|Engine||In-line 4-cylinder, 1995cc|
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Never officially sold in Australia and a rare sight on our roads, Fiat’s svelte 124 Spider is an affordable Latin sports car that looks remarkably similar to Ferrari’s 275 GTS, hardly surprising given both were designed by American stylist Tom Tjaarda for the Italian studio Pininfarina.
Introduced in 1966, the Spider was based on a shortened version of the 124 Saloon’s platform and the understated, elegant lines have aged gracefully, providing inspiration for the brand new 124 launched earlier this year. Under the shapely bonnet was a high-revving twin-cam motor designed by Aurelio Lampredi, with plenty of torque and driving the rear wheels through a slick manual gearbox. The 124 Spider, and its Coupe sibling, shared the same suspension set-up, with unequal length wishbones and coil springs up front and a coil-sprung live rear axle located by a Panhard rod and radius rods, providing sure-footed, predictable handling. Never built in right-hand drive, it’s no surprise to discover the vast majority of 124 Spiders ended up in the United States and for the last three years of production (which ended in 1985) it was sold there with Pininfarina badges. Changes over the two-decade long production run were relatively few – the engine grew from 1438cc (via 1600 and 1800 versions) to 1995cc in 1978, and gained Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection the following year. Power rose to 104 bhp at 6000 rpm, endowing the Fiat with zippy performance, while the servo-assisted disc brakes all round provide stopping power rarely found on classics of the era. The interior is another component in the 124 Spider’s appealing character, with a well stocked dash and surprisingly comfortable driving position largely devoid of the problems that normally beset most Sixties Italian sports cars. Another pleasing aspect of the 124 Spider is the carefully designed and executed hood mechanism, a contrast to the rudimentary items found on most British sports cars. Indeed, the 124 Spider stacks up very well in comparison to British rivals like the MGB, in terms of looks, performance, comfort and exclusivity.