Fiat 124 Spider: Past and present at 50 years


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"The Turin Hall under the sign of optimism". It was 1966 and titles of this type accompanied the 48th edition of the event that was held at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni. The Motor Show welcomed the visitor with a unique display of lights and colors. Glossy paint on cars played a key role, constantly reflecting the glare of thousands of neon lights: it is the XNUMXs and a wave of euphoria was sweeping across the country.

The tightening of monetary policy in the 64-65 biennium was easing and in 1966 vehicle production in Italy increased by 8%. On the other hand, since the beginning of the decade, more than 650.000 billion lire had been spent renovating and developing factories, in order to meet a demand that grew year after year.

In addition to generating work, the automobile was the main indicator of the well-being of a country and its degree of civilization. The desire to own a car was increasingly common and legitimate, while at the same time remaining a certain conservative mentality that saw it as an ephemeral luxury. This last concept turned out to be wrong: today we can reasonably affirm that the automobile contributed to uniting Italy by shortening distances, favoring travel, helping people to get to know and understand each other. A means of transport that could have also been seen as an accessory, but was almost always a work tool, a business card and a springboard for ambitions.

Among the 515 exhibitors from 13 different countries, the Fiat stand stood out in the second pavilion for its breadth: a very wide offer, capable of adapting to the most diverse tastes and needs, which was further enriched at the Turin Motor Show in 1966 more with three new models. The public was able to admire the Fiat Dino, whose production was starting at that time, and the models that completed the 124 range. An innovative vehicle, showing an original style, a new concept of space, a sophisticated technique and an every safety. more evolved. The Fiat 124 was the result of Fiat's commitment to making the use of a fast car, capable of transporting five people and their luggage in great comfort, affordable for many people.

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The Fiat 124 Familiar was presented at the show, but the Fiat 124 Sport Spider stood out at that show. This model represented the best evolution of Fiat in the segment of high-performance but affordable convertibles, which the brand led since the end of World War II with the 1100 Spider from 1954, the 1200 and the 1500 double-axle from 1958. the 1500 S and 1600 S from 1961.

With the 124 Sport Spider, Fiat was targeting a motorist looking for brilliant performance at a reasonable price: a sports car with a wide circulation. The press of the time described it as a true "modern event" and not as a simple car. It was modern because the need for mobility was met by a product that managed to excite while maintaining a reasonable price, combined with a compelling and personal style, exciting features and innovative technical solutions, particularly in the field of mechanics.

The 124 Sport Spider was the evolution of the 124 saloon, but it was also a true sports car that everyone soon fell in love with. Fiat chose for this car the design of Pininfarina, a long-time partner of the Turin manufacturer and an important and respected name throughout the international automotive industry.

The model reinterpreted much of the mechanics of the Fiat 124 saloon, but was designed from the ground up with some distinctly sporty features. The Pininfarina brand ensured elegance of design and interiors, and overall the 124 Sport Spider was distinguished by the overall high quality of finishes, accessories and colors.

The vehicle was 3,97 m long and the exterior line was modern, understated and well proportioned. The gaze followed the side view enhanced by the shape of the rear fender that joined, lowering slightly, to the front. The front was compact and flat, lightened by the gap where the two slightly retracted headlights were housed.

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The air intake had an original hexagonal shape, while the bumper was wraparound and without edges. The rear part was characterized by two fins slightly inclined upwards, forming a concave line that connected to the profile of the trunk. Thus, it had the most attractive style and proportions of its time: a beautiful car amid the charm of that time, which at the Fiat stand of that November 1966 was represented by Miss Italia and Miss Sonrisa, and by actress Marisa Solinas .

The hood had a vinylite bezel and also included two side windows that retract when the hood was opened. The large glass area guaranteed visibility in any direction. The aerodynamic results allowed a vehicle suitable for high speeds and, at the same time, an agile vehicle in urban traffic. The cut of the windows and the windshield, the details of the handles, the headlights, the lights, the seats and the colors, were characterized by the search for utility and elegance. For the bodywork, the interiors were carefully designed with anatomical seats, wood finishes and a very complete instrument panel with speedometer, electric oil pressure gauge, water thermostat and electronic rev counter.

Maintaining the same rear-wheel drive, the Spider version was strongly connoted by the 124AC.000 engine, a four-cylinder in-line with a bore and stroke of 80 and 71,5 mm respectively, with a displacement of 1438 cm3. A really brilliant engine, thanks also to the double overhead camshaft and V-valve, developed a power of 90 hp at 6500 rpm and reached a top speed of 170 km / h.

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The carburettor was vertical with a double body and a double oil filtering system guaranteed better lubrication and a longer life. Other features placed the model among high-end sports cars: standard five-speed gearbox, radial tires and two-spoke sports-style steering wheel. The latter was connected to a steering box with a column in two pieces, joined by universal joints, which ensured excellent gear alignment.

The elegance of the lines, the good performance of the engine, the stability and the safety of the model, which was derived from the four disc brakes, the vacuum brake booster and the presence of the transverse Panhard bar for a better arrangement of the loads in curve, ensured good segment and image commercial success from the first months. The 124 Sport Spider cost 1.550.000 lira, almost half a million more than the saloon version. The "Cromodora" alloy wheels and the hardtop were available for an extra price of 65.000 lira.

The 124 Sport Spider had different versions until 1983, when production was discontinued. It even revolutionized the American market when it entered in 1968. Americans quickly fell in love with the Spider's proportions and distinctly Italian styling, as well as its hood that could be opened from the driver's seat with great speed and ease.

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As a tribute to its 50 years, the Centro Stile Fiat created a new version of the Fiat 124 Spider that debuted at the 2015 Los Angeles Motor Show. It is inspired by some details of its 1966 predecessor and reinterprets them in a modern key. It has a timeless, streamlined silhouette, a beautifully proportioned classic sidewall, a low center of gravity, a rearward-shifted cabin and a long, true sports car hood.

References to the historic model are also found in the upper grille and in the hexagonal grille motif, in the classic “humps” of the front hood and in the marked horizontal taillights. Similarly, the upper hexagonal grille is inspired by the unique shape of the front air intakes of the historic model and the design recalls the honeycomb structure of the sport grille of the legendary 124 Spider.

The rear is characterized by two elements: the dovetail section of the rear fenders and the horizontal development lamps, which recall the characteristics of its predecessor. The shape of the rear fenders, whose upper surface converges on the boot lid, gives the rear of the vehicle a characteristic V-shape. The interiors have been designed and built to guarantee maximum comfort to the occupants, thanks to the use. made of high-quality soft materials. The ergonomics of the vehicle have been thoroughly studied to improve the driving experience also through a perfect arrangement of pedals, steering wheel and gearbox.

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The Fiat 124 Spider is equipped with the reliable 1,4-liter MultiAir turbo four-cylinder engine, which develops 140 hp of power (103 kW) and 240 Nm of maximum torque, available immediately, at 2250 rpm. The engine has kept its peculiarities: inline four cylinders with aluminum cylinder heads, 72 mm bore and 84 mm stroke, with a total displacement of 1368 cm3. The Fiat 124 Spider reaches a top speed of 215 km / h and accelerates from 0 to 100 in 7,5 seconds.

Rear-wheel drive, extremely balanced weight distribution and a low center of gravity contribute to the vehicle's great dynamism. The Fiat 124 Spider is available with both a six-speed manual transmission, with direct and fluid couplings, and an automatic transmission, and has suspensions and steering designed for excellent driving dynamics. On the front axle, the new 124 Spider uses a sophisticated quadrilateral suspension scheme, while on the rear axle it adopts a multilink architecture for total control of the vehicle when cornering. With the help of a dual pinion electric power steering, the steering is light and responsive.

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As a tribute within the tribute, the new special series of limited edition Fiat 124 Spider America was admired at the Paris Motor Show, available in Italy with only 124 numbered units: it celebrates, through special equipment, its eponymous version that, in the years 80, commemorated the fifty years of Pininfarina.

As expected, the special series recovers the Magnetic Bronze exterior body reminiscent of that model. The mirror caps are silver and the interiors in tobacco leather. As an option, it is possible to equip the new Fiat 124 Spider America with 17 ″ light alloy wheels in a historic design and rear luggage rack. These are two accessories created by Mopar that highlight the vintage personality of the vehicle.

Finally, the Fiat 124 Spider America includes a numbered commemorative plaque inside (124 for the Italian market, available at the end of the year) and a logo on the front grille. In this version, the six-speed sequential automatic transmission has debuted, which will be available in Italy during the first quarter of 2017.

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Automundo

Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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