The Land Rover Writer

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fiat 124 to Return?

In the late 1970's I enjoyed a Fiat 124 Spider as my year-round transportation in Vermont. Coming on the heels of a ragged but loved MGB this car proved quite an upgrade. I found it at the Jeep dealer in S. Burlington, VT. It had sat on their lot for months and by midwinter it had received few looks from potential owners. My MGB had been boshed by an errant Oldsmobile that either ran through or skidded through a stoplight; while I was unhurt the MGB suffered a more onerous fate - thus, my search for a replacement sports car.

SE12-Fiat BG-f78 379
Photo courtesy of Hemmings Motor News
My criteria were simple; given the insurance settlement I had very little money to spend on the car and its registration. A classified ad in the Burlington Free Press had not yielded many affordable results so I happened to be trolling dealer's lots when I came across a forlorn 1972 Fiat Spider. Like the one in this photo, it was orange, only several different shades of orange. And the wheels were the stamped steel that said "stock" instead of "continental." The Fiat came with a handsome factory hardtop and a ratty canvas top folded out of view. It also had a cracked windshield which the dealer said he would have replaced by a local glass shop. The car started, stopped and ran, and I certainly enjoyed the wood-enhanced dash, the wood steering wheel and the 5-speed transmission. Oh, and the tires would not need replacing except for new snow tires. After a brief interlude of "I'll have to talk to the manager," the car was mine for $1,200. They were so happy to get it off the lot that they gave me an Opel to use while waiting for the windshield. 

That replacement turned out the become a saga. After a week or so of waiting I called the glass shop to ask about the windshield replacement. "It's hard to find a windshield for a Fiat 124 Coupe [discontinued in the US market]," the shop manager complained. "It's not a Coupe, it's a Spider," I replied. "Really? I have one of those in stock," the shop guy replied. 

Back to the dealer - I called him about the error. "Since you know so much about the car, why don't you just handle this for us and we"ll cover the cost," he said. I had the car back in two days.

The Fiat caused me pause when the brakes failed on the Bolton Valley Mountain Road, but that was my fault for not replacing the disk pads. The fuel line would separate from the carb every so often, spewing gas over the hot engine. A cracked rotor caused the car to run poorly until it was replaced, and that was it until I sold it due to extensive rust in 1980. 

So the news that a "new" 124 might show up in the Fiat lineup appeals to me. I've had a soft spot for these cars and even pondered purchasing a basket case in 2013 [the Spitfire won that battle]. Good luck to Fiat and please, remember how well that classic styling worked from the late 1960's - 1980's!

No comments:

Post a Comment