18th Apr 2007, 14:48
I have owned two – yes two – 850’s. One was a 1970 model which I bought in 1972 while I was in college. I traded in my ’61 Volvo and $1200 cash for it. WOW was it fun to drive! This one happened to eat starters like crazy, but I managed to buy up several from the local junk yards, so I always had a spare. Replacing the starter required either a skinny arm to get into a tight place or a long extension for your socket wrench. After the first replacement, I bought the extension. Many, many times this little care was ridden hard and put up wet and I traded it for a 1972 model in 1975 right before I got married.
This second 850 was a gem, too. And it would go in the snow where nothing else would. My best gas mileage ever in any car was in this little puppy - 43 miles per gallon on a trip to South Carolina. That wass 300 miles on a 7 gal tank! This one ate head gaskets for lunch. I must have replaced three or four. I got to where I could do it in about 3 hours. Then I discovered a little known secret to head gasket longevity – torque it down after 1000 miles and again at 2000.
I sure do miss those little buggers. I have driven Porsches and Ghias and Mazdas and Mitsubishis and Pontiacs since then and cannot recall having as much fun as I did in my 850’s.
22nd Apr 2007, 21:24
I bought a new '69 Spyder shortly after leaving the army. It was not the machine for 1/4 mile drag races, but on winding roads very few cars could compete with it. My brother had a Corvette that was fast on a straight-away, but couldn't touch the Fiat on curves.
I never had a problem with steering, winter starting or handling, or a leaky roof. The rear window yellowed, but a brief rub down with some paste wax made it crystal clear for a year, then it got rubbed down again.
It did need frequent valve adjustments until it passed 45,000 miles, then it rolled happily along.
I drove it on many trips from Michigan to Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee. The hills never presented a problem. It was comfortable and reliable.
I finally traded it after marrying and starting a family. Those two seats weren't made for a wife AND kids. Now that the kids are grown I wish I had that car back.
Also, it wasn't GM that bought a share of Fiat, it was American Motors Corp., the old Nash crowd. Then they went broke and Fiat went their own way.
20th Jun 2007, 04:18
My wife had one a '73 850 Spider when we got married and we sold it in 1976 when our daughter was born. We had a lot of fun driving it around back then. I bought another one a couple years ago that had been sitting in a garage near Sacramento, CA and got it running last summer. I put about 75 miles a day on it going to work and back. It gets great mileage and is REALLY fun to drive. It goes around corners like it is on rails and has no problem keeping up with traffic around town or on the freeway. It is very reliable, Parts are inexpensive and it is so simple to work on. Too bad they don't make cars like that anymore.
2nd Jul 2007, 21:19
I owned a 1968 850 Spider that I purchased used in 1971. I agree with everyone about how much fun it was to drive. At the young age of 18, I was driving the car of my dreams. The only mechanical problem I ever had was that a ceramic transistor had cracked from heat. A five minute repair took care of that.
Recently, I was on vacation and saw an older gentleman driving one down the freeway in one. It reminded me of the days in Orange County, CA when I would drive up and down the freeway with my girlfriend and the Orange blossoms were blooming. Very romantic! Not to mention that it was fun to drive on the curvy roads in the mountains.
10th Jul 2007, 16:34
My father bought a 1972 (I believe) 850 spider for commuting in the SF Bay area, but he only drove it a couple times before letting me have it to drive it to San Jose State every day. Except for the opaque rear window I loved that car. I agree with what the other people have said about its agility. I've never driven anything else that was so easy and fun to drive. The best things about it were the great gas mileage and the ability to park practically anywhere.
After a thoughtless mechanic worked on the car and didn't take any care at all about the wiring he worked on, I had a wire short out on the exhaust manifold while I was driving, which engaged that starter (at 50 mph!!) and started a fire. We should have sued the bugger, but the car ended up on his lot and my father just kind of let it go. The engine and everything electrical was destroyed by the fire, but it could have been fixed up a again.
I've got my eye on getting another one soon.
22nd Jul 2007, 16:46
I bought a 1973 850 sport in 1980 as my first car (paid 1500 dollars). The car handled well, although I did manage to get it sideways once on a rainy street! It had a fairly responsive engine, and while it didn't go very fast, it did deliver excellent gas mileage~40mpg. On the negative, it was the most unreliable automobile I have ever owned, and at the time of final trade-in for a 1984 Plymouth colt turbo, it leaked from every tank, reservoir and orifice. I also replaced the clutch once, kingpins, ignition system, starter, and learned how to decipher Italian electrics and wiring with the use of an Italian language service manual!The car still ran, and I received 1500 dollars as a trade-in. In spite of it's problems, on a spring/summer day or night cruising with the top down was a great experience... wind in your hair and the gentle burble of the carburetor behind you...
16th Aug 2007, 14:29
Bump steer is not what the Corvair had. The Corvair had a potential tuck under condition in the 1960 to 1963 swing axles ONLY. Which incidentally was the same condition for many rear engine cars of the times. In addition after extensive government testing found the Corvair to handle as good or better than equivalent compact cars tested. You can find these cars on the track at autocrosses today. It was the Mustang, Camaro and costs that killed the Corvair.
Bump steer is a condition that results in not having all of the radii in the steering components not intersecting at the spindle. This problem did not exist with the Corvair. I cannot confirm this on the Fiat. But with any luck I will have one within a week to find out.
27th Oct 2007, 02:51
My first car was a 69 fiat 850 coupe and it was a blast to drive even at the speed limit. It was a low priced car that looked like a baby exotic. It was designed by Mario Felice Boana while he was working for Fiat. It mostly suffered, like many Fiats from a poor dealer network, owner abuse and neglect. The use of low priced Russian steel and poor rust protection just made things worse for Fiats here in the USA. If you serviced the little 850 properly and on time it was a very reliable car. It was as big as my 70 camaro on the inside with a more usable trunk and great in snow. Driving a rear engine car requires a little skill and different technique. With a little extra weight in the front trunk you could almost double every exit ramp speed in a nice controlled drift. If you did a cam, free flow exhaust, free flow air filter, and re jetted the carb you could outrun a lot of bigger engined cars. I had mine to 105 mph and it was still pulling. Lot of fun for the buck!