14th Jul 2010, 18:09
I had a bright red 67 850 Spyder and just loved that car. Anyone who has one today is lucky, lucky, lucky! I would love to have it back again. It always felt like I was driving a "toy car" at the amusement park or something. I've had many different cars since, but none can compare. We used to drive it through Vermont, expressways and back roads. It was so much fun. Due to its small size, my dad used to say it was "like driving an empty beer can"!
9th Sep 2010, 15:19
I bought a brand-new Fiat 850 Spider convertible in 1970 as an over-reaction against my 1968 MGB, which dropped its drive train at 50k miles, whose wire wheels would not stay round, and whose heater would not turn off. (The '68 was the first MGB with the Baroque cardboard dash.)
The Fiat was in a class of its own: 850cc does not an interstate hiker make. The PA Turnpike scared it to death. If you had the trunk (front lid) up and a strong wind blew, down it came and locked, requiring disassembly through the front vent or under the dash.
At temperatures below 40 degrees, it would not start without ether, and then, it might still not start.
My two favorite features were the passenger door, which frequently flew open on its own, and the car's ability to spin out, or simply reverse direction, which can be disconcerting.
All that weight on the rear wore the rear Pirellis as if they were Tootsie Rolls. I don't know if the front tires ever actually touched the ground, which reminded me of my '65 Corvair Monza convertible.
I sold the Fiat to a nasty divorcee with two kids who had owned a Vette (I guess the Fiat was a practical move for her). It could easily have killed me, her or anyone else silly enough to come near it.
My over reaction to selling this car in less than a year resulted in the purchase of a used 1969 CJ5 with Buick V-6. It started in all kinds of weather, and that's the nicest thing I can say about it. In '76, I regained my sanity and bought a Toyota Corolla.
20th Sep 2010, 15:00
The Fiat 850 is one of a few misunderstood cars (along with the Fiat X1/9, which really is a great car if you know what you are doing with them) in the world. Actually, most micro cars are misunderstood. They are not race cars, you can't abuse them as such and expect them to survive long under such conditions without perpetual maintenance on them.
These types of cars were intended as cheap and economical transportation. Get in the car, drive across town to the market, bring home vegetables and spices, make dinner, sleep, get up, go to work, rinse and repeat. There were not built for performance at all. If you used them in their proper context, they would last as long as any other car.
Many would buy these small cars, beat the tar out of them without any consideration to doing regular maintenance to keep up with the rough abusive driving habits of drivers. But given proper routine and regular maintenance, they will last you quite a long time. A testament which is proven by searching Craigslist for "Fiat 850" and still finding so many for sale, ranging from parts cars to immaculate condition.
Those who took care of these cars are evident in their stories of joy and praise here on this site, while those who did nothing but abuse them are reflected in their complaints.
Personally I can't get enough of some Fiat cars. I have always been smitten with the old 850 Spider, having owned one in the early 80's. In fact, I am about to purchase another one and restore it.
I regret trading in my previous 850 Spider. I was young and dumb at the time. It was an awesome car, which always turned heads. I was in the Army at the time, stationed at Fort Ord, California. This was the perfect car for the area, sun, beaches and babes! Cruising Sunset BLVD down in LA on a Saturday Eve was probably one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had in my youth. Driving the coast from Monterrey to San Diego was another memorable experience. Heading home to Seattle for a visit was fun, except for the inability to keep up with traffic (which was suppose to be 55mph at the time, but who the hell did 55?!! ME! Because it was hard to push that little engine that far for that long).
I eventually got the stupid bug and traded the 850 in for a '67 Malibu because I wanted some meat under foot. Biggest mistake ever. I mean, the Chevy was a cool car and all, but it just didn't give me that special feeling the 850 did. It was so like everything else and had no uniqueness to it. That, and I let my bud borrow it and he locked up the engine because he didn't bother checking the oil...
Of course the one major flaw of the 850 was the rust issue, but even that can be compensated for with vigilance. Once you see some rust developing, attempt to take measures to reduce it's advancement, and later down the road, have the rust issue completely taken care of professionally. I really can't argue with anyone's points regarding the rust, but I can at least say that the 850 was not the only car to suffer this issue. The Chevrolet Vega was the only known car in the world to start rusting on the showroom floors of dealerships. MG cars were also prone to rust issues as well as the infamous and wonderful Volvo 1800 series. Like human life, rust is an inevitable fact of life for cars, it's going to happen to every car, even that fancy new car you own now (provided you own a new car).
If the 850 is a bit too antiquated for your liking, but you'd still like to get that sporty Italian feel and fun on a low budget, then I recommend that you get a Fiat X1/9 from 1979 and beyond. Before 1979, the standard engine for the X was a 1300cc and a 4 speed transmission, which was far too under powered for the weight of the car, which is 2200 pounds. From 1979 on, they put 1500cc engines in and a 5 speed transmission, plus worked out a lot of the kinks in the transmission. In fact, if you can, try to find an X from when Bertone took over the X from Fiat. Bertone put a lot of effort and work into upgrading and updating the X from the inside and out.
The speed and handling of an X is far greater than the 850, and I assure you that will will fall in love with the X and have much fun with it. Oh, and BTW, the Fiat X1/9 was the only car in the United States to meet or exceed the US Safety Standards when the X1/9 was introduced in the US in 1974. Again though, this is a car that requires vigilance and regular maintenance if you want it to last.
I do not recommend the Fiat 124 Spider though. It just doesn't have the driving experience that you would get from the 850 Spider or the X1/9. But the 124 Spider seemed to be one of the most popular Fiat cars in the USA. Probably because it had just enough engine and was about the size most would expect in such a car.
OK, enough rambling from an old man who obviously has an addiction to some Fiat cars :-)