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The 1968 to 1985 Fiat 124 Spider – The Affordable Way to Drive Italian…for Now!

The 1968 to 1985 Fiat 124 Spider – The Affordable Way to Drive Italian…for Now!

When it comes to entry-level Italian roadsters, the Fiat 124 Spider remained alone at the head of the class for some time. Far more affordable and abundant than anything else from Italy that ends in a vowel and has an open top, the 124 Spider offers a lot of car for the cash. But if you really want one, don't get caught on the sidelines, because prices for these cars are moving up, as they are for many European collector cars.

Introduced in 1968, the Fiat seemingly had it all: good looks from a brand-name designer in Pininfarina, disc brakes, a five-speed transmission, a healthy twin-cam, four-cylinder engine with an aluminum cylinder head and a sporting attitude that made its driver feel like it could take on anything else on the road. It was sort of like the Italian version of the Triumph Spitfire--cheap to own, oodles of fun to drive and the very antithesis of the pretension that sometimes came with owning cars of a more refined pedigree.

In the course of the 18 years the car was sold in the U.S. (the car was sold under the Pininfarina banner after Fiat pulled up anchor in the early 1980s and sailed home), the design remained largely the same, despite a few upgrades here and there. Bumpers and ride height changed with safety regulations in the mid-1970s and different tail lamps were introduced along the way, as well. Engine displacement grew from 1,438cc to 1,996cc, with several incremental stops along the way, though power grew from 90 to just 102hp, owing to ever-more-stringent emissions controls. Torque, however, increased from just 80 to a more robust 100-lbs ft  A series of Weber carburetors eventually made way for fuel injection not long after the 2000 arrived in 1979. Buyers could also opt for an automatic transmission.

Fiat imported some 170,000 cars to the U.S. and Canada. So, despite major rust problems, there remain an abundance of Spiders to choose from. (Fiat USA, at the recent launch of the new 124 Spider estimated that there are still about 8,000 still on the road today.)  As with any unibody car, rust can kill a Spider outright; looking for a restored or well preserved example is your best bet. While the prices remain on the low side compared to Italian counterparts, such as Alfa Romeo Spiders, prices are on the move.  In the past dozen years or so, the price for a good, solid car that has been restored or (somehow) kept rust-free, has more than doubled, rising from around $4,500 US to closer to $10,000 US (Just recently, Hemmings Sports & Exotics magazine’s September 2015 Issue reported that the 124 Spider has gone up 205.3% since 2005, when the average price was $3,750 US for a good rust free version.  Today that same example will run you $11,450 US.  There are still bargains out there, however, on the other hand, the high retail book value, normally reserved for the most immaculate, low-mileage examples, is now approaching $20,000 US, though other than a few auction outliers, we've seen little to support that number on a regular basis.

And, if you fancy a car that needs a little TLC, then the Fiat 124 Spider market should offer you plenty to choose from. We've seen running examples from around $1,000, but we've got to imagine such cars need lots of work. Clean, running and driving cars that may have faded paint or aftermarket modifications, but are otherwise sorted, seem to hover in the $3,500 to $6,000 range.

But don't sit around too long. We asked Chris Obert of Fiat Specialist C. Obert & Co., who had this to say about which direction prices will be going: "Only up, both in real and inflated dollars. They have been valued too low for way too long, and that's starting to change. From what I'm told, the best cars in auction are setting some records. That will pull the rest of the market up, and will justify the current cost of parts to keep the cars running and looking good. A friend of mine watches the MGB market. He tells me it's flat, and they are watching the 124 market going up!"

Value Trend
1986 - $3,500

1992 - $5,800

1996 - $4,900

1998 - $4,000

2001 - $4,400

2007 - $5,900

2013 - $10,100

2015 - $11,450

Originally published on:

Hemmings Motor News - August, 2013 - Terry Shea

Editor’s Note:

The highest ever paid for a Fiat 124 Spider at auction (Bonhams-Jan 2013) was for a Southern California two-owner car from new, a 1969 FIAT 124 Sport Spider Chassis no. 124AS0019657

Sold for US$ 48,300 (CA$ 64,465) inc. premium

This early chrome bumper Fiat 124 Spider was purchased from its original Southern California owner in 2007. The vendor then commenced an impressively thorough two-year restoration to showroom condition. The restoration process was fully documented. The original 1438cc engine was rebuilt along with the transmission. Special attention was paid to sourcing the correct hardware, utilizing many NOS parts, The car was painted in its original shade of red. A black canvas Robbins top was fitted along with five new Vredestein tires.  Major Concours awards have included "Best Fiat" at The Best Of France and Italy 2008, "Best Fiat" at the 2009 Concorso Italiano, 2nd in class at the 2009 Palos Verdes Concours and 2nd in class at the 2010 Dana Point Concours. (The photos in this article are of this 124 Spider)