Just when you thought only cars newer than 1980 were getting written up, here’s a quick feature of a car that was a candidate for the RustyButTrusty fleet. And no, this time it’s not a tale of woe where the car slipped away. That said, it could still be a tale of woe, but only because the car was missing a couple of things that were important to this buyer. However, it’s still very appealing in the sense that it’s an early smooth-hood AS-series spider, supposedly with a 1438cc twincam Lampredi four cylinder (more on that later). It’s also got the lovely small bumpers, little round side marker lights, small tail lights, and probably some other features the Fiatisti among you will know about. Check out this 1968 Fiat 124 Spider for sale for $2500 in Portland, OR.
Together with post-roundtail Alfa Spiders and Alfettas, these are some of the most underappreciated and most affordable Italian sports cars around. And let’s keep it that way, please, so they can remain a regular feature on these pages. That said, it’s not really clear why they aren’t more loved, as they were quite popular, but maybe their success is also their curse, since they were produced for about 18 years straight, so there’s not as much opportunity for nostalgia to build up. And what beautiful, delicate lines these have – if they were built in the hundreds by, say, Moretti or Someone-ini, they’d be coveted, with starting prices in the five digits.
This particular car was driven by the seller’s wife, and he’s evidently tired of worrying about whether she’ll make it home in a 47-year-old sports car. Taking that into account, the car started easily with a cool – not cold – engine, and while it idled a bit high, pulled smoothly to over 5000rpm and shifted nicely. It certainly seemed to have more power than you’d have any right to expect from an aging 1.4-liter engine. Cornering and braking were decent, and it appeared the front cross member had been welded at some point – a typical failure point on these cars. The interior was quite decent, though sporting a warped dash cap, and with upholstery that can’t have been original, given its lack of splits and tears. All the electrics seemed to be functional, and thouh warm air came from the heater vents, it’s not clear if this was because of a failed control valve or because of residual heat in the core.
As you can see, the exterior looks good – it’s a nice-price paint job with some scrapes, including one on the right rear corner and another that took out the left front marker light – a spare is included. The thin steering wheel rim, low belt line, and light controls all conspire to give the car a really delicate, nimble feeling. So, you ask, if you’re so in love with it, why didn’t it come home? Well, though the floors were solid, a significant portion of the car’s nether regions (fenders, etc.) seemed to consist of filler, some light and some heavy, and the hood was splitting near the hinges. While the top was good, the window had a taped-up crack, and the tires had good tread but plenty of cracking. The final straw was low indicated oil pressure, and yes, while gauges on an old sports car are not necessarily trustworthy, it was this combined with all the other factors that did it in. All that said, if you’re looking for a driver you don’t have to worry too much about, grab your trusty oil pressure gauge and about 20 $100s and you just might find yourself the lucky new owner of a car that needs only a little effort to be a regular fun driver, just in time for the summer!