No, I don’t have any intentions of comparing this car to a Miura, but for those of you who haven’t heard this before, the Fiat 850 spider (specifically the 1967 model) and Lamborghini Miura share headlights. Come to think of it, they were also both designed by Bertone. And they’re both mid-engined, and Italian. So like I said, no intention of comparing these cars at all. If nothing else, you could probably have the world’s remaining population of Fiat 850 spiders for the cost of one Miura (I’m guessing a couple thousand or so).
Anyway, like most funky older cars with which I have no experience, these Fiats do appeal. While not exactly spoiled for power, they aren’t terribly heavy either. And while there was some poetic license in saying they’re mid-engine, they do seem to be known for good handling. Engine access should also be fairly straightforward – it appears the rear panel (grill and valance) comes right off, allowing you to sit on the ground or a stool while working on the car. So yes, it’s a cool little car – problem is, it’s pretty hard to find one in good nick. Even in good shape, they’re pretty affordable, as you can see with this one, listed in Denver, CO for $3250.
Now, red Italian cars are generally less appealing, especially since these came in loads of other interesting colors, but this one has plenty of other pluses. And who knows, maybe the original color is something different. In its favor, this car has the early-style nose, with the aforementioned faired-in headlights, and much lighter bumpers that look like their purpose is to daintily ask other cars to keep their distance, and not actually give any protection.
And here is that nose. There’s always something kind of weird about cars with no grill opening in the front, but overall, this is a handsome car. Looks like it has a cool 1980s-style banner across the top of the windshield, too. For a car that purportedly needs a new paint job, its appearance is reasonably clean, and no rust is visible, which is less surprising on a Texas car. That said, this *is* a Fiat 850.
The right side looks just as clean. The only unfortunate thing visible is that thick black rub strip along the side – couldn’t they at least have used chrome? Revolution wheels are a cool (and unique, for this car) period accessory – just make sure they’re structurally intact, since some early alloy wheels are prone to failure. Also note the absence of any sort of dorky luggage rack.
Saving the best for last… this engine could stand some detailing, but the seller goes into depth explaining this engine’s history. Apparently, this was a Texas barn find car that had significant work done to it. Check out that diamond-plate air filter! To quote the listing: “Fully built 1L Fiat engine; high compression pistons, lightweight rods, remote oil cooler and filter with braided stainless steel lines, high flow exhaust (gives great tone but is not loud). Engine had a fully built head and oversize Weber carburetor but we couldn’t get the engine to run properly at Colorado altitude with this setup so it was exchanged for a NEW stock Fiat head and NEW stock Fiat carburetor. Dual brake master cylinder setup installed to replace stock single master cylinder setup which was prone to failure. Rebuilt alternator, re-cored radiator, new battery, street/race spec clutch, less than 2000 miles on new tires. Engine was pulled and gone through less than 1000 miles ago with absolutely no issues found. Four speed manual transmission shifts well.” This sounds like a great buy at this price, so it’s not clear why it’s been on the market for at least 4 weeks so far. Possibly he’s understating the floor rust and tears in the top and seats? Either way, it would definitely be on my visiting-list if I were in Denver… if the rust is that bad, find a shell and transfer all the goodies (including the built head and large carb, if you can get them). If you have comments on what these are like to drive, let me know!