’s engine)
generating 42 horsepower.
These days, most Americans would think twice about buying at ATV with only 42 horses— hell, maybe even a riding lawn mower— but the 1970 850 Spider weighed a mere 1,555 pounds. That’s just about a half-ton less than the new Fiat
124 Spider (which, admittedly, has about four times the power).
These cars were a lot of fun per dollar, even if they struggled to beat cement mixers in drag races, and they were easy to squeeze into tight city parking spaces. With the sketchy swingaxle rear suspension, rearward weight bias, and flimsy construction, though, they were on the unsafe side.
This one has enough rust to make it not worth a serious restoration, though Midwesterners might not consider this level of corrosion to be worrisome. There’s
a genuine 850-based Siata just on the other side of the Rockies, so whoever
buys that car should head straight for today’s Junkyard Gem and grab all the mechanical stuff.
Battery box rusted out? Someone used a rivet gun, a metal warning sign, and ingenuity to keep this 850 on the road a while longer.
Young Israeli credit-card users prefer the 850 Spider for their Visa fantasies, it seems.