FIAT 850 SU­PER/ SPE­CIAL (1966-‘72)

A clas­sic that’s part of an il­lus­tri­ous line of small Fi­ats

Car (South Africa) - - BUY -

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.


The later Spe­cial model is prefer­able to the Su­per but, nat­u­rally, if you can nd a Sport Coupé, it’s worth restor­ing prop­erly.


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.


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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.