Fiat launched the 850 in 1964, at a time when much of the Italian auto industry was blissfully insulated from international competition. The 850 remained steadfastly dedicated to the formula set by the 600 and Nuova 500 before it – with its small-capacity engine mounted behind the rear axle. The rear engine allowed for a generous cabin, and the simple sheet steel chassis allowed Fiat to fit a variety of bodies. The 850 had larger engines than the 600, providing sufficient performance to keep up with Italy’s rapidly expanding Autostrada network. The standard 850 was styled by Centro Stile Fiat, led by father and son Mario & Gian Paolo Boano. While the Berlina was a bit stubby, it had a certain endearing charm. Thankfully, Fiat didn’t ignore the desires of younger, sporting oriented buyers. The 850 platform bore two lovely little sports cars – the Bertone-designed Spider and the handsome Sport Coupe, the work of Boano’s team at Centro Stile. Other hot versions were also available but were mostly extra-curricular efforts by outside firms like Abarth and OTAS.
On offer is a lovely example of Fiat’s superbly styled 850 Sport Coupe. Produced in 1970, this is a desirable Series II variant, identified by its quad front and quad rear lamps. It is the subject of a high-quality restoration completed in 2014 and attractively finished in verde over a natural tan interior. The paint and bodywork are in excellent order, with correct OEM bumpers and trim all around and rolling on a set of rare and supremely cool 13-inch Cromodora alloy wheels fitted with newer radial tires.
The cockpit is a classic display of 1960s Italian style, with all the tools you need for driving pleasure and nothing else. The surprisingly roomy cabin is properly restored using many OEM parts. The elegantly simple dash has a central pod with tach and speedo in clear view of the driver and a splash of wood trim that hints at an upscale GT-like ambiance. The buckets seats, rear bench, and door panels are trimmed in tan vinyl that beautifully complements the green body color. Chocolate brown carpets are in excellent condition, and the car retains the original two-spoke steering wheel with its delightfully thin wood rim. Thanks to the rear-engine layout and clever fitment of the cooling system in the tail, there’s a practical trunk with ample luggage space for groceries, luggage, or a case of Chianti.
Most US-market cars were compromised with the smaller 817 cc engine (fitted to circumvent US emissions laws), but this example is powered by the superior 903 cc four-cylinder, which gives a significant bump in power. Despite the lack of a front grille, the 850 is water-cooled, with a small radiator cleverly mounted side-saddle to the engine, drawing air through the vented deck lid. This Series II car also features the desirable 12V alternator charging system. It runs and drives very well, with a delightful featherweight character that encourages the driver to “press on regardless.”
The lovely little 850 Sport Coupe is a rare sight on our shores, and few have survived the ravages of corrosion and neglect. This refreshingly authentic example is beautifully finished inside and out and would undoubtedly garner plenty of attention at your local Cars & Coffee event. Yet where it truly shines is out on the road, where the delicate handling, mighty-mouse engine, and superbly balanced styling are sure to bring an oversized smile to any enthusiast’s face.
Offers welcome and trades considered