Your intro sentence is very good, but I believe it was Bertone that designed (and built) the Fiat 850 Spider.
I had a '67 Spider (well-used!) with the headlights that were flush to the body for a short period of time. Stock car, and it was super-simple to keep running and quick and nimble about town, but definitely *not* something you'd take on the interstate -- I think it topped out at around 55 or so. Still, wouldn't mind having it back.
I owned a 69 for several years. It was fun to drive, though it took a while, I had no problem reaching 85 on a flat. Passed 100 down a hill -not recommended :) Friends loved the fact that they could lift front of the car clear off the ground! Yes, it was easily the last up any hill, and that was a bit frustrating. 50 h.p. isn't much, even in a car this light. Still, I have to disagree with earlier comments about the handling. I drove that car hard. I once raced an MG along Hwy 1 (California). He out powered me in the straights, but I pulled ahead in the corners. This was all 30 years ago, but I still miss that car.
I had one 30 years ago and luved it, now I'm going to look at a 1970 850 coupe tomorrow for 1200 bucks. Is it a midlife crisis thing or am I crazy?
The 69 850 spider was my first new car. I loved it. Drove it from Austin to LA and back. Head gasket busted in Tucson on the way back but still made it home! Fiat serviced it (under warranty) and didn't charge me a penny. The engine was in the back which caused much amusement whenever I changed the oil. I really loved that little car.
My very first car was a 1969 Fiat 850 Spyder (back in 1975). My dad wouldn't let me have it unless I put a roll bar in it, so that is the answer to the safety. Never had to use the roll bar, thank goodness.
The car did handle well. Someone I knew had a Ferrari, and I was able to keep up with him going down a winding road, but when he hit the straight flats... well. It was all over.
My friends in high school used to like to play tricks on me by picking the car up and turning it 90 degrees in my parking space so that I couldn't get out until someone on either side left first.
Oh, and on one occasion, I did find my car sitting on top of juniper bushes inside a low fenced area (about a 2 1/2 foot tall fence). Everybody thought that was pretty funny, too.