Fiat Fun – Pre-Smog Fiats

After running through the asinine gauntlet that is California smog law yesterday (my Alfetta, which does about 2K miles per year while I use transit to get to work), I thought I’d shift my focus to some pre-smog cars… specifically, the Italian ones. With that off my chest, here are a couple that look fun while also saving you the pain and cost of running an occasional driver through smog every two years.

First off is this 1970 Fiat Spider in Spokane, WA for $1350. Notice the cleaner-looking early style with small chrome bumpers, hubcaps, and no hood bulges. Fiat Spiders actually have a great level of significance to me since my parents had a light-orange ’69 on their honeymoon, and my first ride in a convertible was in an early 80s model on a beach excursion with my teacher from the Franco-American school in Palo Alto. I also considered one as an alternative to my Alfa Spider when I had my accident, but the cars that were affordable were also less attractive. Lastly, knowing what the Lampredi twincam can do under the hood of my smog-burdened Beta, I’d love to see what this 1970 car could do with twin carbs and some light modifications… I’m sure it would be able to hold its own with any contemporary Alfa.

1970 Fiat Spider

In reading the ad and seeing the picture, I’d have to say there’s more than meets the eye here. Image shows a really clean-looking car, and the text only alludes to new tires. I see no rust or dents, which I’d expect at this price, so maybe there are some mechanical issues to be addressed, such as a bad diff or a cracked cross-member. That said, wait long enough and a pre-smog spider will show up.

My other pre-smog Fiat find is this 1961 Fiat 1100-103 in Santa Ana, CA for $2500. Ever since I stumbled on the classifieds on the Fiat Plus website back in the late 90s, I’ve had a hankering for one of these little sedans, especially with the suicide front doors. The cool thing about having an old car in a practical format such as a sedan is you can easily share the fun/adventure with your friends, even if it’s just a coffee run. While these cars are not particularly powerful, they are light and should have some of that inherent Italian driving joy.

1961 Fiat 1100 side

Side shot gives you an idea of the appeal of this car. You can see the suicide front door, and this car looks clean and rust free, though I’d go over it very carefully since the previous owners had it in Nebraska for thirty years. That said, the fact the current seller bothered to ship it from there to California says something about its condition. Color is also interesting, to put it nicely, but since it’s a paler shade of yellow, it could be period correct – you’d have to see it in person. Or subsidize your car hobby by taping a checkered stripe down the sides and putting a meter on the dash.

1961 Fiat 1100 front

The invitation… I chose to include this shot since it emphasizes the suicide doors, and also shows the condition of the door panel. Front end looks straight, and the exterior trim appears to be all there.

1961 Fiat 1100 interior

And we’re in. While this pic leaves something to be desired in terms of quality, it looks reasonably clean and intact, though it’s hard to tell if we’re seeing bare metal floor or older gray carpet. Since these cars were fairly common in Italy, and even ran in the Mille Miglia, I’d hope to find a market for period-style performance upgrades. I would assume this car needs some work, but looks like a fairly straight example for a driving project, and the price is pretty good considering the condition. If you’ve had experience driving one of these, let me know what it’s like!


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