Your Handy 1966–85 Fiat 124 Spider Buyer's Guide - Hagerty Media (2024)

Of all the years Fiat chose to launch its new Spider sports car, it had to pick 1966. If the Italian giant had gone either side of this with its pert roadster, it would surely have garnered far more coverage and, perhaps, would be more widely regarded in today’s classic world. Instead, the 124 Spider arrived headlong into the whirlwind surrounding the Alfa Romeo Spider that had broken cover at the Geneva motor show earlier in the year, while Fiat waited until the Turin show toward the end of 1966 for its big reveal.

Your Handy 1966–85 Fiat 124 Spider Buyer's Guide - Hagerty Media (1)

Both cars came from the Pininfarina studio, and while the Alfa was styled by Battista Pininfarina (the last car designed by him), the Fiat 124 Spider was the work of Dutch-American designer Tom Tjaarda. Undoubtedly pretty and the epitome of what a compact sporting roadster should be, the 124 was based on the same platform as the 124 coupe, but with a shortened wheelbase to keep the proportions spot on.

When you opened the hood, the twin-cam engine was nestled in there snug, and upon launch, the 1438-cc unit made 90 hp. It was initially mated to a torque tube transmission, but in 1969 that was dropped, as it was prone to cracking, and it was replaced by a standard propshaft. Also in 1969, the 1.4-liter engine was upgraded to a 1608-cc twin-cam making 110 hp. It was just as perky as its predecessor, but a small hood bulge was needed to clear its twin carburetors. More engine upgrades followed in 1972, when the 1592cc and 1756cc engines from Fiat’s 132 range were fitted to the Spider, creating a new 1800 model alongside the existing 1600 version.

Also in 1972 came the 124 Abarth Rallye, a hom*ologation special to take the 124 Spider into European competition. It came with a 128-hp 1.8-liter twin-cam motor, coil-spring rear suspension, a roll cage, and lightweight body panels made from aluminum and fiberglass. In full rally-ready trim, the Abarth Rallye could be ordered with as much as 170 hp from the factory, but only 1013 were made to qualify it for competition, and it was regarded as too loud and coarse as a road car. Very few exist in the U.S.

Your Handy 1966–85 Fiat 124 Spider Buyer's Guide - Hagerty Media (2)

In the 124 Spider’s second decade, a second chapter began. European and other markets were cut off as Fiat concentrated on the U.S., where the car had always enjoyed its best sales. However, American-spec Spiders came with a measly 86 hp from their 1.8-liter engines, and federal crash regulations necessitated a slightly lifted ride height and larger bumpers mid-decade. For 1979, the car was fitted with a carbuereted 2.0-liter engine, still making 86 hp, and was rebadged as the Fiat Spider 2000. Fuel injection was introduced midway through 1980, which upped output to 102 hp.

Fiat also offered a turbocharged version of the 124 Spider in 1981. The conversions were carried out byLegend Industries in New Yorkand it is estimated that about 700 were built, complete with Cromodora alloy wheels and unique badging. The turbo increased power to 125 hp. Meanwhile, European customers could once again order the 124, then called the Spider Europa, with a 105-hp 2.0-liter engine.

In European markets, there was one last throw of the dice for the aging Fiat when the carmaker offered a supercharged version of the 2.0, which bumped output to 135 hp. Only about 500 were built. Fiat had already exited the U.S. market by 1983, but the cars soldiered on under the Pininfarina Azzurra badge. The two-seater finally ended production in 1985, two decades after it debuted. All were made with left-hand drive, but several were converted to right-hand drive for the U.K. market using 124 coupe parts.

What’s a 124 Spider Like to Drive?

Your Handy 1966–85 Fiat 124 Spider Buyer's Guide - Hagerty Media (3)

When it came to two-seat affordable roadsters in the mid-1960s, buyers were spoiled for choice. At first glance, given the 124’s specs, Fiat didn’t do much to make the Spider stand out from that crowd. However, the 90-hp 1.4-liter engine thrives on revs, so you have to work it quite hard. Driven this way, it sounds good thanks to the induction noise from the carb and the exhaust note, and it has a bit more bass and growl than you’d expect from a small-capacity four-cylinder.

The five-speed manual gearbox has a pleasingly accurate feel, and the ratios are spread evenly to make the most of the engine’s power. Off the mark, an early Spider could cover 0–60mph in 10.9 seconds and top out at 109 mph, but more relevant today is that you can easily keep up with modern traffic. This makes the Fiat a very usable classic, regardless of which engine you choose, though the 1.8s of the late ’70s are fairly gutless.

Whichever engine you prefer, the rear-drive setup of the 124 Spider makes it enjoyable to sift through a series of corners to find the limits of the car. Turn-in is good and there’s plenty of mid-corner grip and steering feel. You’re unlikely to experience any oversteer, unless the tires are worn or the road is greasy, so the 124 Spider is a car anyone can drive with confidence, especially as it is aided by disc brakes all-around. It’s also decent at flowing with the road over bumps and, at the risk of upsetting MG drivers, is smoother and more refined than a B roadster.

With the top up in a car that has been looked after, you shouldn’t find any rain getting in past the seals. There is a fair degree of wind noise, which is true of any of the 124’s rivals, but the top is quick and easy to operate. You also get a decent trunk, and there’s more storage behind the seats on a bench that is optimistically trimmed as if it might accommodate children. It won’t. The rest of the Spider’s cabin is simple and easy to live with, though you will have to remember the heater controls are quirkily placed down by the handbrake lever.


Your Handy 1966–85 Fiat 124 Spider Buyer's Guide - Hagerty Media (4)

Any Fiat 124 Spider in running order but in need of work to the mechanics and cosmetics (#4 “Fair” condition)will cost around $6000. As with most classic cars, it’s wiser to look at increasing your budget to buy one in better condition than it is to spend far more sorting a rough car. A 124 Spider in decent order that you can use and enjoy, without worrying about it going out in the rain (#3 “Good”), will cost around$13,000 for a 2.0-liter model, and around the same for a 1.6- or 1.8-liter car. Meanwhile, a fully sorted, concours-quality 1.4 will eclipse $30,000.

What to Look for in a 124?

Your Handy 1966–85 Fiat 124 Spider Buyer's Guide - Hagerty Media (5)

There are no particular weak spots with the Fiat 124 Spider, beyond the usual problems any classic roadster from this period can experience. Namely, rust. Cars from dry states have the advantage here, but that’s no guarantee it will be rot-free, and they can also pose other potential problems such as faded paint and cracked trim.

Your Handy 1966–85 Fiat 124 Spider Buyer's Guide - Hagerty Media (6)

With any 124 Spider, the areas to look for rot present like the greatest hits of classic car rust traps. This means inspecting the wheel arches, fender edges, sills, floorpans, chassis legs, front suspension crossmember, trunk lid, and inner fenders with a wary eye. Stand back and have a good look at the panel gap around the doors. If they have closed up at any point, especially toward the top of the doors, it’s a good indicator the car’s shell is seriously weakened by rust.

The suspension, steering, and brakes are all simple to work on and parts are available, with many shared by other Fiat models of the period. The engine and gearbox are more bespoke to the 124 Spider, and there was an automatic transmission offered after 1979. Unless you really want this, we’d stick with the manuals, where you just need to make sure it doesn’t pop out of gear under acceleration or make any rumbling noises.

Your Handy 1966–85 Fiat 124 Spider Buyer's Guide - Hagerty Media (7)

Fiat 124 Spider engines tend to leak a little oil as a habit, so don’t fret over a light misting, but do check for more serious drips underneath the car. The oil sump sits low to the ground in the 124 and gets knocked about, which can lead to oil loss. Back on top of the engine, give the cooling system a thorough going over for leaks and splits in hoses, and look to see of the head gasket has leaked due to low coolant level.

Most electrical issues will be caused by a poor ground or elderly components, but a common complaint among 124 Spider owners is dim headlights with the original setup. This can be improved with modern bulbs or even an LED conversion. Rear lights for the early 1.4-liter cars are now hard to find, so be sure they are not damaged.

Your Handy 1966–85 Fiat 124 Spider Buyer's Guide - Hagerty Media (8)

A visual inspection of the 124 Spider’s top should quickly tell you if it needs to be repaired or replaced. A new one in vinyl is around $500 and is a relatively simple DIY job to fit. With the rest of the 124 Spider’s interior, make sure all of the buttons, dials, badges, and switches are present, as they can be hard to track down, and there are differences between the years that purists will be keen to get right.

Which Is the Right 124 Spider for You?

Your Handy 1966–85 Fiat 124 Spider Buyer's Guide - Hagerty Media (9)

Fiat built nearly 200,000 copies of the 124 Spider, and one in rude health is a car that will quickly win you over with its crisp engine response and exhaust note, its sharp steering, and its deft handling. The 124 is quick enough to keep pace with modern traffic and also sufficiently comfortable to put up with daily use. If anything, it’s a car that thrives on regular exercise to ward off niggling problems.

The only engine we’d avoid is the 87-hp 1.8-liter lump from 1977–79, as you can have a much perkier 1.6- or 2.0-liter Spider for the same money. To enjoy the 124 Spider in its original form, the 90-hp 1.4 is a real joy to drive and use, but for most potential buyers we reckon the 110-hp 1.6 of the early ’70s is the pick of the bunch, not only because there are plenty around, but because its performance and usability are perfectly in keeping with the Fiat’s zesty nature.

Your Handy 1966–85 Fiat 124 Spider Buyer's Guide - Hagerty Media (10)


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Your Handy 1966–85 Fiat 124 Spider Buyer's Guide - Hagerty Media (2024)


Do Fiat spiders hold their value? ›

A FIAT 124 Spider will depreciate 23% after 5 years and have a 5 year resale value of $23,440.

Are old Fiat 124 Spiders reliable? ›

The 124 Spider can be as reliable as any well sorted 1980s import and some people even use them as their daily driver. While it is a 1960s design it was quite advanced for its time so it feels much more modern than most of its contemporaries. When looking for a 124 Spider be certain to find one with little or no rust.

How much is a Fiat Spider worth? ›

Prices for a used FIAT 124 Spider currently range from $12,300 to $27,991, with vehicle mileage ranging from 2,365 to 103,474. Find used FIAT 124 Spider inventory at a TrueCar Certified Dealership near you by entering your zip code and seeing the best matches in your area.

How many Fiat 124 left? ›

There are 33,846,437 cars & other vehicles with valid MOTs. There are 2,817 FIAT 124 left in the UK with an MOT. 0.0083% of all UK vehicles are FIAT 124.

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