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Fiat 124 Spider: Buying guide and review (1966-1985)

Fiat 124 Spider Fiat 124 Spider Fiat 124 Spider Fiat 124 Spider Fiat 124 Spider
Fiat’s 124 Spider follows a simple and well-used formula. Take a great engine, some saloon-car running gear, then bolt it all into a pretty roadster body (from the pen of Pininfarina). The result was a hit all around the world and stayed in production for almost 20 years. 
 
Launched in 1966 as a 1400, the car got progressively larger engines – and bigger bumpers – as the years went by. It was dropped by Fiat in 1982 but Pininfarina, who had built the Spider from the beginning, took over the marketing and it carried on until 1985. During its 19-year lifespan, more than 200,000 were produced, with around 75 per cent being exported directly to the USA, though many have since returned to Europe.
 
When it was first launched in 1966, the Fiat 124 Spider was technologically advanced, and in a lot of respects far ahead of anything coming out of the UK. The running gear might have been borrowed from a humble Fiat saloon, but that included all-round disc brakes, as well as a five-speed manual transmission and a stunning twin-cam engine. 
 
Designed by Aurelio Lampredi – the man behind some of the great Ferrari racing V12s of the 1950s – this rev-happy, tuneful and readily tunable twin-cam engine was extremely well-suited to the lightweight Spider. 
 
It’s fair to say that the classic 124 Spider has recently seen a resurgence in popularity, due to Fiat’s introduction of a new 124 Spider model. Based on the excellent underpinnings of the mk4 Mazda MX-5, the new car is clearly inspired by the looks of the classic model. Just like with the classic, there’s also an Abarth version for the more serious driver. 
 

Which Fiat 124 Spider to buy? 

 
The original 1400 AS model is the rarest of the standard models, and along with the later 1600 models is highly sought-after. The 1973-1978 1.8-litre models are arguably the sweetest, and are also the most plentiful. There is also a supercharged Volumex model which is quite interesting, however spares are hard to find, and they can be tricky to set up.
 
Fiat’s high-performance Abarth CSA was a homologation special and almost everything was upgraded. It had independent rear suspension, bigger brakes, twin carburettors and glassfibre bodywork. There were a number of different options offered, including limited-slip differentials and, towards the end, a 16-valve cylinder head from the factory. 
 
The worst model in terms of power was the last of the carb 2.0-litre cars, which put out just 77bhp. All but the pre-1974 US cars were subject to the strict anti-smog regulations though, which means heavily strangulated power figures. The unnecessary equipment can be removed, if it hasn’t already, you really need to return the car to its lower Euro-spec suspension to improve the handling and looks. 
 
People often think the later plastic bumpers are a bad thing. They actually look pretty good, and protect easily damaged body panels, but if you really don’t like them, there’s the option of converting to chrome bumpers, but it’ll cost a lot to do. The parts are not too expensive, although the different light lenses can be tricky to get hold of. There are various holes that need to be welded up. It’s a viable option if you’re going for a full restoration, but really not worth doing otherwise.
 
A US-spec car, imported in the 1990s, will probably offer the best value, although European cars offer a sweeter drive. With production lasting 19 years, there’s a huge choice out there and something for almost every pocket.
 
All cars left the factory in left-hand-drive form and, although a few have been converted over the years, you’ll struggle to find one. Expect to pay about £1000-£1500 more for a properly converted model. 

Performance and specs

 
1969 Fiat 124 Spider
Engine 1608cc four-cylinder, DOHC
Power 110bhp @ 6400rpm
Torque 101lb ft @ 3800rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Top speed 112mph
0-60mph 12.2sec
Fuel consumption 29.6mpg
 

Dimensions and weight

 
Wheelbase 2280mm
Length 3970mm
Width 1610mm
Height 1250mm
Weight 960kg
 

Common problems

 
• Overall running costs are low, especially compared with rivals like the Alfa Spider. 124s are light, have modern engines with easy cambelt changes, and are generally easy to look after. 
 
• Basic maintenance, such as oil and filter changes, is remarkably simple, and the parts are all still available off the shelf.
 
• Bodywork can vary massively from model to model, with post-1980 cars seemingly more prone to rot, but the bodyshells are strong and generally resist rust well, especially US imports. 
 
• Most panels are still available, although early bonnets can be very difficult to find – Later versions feature two bulges.
 
• Because of all the different models and the fact that parts can be swapped easily between them, it’s not unlikely that you’ll buy a car that has been modified. It’s not always a bad thing, but buy the wrong car and you can get yourself into a deep hole very quickly. The key is to do a lot of homework on the various differences between models before you even go out and look at a car, it could save you from a lot of trouble further down the line. 
 
• The Fiat twin-cam is a tough engine and was used for many years in many different forms. Most parts are available, and it’s a bulletproof unit generally speaking. As always, frequent servicing is key, and a fresh cam belt is a bonus for any potential purchase.
 
• All models are fitted with a five-speed gearbox, apart from the four-speed in the very early AS. Gearboxes aren’t available, but can be rebuilt relatively easily.
 
• Interior parts are surprisingly easy to source, with replacement seats, switches and dashboard trim available off the shelf in the USA and Europe. 
 

Model history

 
1966: Launched as a revvy 89bhp 1.4-litre, with torque-tube rear suspension and a four-speed gearbox
1970: Introduction of the 108bhp 1608cc Fiat twin-cam engine 
1972: Abarth Stradale homologation special launched. Twin-carb 128bhp engine
1973: 116bhp 1758cc engine now fitted to standard Spider, along with larger bonnet bulges and large impact bumpers.
1978: Production switches to carb-fed 2.0-litre unit, producing lowly 77bhp 
1979: Bosch fuel injection fitted to 2.0-litre car, releasing 104bhp
1982: Fiat drops the 124 Spider but Pininfarina continues production, re-launching the car as Spidereuropa, or Spider Azzura 2000 in the USA
1983: 133bhp supercharged Spidereuropa Volumex model launched
1985: Production ends
 

Owners clubs, forums and websites

 
• www.middlebartongarage.com – Routine servicing to full restorations, it’s also a major supplier of 124 Spider parts.
• www.sportingfiatsclub.com – Sporting Fiats owners club and forum.
 

Summary and prices

 
The earliest 1400 AS models are rare, but also highly sought after, while the later 1800 is by far the nicest to drive. Although cheaper models are out there, £5000 is really the starting point for something usable and not in need of a full rebuild. At the other end of the scale, really special examples of the 1800 can push £35,000, although £15,000 will get you a very respectable example.  
 
The supercharged Volumex models are rare, and can fetch about £2500-5000 more. You’d be looking at nearly £80,000 for a road going Stradale model now, although most have been turned into rally cars.
 
With so many Spiders being sold in the US, it's not surprising that many have made their way back. The gold-rush was in the 1990s, when 124 Spiders were returning to Europe by the boat-load. The market for importing 124s from the US has dried up in recent years, but it does still happen, with a good supply of cheap, rust-free cars still out there. 
 
Restoration costs can be high, but no more so than MGs and Alfas of the same era – if done correctly. This high cost, combined with the relatively plentiful number and low cost of solid cars from the US, often made restoration an uneconomical option in the past, but as values have firmed up, so has the number of high-quality restorations.
 
A 124 Spider looks great, offers a characterful and engaging driving experience and can be run on a reasonable budget, if you buy well. What more could you want?
Fiat 124 Spider Fiat 124 Spider Fiat 124 Spider Fiat 124 Spider Fiat 124 Spider
Last updated: 15th Nov 2016
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Fiat 124 cars for sale

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Fiat 124
0 29995 GBP
  • Fiat 124

    £22,495 £22,495

    Variant name:SPIDER MULTIAIR LUSSO PLUS ,Derivative:MK2 ,Variant: SPIDER MULTIAIR LUSSO PLUS

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 3000 mi
    • Engine size: 1.4
    For sale
    Jaybee Motors-Fiat Banbury
    01295 227100 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • Fiat 124

    £20,480 £20,480

    Variant name:SPIDER MULTIAIR LUSSO PLUS ,Derivative:MK2 ,Variant: SPIDER MULTIAIR LUSSO PLUS 1.4 140PS, Demonstrator, Stylish 2 Seater Convertible, Satellite Navigation, Cruise Control, Heated Leather Seats, Bose Sound System With Headrest Speakers, DAB Radio, Bluetooth, Steering Wheel Controls, Climate Control.

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 1402 mi
    • Engine size: 1.4
    For sale
  • Fiat 124

    £19,995 £19,995

    Air Conditioning, Bluetooth, Climate Control, Colour SatNav, Full Leather, iPod Connectivity, Satellite Navigation, Xenon Headlamps, Anti-Theft System, Central Locking, Immobiliser, Keyless Entry, Locking Wheel Nuts, Remote Central Locking, Front Centre Armrest, Head Restraints, Heated Seats, Adjustable Steering Column, Cruise Control, Multi-function Steering Wheel, Parking Camera, Parking Sensors, Power Steering, Stability Control, Traction Control, Trip Computer, ABS, Air Bag, Multiple Airbags, Side Air Bags, Twin Air Bags, Colour Coded Body, Auto Lighting, Premium Cloth soft top, Front Fog Lamps, Electric Front Windows, Electric Mirrors, Sunroof, Radio, Steering Wheel Audio Controls, Stereo, 18'' Alloys Alexanders are a family owned main dealer, selling quality vehicles for over 65 years. Each vehicle we supply leaves our dealership with the appropriate Service, MOT, and minimum 12 month warranty. Any other work needed at the time of sale, i.e., various component fluids, brakes, tyres etc is carried out before you take delivery. Enjoy the peace of mind that you have purchased a fully warranted used car backed by a trusted dealer with a warranty backed by Fiat UK.

    • Mileage: 500 mi
    • Engine size: 1368
    For sale
  • Fiat 124

    £20,000 £20,000

    Variant name:SPIDER MULTIAIR LUSSO PLUS ,Derivative:MK2 ,Variant: SPIDER MULTIAIR LUSSO PLUS 17 Inch Alloy Wheels, Black Heated Leather Seats, BOSE Audio System with 9 Speakers, LED Headlights, Daytime Running Lights, Chrome Double Exhaust Pipe, Climate Control, Rear Parking Sensors, Rear Parking Camera, Keyless Start,

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 492 mi
    • Engine size: 1.4
    For sale
  • 1971 Fiat Sport Spider 1600 BS

    £15,495 £15,495

    Imported to the UK from Kansas, USA in September 2011, this lovely Spider is in remarkable original body condition. In May 2013 it featured in Classic & Sports Car under the heading "Summer Fun"! During the last 18 months it has undergone a comprehensive mechanical re-commissioning including work by Middle Barton Garage. Many new parts have been fitted and it performs wonderfully well. As well as looking good it is a real enthusiasts car and this is a great opportunity to acquire an original specification Spider (with 12 months MOT).

    • Year: 1971
    For sale
  • 1969 Fiat 124 Spider –

    £29,995 £29,995

    Just arrived and under preparation, an early AS series European spider in beautiful restored condition. The last one of these superb cars we had sold before it hit the website, so be quick! This page will be updated soon with more photography, but a snapshot is: * Italian car from new * Two owners from new, last owner was President of Italian ACI historic car club * Photo documented engine, interior and body restoration * Warm cams and Colombo performance air filter * Rare and genuine Cromodora Abarth alloy wheels * Original colour * New cloth hood being fitted now * Bumpers being replated * Newly overhauled braking system * Newly serviced * MOT tested * UK registered * Warranty © 2016 Mr Speedlux Terms and Conditions

    • Year: 1969
    For sale
  • FIAT 124 EVO ACTIVE -- BUY NOW PAY IN 6 MONTHS - PAY AS YOU GO FINANCE AVAILABLE -- 2011

    £3,500 £3,500

    FIAT 124 EVO ACTIVE -- BUY NOW PAY IN 6 MONTHS - PAY AS YOU GO FINANCE AVAILABLE -- finished in Blue (Manual), 46,290 miles with black cloth interior only - previous owners from new.,,Features include Electric Mirrors, Service History, Immobiliser, Adjustable Steering Wheel, Power Assisted Steering, Electric Windows, Spare Key, Isofix System, Alarm, Radio, Folding Rear Seats, Tinted Windows, Metallic Paint, CD Player, Remote Locking, Front, Side, Rear Airbags, 3 Month Warranty, USB Connection, Multi Function Steering Wheel, Colour Coded, Seat Height Adjustment, HPI Clear, ABS, Warranted Mileage, New MOT Upon Sale.,,Only and pound;3,500,,

    • Mileage: 46290 mi
    • Engine size: 1.242
    For sale
  • 1978 Fiat 124 Spider Convertible

    POA POA

    4-Cylinder Overhead Valve Engine 4-Speed Standard Transmission Everything Works Including AM/FM Radio, Clock, and Tachometer Outstanding Paint and Interior New Soft Top Beautiful Arizona Jewel Bucket Seats Wood Accents on Padded Dash New 15-Inch Sport Wheels with Radial Tires Fully Lined Trunk Compartment

    • Year: 1978
    For sale
  • Fiat 124

    £17,995 £17,995

    Air Conditioning, Bluetooth, Remote Central Locking, Cloth Upholstery, Adjustable Steering Column, Multi-function Steering Wheel, ABS, Multiple Airbags, Electric Mirrors, CD Player, MP3 Player, Radio

    • Mileage: 9 mi
    For sale
  • Fiat 124

    £22,490 £22,490

    Cruise Control, Parking Sensors, Heated Seats, BOSE Audio, Bluetooth Media, DAB Radio, Satellite Navigation Fiat 124 Spider Anniversary Model 1.4 Turbo 6 Speed Manual finished in Passione Red with Full Black Leather interior with Grey Contrast Stitching, Satellite Navigation with 3D Maps, Rear Parking Sensors, 7 Inch Touchscreen Radio with Multimedia Control Knob; DAB Radio; Bluetooth; WiFi; 2 USB Ports and AUX IN, Heated Front Seats, BOSE Sound System with 9 Speakers, 17 Inch Alloys, Chrome Twin Tailpipes, LED Headlamps with Washers, Leather Multifunction Steering Wheel, Keyless Go, Climate Control, Electric Windows, LED Daytime Running Lights, Automatic Lights and Wipers, Adaptive Front Lighting System, Premium Silver Windscreen Frame, Premium Silver Roll Bar Covers, Tyre Pressure Monitoring, Not Yet Due a Service. Finance available on request - subject to status and terms. Ask about our Company Directors packages. See our website for HD walk around video. Fully Valeted; UK Wide Delivery Available; Part Exchange Welcome.

    • Mileage: 20 mi
    • Engine size: 1368
    For sale
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