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by Jay Traugott
Although it wasn't perfect, the 124 Sport Spider was still a charming Italian-designed car.
There's always been something about the classic convertible that makes every element of driving an even more enjoyable experience. Yes, it's great to have the wind blowing in your hair while cruising down your favorite winding roads, but the combination of hearing the engine and the purity of the moment is something all driving enthusiasts understand. These days, Mazda is the only mainstream automaker that mass produces a small roadster, but back in the day many other companies built them.
Along with many British automakers, Fiat also had their own fun convertible, called the 124 Sport Spider. First hitting the market in 1966, the 124 Sport Spider was a 2+2 convertible that was designed by Sergio Pininfarina himself. It went on sale in Europe before it arrived in the US. The delay, as usual, was due to Fiat needing the extra time to modify the car in order to comply with US regulations (meaning large plastic bumpers). Power came from a four-cylinder double overhead cam aluminum engine with just 89 horsepower. Fiat progressively upgraded this engine and US buyers could later get a 2.0-liter unit with 102 hp.
By 1980 a Bosch fuel injection system replaced the older Weber carburetors. A supercharged and more expensive version also existed, but was only available in Europe. When it arrived stateside, the 124 was renamed the 2000 Spider and was equipped with four-wheel disc-brakes, double overhead cams and a standard five-speed manual transmission. Anyone who wanted an automatic was out of luck; they would have to wait until 1979 for one to become optional. In addition to being a road car, the 124 Spider also took part in the World Rally Championship due to Abarth's involvement with its production.
Abarth modified the car for Group 4 rally duty and it went on to a decent career of wins in the early and mid-Seventies. By 1982, it was clear to Fiat that the aging 124 Sport Spider was nearing the end of its run. However, the car found a few additional years of life thanks to Pininfarina taking over marketing duties from Fiat. It was renamed the Pininfarina Spider Azzura beginning for the 1983 model year, but it was ultimately discontinued only two model years later. All told, nearly 200,000 Spiders were built in its 19 year production run, about 75 percent of which were made specifically for the US.
While it's not uncommon to see some still on the road, we were pleasantly surprised to find this one up for sale on eBay in relatively good condition. This 1980 124 Sport Spider 2000 has just 79,000 miles on the odometer and everything is still in proper running order. There are a few patches of rust, but this can be fixed. With that exception, it appears to be solid condition inside and out. It's been upgraded with a six-disc CD-changer and new carpets but it still comes with the original tonneau cover. Power comes from a 2.0-liter four pot with the slushbox option.
For a Fiat that's more than 30 years old, this 124 Sport Spider is in nice shape and its Pininfarina-designed body still looks fabulous today. It has a "Buy it Now" price of only $6,900, making it a decent deal for anyone wanting a classic Italian-designed convertible.