The 1960’s were a special time. All across the world momentous changes were happening, especially the counter culture in Southern California. The roads were relatively uncrowded, and there was no national oil crisis or national 55 mph speed limit. The 60’s were the beginning of the sports car era in America. Ford was making the Mustang; Chevy was making the Camero and Corvette while across the Atlantic Alfa Romeo was consistently making some of the best sports cars in the world.
The America appetite for European roadsters was growing every year, so Fiat (who was selling the most cars in Europe at the time) decided to enter the American Market. They broke in with the Spider 124 which would become one of the most popular models in the history of the industry. Here are 5 interesting fact you may not have known about the European import that set the American roadster market on fire.
The Spider first hit the American Market in 1968
After a few trial models in Europe started in 1966 the 124 Spider was ready for American markets in 1968. It required a few changes which carried over into all markets. The radio and center console were sourced from the 124 coupe and only the instrument bezels carried the chrome finish. The hydraulic brake system became a dual circuit system, and for the U.S. market the side markers front and rear were made with round sides. The engine also had to be de-tuned to comply with U.S. regulations.
The 1608cc Engine was made Available in 1971
1971 was a big year for the Spider. The 1608cc engine was now available and sported dual carburetors getting 110 horsepower. The U.S. market again required the engine to be de-tuned to 104 horsepower, but they added extra torque to the package providing more power than the Spider had previously.
1972 brought the first Rally Version of the Spider
The 124 Rally was introduced in November of 1972. The Abarth Rally had an independent rear suspension, reinforced front suspension, and roll-bar and a hard top standard. Racing bucket seats completed the interior. The rally specials also had a 128 Horsepower 1756cc engine which was the largest to date.
1975 Brought the Americanization of the 124.
Spiders were no longer available outside North American in 1975. However the engines were strangled with only a single carburetor and single down-pipe exhaust. Impact bumpers were added to the model to comply with American regulations and the turn signals were integrated into the bumper. The body style was much preferred over other roadsters but consumers begged for the engine to be unleashed
1980’s and Fuel Injection
The biggest engine innovation in the 1980’s models was the addition of Bosch fuel injection systems which made for a much smoother ride and greater torque. The interior underwent several changes like moving the hazard switches to the radio console and the addition of tan leather seats, giving a feeling of luxury as well as performance.
The Fiat 124 Spider has consistently been of the most sought after Roadsters in the country. It took the market by storm in an era of big muscle cars and even though its engine was strangled by regulations still provided one of the smoothest rides of any car in its class. Try one out and see for yourself.