1984 Pininfarina Spider Azzurra

Between 1966 and 1974, the venerable and enormously successful 124 served as the mainstay of the Fiat line. Thanks to the sophisticated monocoque chassis employed by the standard saloon, a sporting version of the 124 was a natural evolution. Shortly after the debut of the sedan, Fiat introduced two sporty 124s. One was a handsome four-seat coupe designed in-house by Mario Boano, and the other a beautiful little two-seat roadster penned by American-born designer Tom Tjaarda, working for Pininfarina. At the time, American buyers had a huge appetite for sports cars, and Fiat was eager to get in on the success enjoyed by popular roadsters like the MGB, Triumph TR4, and Alfa Romeo Duetto. The lovely little Fiat had a leg up on the British competition thanks to its standard four-wheel disc brakes, double-wishbone front suspension, five-speed gearbox, and the fabulous twin-cam four-cylinder engine designed by the legendary ex-Ferrari engineer Aurelio Lampredi. With names like Lampredi, Pininfarina, and Tjaarda behind it, the Fiat Sport Spider certainly didn’t lack street cred.

Even as Fiat shifted production to the 131, the 124 Spider remained a fixture in the lineup for years, growing in displacement and output along the way and enjoying a steady following of loyal fans who fell for its Italianate charm, nimble handling, and gutsy twin-cam engine. It sold well through numerous evolutions, outliving the original 124 sedan by several years. In 1979, a final bump in displacement accompanied a name change to “Spider 2000.” By October 1981, Fiat ended the production of the Spider after fifteen years. Yet Pininfarina still sensed plenty of demand, and since they had the infrastructure to continue building bodies, they took over full production, marketing the car in America as the Pininfarina Spider Azzura through late 1985, with about 3,000 vehicles reaching our shores. However, due to its low-cost, entry-level nature when new, considerably fewer than that number survive today.

This exceptional 1984 model is one of the finest examples of the Pininfarina Azzura we have ever encountered. A highly-original two-owner car, it was sold new by Aurora Imports in Seattle, Washington, in June 1985 and spent most of its life on the West Coast. Registration certificates show the original owner, Mr. Hiawatha Davis, enjoyed the car sparingly for several years, before carefully storing it in his garage in about 1990. The Pininfarina remained quietly tucked away for the better part of twenty-four years when, in 2014, it was purchased by the most recent owner. A successful entrepreneur, Classic Car Club of America Master Judge, and experienced concours judge, the new owner put his eye for detail to good use and began the meticulous process of refreshing this highly original and well-preserved Azzura. Handily, his business interests included automotive repair and restoration, and his company handled the task of carefully refinishing the Spider in its original shade of Rosso Vivo to better-than-new standards. They sorted numerous details to bring the Pininfarina back to near showroom condition. Fiat and Pininfarina Spiders have long been grassroots-level enthusiast cars, and as such, very few, if any, have enjoyed this sort of cost-no-object attention.

The quality of the paintwork is superb, with beautifully smooth finishing and straight panels. Detailing is excellent all around, including the correct Azzura badges, original lenses, and Vitaloni mirrors. Chrome and black rubber US-spec bumpers are in good order, and the proper, original Cromodora alloy wheels were recently refinished. In 2015, the owner fitted a new Robbins cloth convertible top in the correct tan color to complete the outstanding cosmetic presentation.

The two-seat cockpit is in fantastic order, with original tan leather and vinyl trim on the seats, door cards, and dash. It features the correct three-spoke steering wheel and wood shift knob along with factory electric windows and air conditioning. The original carpets are superb, and the wood dash trim houses excellent Veglia instruments and switchgear. Documentation includes the original warranty booklet, the first five years of registrations, and numerous receipts from the refurbishment work. Also included is a factory tool roll in excellent condition.

Mechanically, the Pininfarina is in fine order, thanks to an extensive post-slumber refresh. Bosch electronic fuel injection feeds the Lampredi twin-cam for reliable, flexible running in all conditions. Documents show the previous owner resealed the injectors, rebuilt the brakes, replaced the rear dampers, and tended to numerous other minutiae to ensure the car was in top running condition. Underhood presentation is clean, honest, and original, reflective of the car’s charmed existence in the hands of just two meticulous owners.

Already a rarity compared to its Fiat-badged sibling, very few Azzura Spiders survived the years so lovingly well-preserved. Considering the quality of the finish and detailing, this represents an exceptional value in the world of Italian sports cars and is ready for regular enjoyment either on the road or in AACA or other enthusiast club events. There is little doubt that this is one of the finest examples of Pininfarina’s delightful Azzura Spider available today.

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