FIAT 850 SUPER/ SPECIAL (1966-‘72)
A classic that’s part of an illustrious line of small Fiats
FOLLOWING the success of the 500 and 600, the 850 also proved Fiat’s ability to build excellent small cars. In latter years, this was further evident with the Uno that was produced here by Nissan SA from 1991 until ‘98 (it was then imported as the Uno Way from 2007 until ‘10). More recently, the latest 500 has already notched up over two million sales globally.
The ultimate 850 collectable versions were the Guigiaro-designed Sport Coupé and Spider, but these slipped through our test team’s hands and we have no road tests or our own pictures. They are extremely rare, but we may gather some more info and tackle these in a future issue because they are striking.
The sedan is the more accessible and has a fastback shape; it’s a sporty design with simple Ferrari-style round taillamps. Despite sporting two doors and a sloping rear window, this was a fairly spacious four-seater.
The Special was a significant upgrade on the earlier Super. Front discs were fitted in place of drums, a “banana branch”
exhaust manifold added and a twin-choke Weber carburettor. The Fiat grille trim was enlarged and a chrome strip down each side added. Wheel size was increased from 12 to 13 inches, and a wood-rim steering wheel and gearlever console added. The front suspension was unusual in employing independent transverse leaf springs with anti-roll bars, plus coils with semi-trailing links at the rear.
The luggage trunk up front takes 170 litres, but the rear seat folds down for a utility volume of 570 litres.
The Super produced 30 kw at 5 300 r/min and the Special 35 kw at 6 400 r/min. The compression ratio was upped from 8,8 to 9,0 to 1. Taking their fuel consumption (8,0 L/100 km) and adding 40% (our CAR fuel index back then) gives 11,2 L/100 km, which is poor because the engine works hard at cruising speed. The improvement of the Special over the Super is evident in the acceleration time to 100 km/h, which falls from 26,2 to 18,1 seconds. Consumption improved, too.
A feature of Fiats of this era was a secondary oil lter, a centrifugal unit within the crankshaft pulley that would spin oil from the crank outwards and so trap dirt on the outer edge.
WHICH ONE TO GET
The later Special model is preferable to the Super but, naturally, if you can nd a Sport Coupé, it’s worth restoring properly.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
The rear shocks are dif cult to source; I had an expert from Gabriel recondition a set. The heater radiator has pipes running from the engine to the front rewall and needs checking for leaks. Accessibility to the engine is made simpler by unbolting the rear panel.
AVAILABILITY AND PRICES
More than 4 000 850s were sold between 1966 and ‘72. There are always a couple around, but rust has probably taken its toll half a century later and a full restoration may be too expensive to justify. It may be best to look inland for one with a decent body. Prices will vary between the two we spotted, with most below R25 000.
left to bottom The Special had a sparse but spacious interior, with a thin-rimmed wooden steering wheel; this image was taken during the 850’s launch in Italy. opposite from top Our test 850 Special at Table Bay; an of cial image from the 850’s press pack.