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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 – in this case the Lampredi-designed Fiat twin-cam – and 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% being exported directly to the USA, though many have since returned to Europe.

Which one 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 29mpg

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.

• 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 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.

• 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

Websites and clubs

• www.middlebartongarage.com - routine servicing to full restorations, it is 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, its 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: 22nd Oct 2015
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Fiat 124 cars for sale

21 Search results
Fiat 124
11635 24000 GBP
  • Fiat - 124 Coupé A sport - 1967

    €9,000 - €11,700 est. (£8,024.40 - £10,431.72 est.) €9,000 - €11,700 est. (£8,024.40 - £10,431.72 est.)
    Online Auction
    Auction Date: 01 Jan 1970
    Catawiki Auctions
  • 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

    £23,990 £23,990

    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
  • 1971 Fiat 124 Spider

    £11,635 £11,635

    The Classic Car Gallery is proud to offer this stunning 1970 Fiat 124 Spider. It is self evident, that this car was the recipient of a Full restoration in approximately 2013, and may be the Finest 124 spider on the market today. Cars in this price range are rarely restored to this level, as clearly the cost of this type of restoration is many times the value of the finished car. Whoever buys this car will be paying a fraction of the actual restoration cost!! The car has original floors and body panels and has clearly had a full glass/engine/drivetrain out respray. The Yellow paint is excellent, with great shine and luster; this is some of the best paintwork we have seen. The door jams and the engine compartment are finished to the highest quality. The engine is believed to be original, and has clearly been rebuilt as has the 5 speed transmission. The engine compartment is well detailed, as is the engine and all of the mechanical systems under the hood. The custom exhaust system is fresh and excellent and she makes a great sound. This excellence extends to the interior as the seats, dash and trim have all been covered in the highest quality vinyl (as per the original). The dash has

    • Year: 1971
    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
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