2nd Oct 2010, 18:55
In college in 1968, I had a 1965 Triumph Spitfire. My girlfriend at the time liked it so much that she bought a red 1967 850 spyder. It had special alloy wheels that looked sort of like wire wheels, and enhanced the car's looks immensely. I suspect that the wider tires also helped the handling. And the 1967 model was the only one with the covered headlights, which made the car even sleeker.
I drove the car occasionally, and always liked it, except for what I remember as somewhat rubbery shifting. True, not much power, but as my girlfriend said "Everyone pulls away from me at stoplights, but I quickly catch up to them." She loved the car. Apparently more than she loved me, since she dumped me within 6 months of buying the car. So the car turned out to be more reliable than the girlfriend.
I sure miss the car. I wonder what happened to it?
8th Oct 2010, 18:08
I am thrilled to report that I just brought home my (new to me) 1967 Fiat 850 Spider. I have known and loved these cars for years, and had one in the early 1970's, but it was rusty and had been neglected by the previous owner, so it would not be fair to comment on my prior experience.
When people complain about these tiny European cars, their memories are usually tainted by an experience in a tired, high mileage, example that was neglected for decades, and bought and maintained on a budget. There was little parts or service support for European cars here in the states, and these cars suffered considerable neglect as a result, which often rendered them unreliable as a result of that neglect. It would be like trying to maintain an Impala in France!
The truth is that Europeans had a more interactive involvement with their automobiles, while Americans expected a sterile appliance that would start, run and drive, whether you ever opened the hood or not. They often neglected tune ups, or other general maintenance, and then blamed the car when it would not start or run.
What I can tell you about my new Spider is that it is gorgeous, with sensual Bertone lines that create an overall rectangular shape, that is gently softened by the rounded front corners and those beautiful headlight lenses (on the 1967 model only), and then that softening is made significantly crisper by those delightful sculpted edges running down the top edge, and side of the front fenders. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful cars ever designed, and the tiny proportions make it a perfect exercise in aesthetics.
Sure, they are underpowered, but not if you know how to properly drive a small displacement Fiat engined sports car. These Spiders (and the 850 Coupes as well) were designed by real Italian automotive enthusiasts. When properly driven, these tiny cars (and their tiny engines) can be an absolute blast to drive, and can outperform many other cars with larger displacement engines. I always say that they give you all the thrills of racing, but at speeds under 60 mph!
A tiny displacement engine in a small European car demands so much more from the driver in order to squeeze any real power and speed out of it, as opposed to the huge American horsepower engines and cars, which are totally forgiving of the driver's ignorance or error, and will allow any bone head to go fast.
My car was an Ebay purchase, and it is one of my first Ebay purchases that was not a huge disappointment. It is white, and had recently been painted and maintained, and it runs and drives beautifully. It came with the rare factory hardtop, as well as the softop, and the valance cover. When I look at the front end with its tiny proportions, and those lens covered eyes, I am reminded of the absolutely gorgeous Mazda Cosmos, which is one of my favorite cars.
I own several Fiats including Cinquecenos, Giardinera, Jolli, 600 coupe and 600 D Multipla models, and I love them all, but this little 850 Spider may be my favorite Fiat ever!
18th Oct 2010, 00:33
I bought one of these new in the late 1960's when I was in college. My first car. Great memories.
Had it in Chicago so it was hard to start in winter. But it was a little tank in the snow - I put oversized studded snow tires on and it would go through any snowstorm.
7th Nov 2010, 20:41
All these comments were a fun read. My wife and I bought a 1968 850 Spyder brand new, and had a lot of fun with it. For some reason, at around 10,000 miles, it would blow a head gasket (if I remember correctly) but we took it from NJ to Acapulco, toured the country, had one flat tire which we had replaced in a rather primitive Ford dealership, and returned home with smiles on our faces. If you kept the revs up, and went on a curve filled road, there was no better vehicle for smiles per mile. We traded it when we needed more room, and bought a used '67 VW van!
A few years ago (2002 or so) I bought a '97 Miata, in which I autocrossed, and it reminded me of the 850.
A fun car indeed.
17th Jan 2011, 16:47
I love my 1973 850 Sport Spider, I've had it for a year now. Presently having electrical problems but my mechanic can fix it quickly as I stop with electric anything having been shocked one too many times in my life by different appliances/autos, etc...
I just drove it today to run down the battery proving my new alternator wasn't the fix. I had to take my 08 TL Type S for a spin afterwards to get my car mind back on track. Hitting 120 without effort is fun, but the 850 is a heck of a lot more fun to drive. And since it's the only one I've seen in the area, it gets more looks than an overpriced Honda Accord these days.
12th Apr 2011, 16:13
Howdy folks. I thought you might like to hear about my little jaunt with a new 850 Spyder back in 1971. My bride and I got orders to leave my airbase in the Republic of Panama and report to Castle AFB, California. Naturally, we decided to drive up the PanAmerican Highway, through Central America, Mexico, Texas, and points west to Merced, CA via Fiat 850! Well, it was a very rough road and we were not without more than a few tribulations; including bottoming out heavily on a rock which punched a hole in the cast aluminum oil pan in the Costa Rican jungle. As luck would have it, we found a mechanic who removed and degreased the pan and then put a big blob of Liquid Aluminum into the hole, saying that it ought to get us to Mexico City. It lasted for another 76,000 miles! The car performed flawlessly, not only from Panama to California, but from California to New York and then down to the Florida Keys! It was an exceptional and jaunty little machine!
26th Apr 2011, 09:06
Oh my, does this thread bring back memories. My first car was a 1968 red Fiat Spyder convertible. Blitzing through the tight turns and hills of the Pennsylvania countryside, top down, wind blowing through my hair (I had hair back then). A really fun car. When it ran, a really big caveat.
Much less fun was grinding the starter every morning, jumping out at every red light to re-tune the carburetor by tone, rain leaking in everywhere, do-it-yourself bodywork to stay ahead of the rust, replacing 3 starters, valves, rings, etc., and high-test gas, all on a med student budget.
Still, it got over 50 MPG, so during the Arab oil embargo of 1973, I'd drive just breeze by the gas lines and just wave. When it ran. Give me my Porsche 911 any day.
25th Mar 2018, 05:44
I agree the car was a nice little bugger. The one I had, we shaved the head, opened the carb and tuned the exhaust. Then used a hand throttle to help maintain RPM on tight corners. Ran against a Super Bee on an 8 mile road race --- lost, but only by about a quarter mile; she was a beast on winding roads and corners.