After many years of researching and wanting to own an ‘old car made in Italy, I made the decision in 2003 that it was going to be the time to buy one, and so I began lookng for the right Fiat. The 124 Spider was manufactured between 1966 and 1985. The front-engine, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel disc brake car was designed by the late Tom Tjaarda at Pininfarina. In short, it was a car that fitted my criteria and was not going to cost in the Ferrari range. The only issue was the 124 Spider was never released in Australia, so finding a good one would have its challenges.
That said, I stumbled across this car accidentally in Sydney. To my surprise, sitting under a cover in a mechanical workshop, I found my early chrome-bumper Spider. My initial thought upon removing the cover was it was going to need a substantial amount of work to return to the road.
It was not running at the time, and there was a significant amount of rust, which was typical.
I made a courageous decision purchase the car. My goal was to return the car to its original glory, which would take some work!
Firstly, the car was completely dismantled before being sent off to the sandblasters to have a good understanding of what there was to work with. The result wasn’t good. Rust holes everywhere. The front end had clearly been involved in a serious incident too. Nearly every panel had damage or rust. The bottom seals on the rocker panels and sub-structure were rotten, and rust had found its way into the inner structure. The list of ailments continued to grow…
After some research, the car was confirmed as an original black (Nero) 1967 Fiat 124 Spider build number 645. The Fiat 124 Spider debuted in Turin in November 1966, and given the build number of this Spider, I’d say this is one of the oldest surviving 1967 124 Spiders in the world. With this newfound appreciation for what I had, I decided it would be worth restoring this car properly.
The lengthy list of work started off with returning the car to left-hand drive as they were never made in a right-hand drive configuration.
When Calum said the car had been dismantled, he wasn’t kidding.
The front end had been involved in a serious incident.
After the crash damage and rust had been rectified the time had come for the painting.
Now it’s taped up and rolling, it’s time for a colour change.
Given its new hue can we dare call it a ‘Black Widow’?
The underside copped plenty of paint and rustproofing this time.
Original new old stock panels were sourced over a three-year period, including shock towers, inner skirts and fenders, etc. Adrian at Impact Panel Works in Marooka, Brisbane spent over four years getting the body shell to where it needed to be. Innovative techniques like Zinc Metallisation Flame Spray was used instead of lead wiping. This also coated the car with a zinc coating that acts as a rust inhibitor.
The goal for the exterior was perfection.
It had to be, as the car was going to be painted in its original black colour, a colour that is known not to forgive the scantest imperfections.
At one point prior to my acquiring the car, the original 1438cc engine was replaced with a 1608cc unit. That engine was removed and replaced with an original (period-correct) 1438cc engine designed by ex-Ferrari engineer Aurelio Lampredi. The engine was completely torn down and rebuilt to factory specifications by Fiat master mechanic Cam Impellizzeri in Brisbane. Every nut, bolt, and component was removed and then repaired or replaced.
I wanted the car to have the original look and feel, and in line with this, a factory-option set of rare Cromodora CD3 wheels were located, restored, and installed together with period-correct reproduction Michelin XAS tires.
Interior colour options were limited back then, as the original black cars were only released with two options; Rosso (red) or Avorio (Ivory). Most Spiders around the world either had black or tan interiors, so for me Rosso was the obvious, rarer, and more striking interior shade to pair against the deep black bodywork surrounding it. The interior was completely retrimmed by award-winning Annvid Upholsterers in Capalaba in Brisbane.
After going through practically the entire car, the restoration was completed in April of 2017. I debuted the car at Auto Italia in Canberra where it was awarded “Best Fiat Convertible/Targa. Twelve months on and the Spider has gone on to be awarded the following:
Best in Class at the Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Australia Concours D’Elegance;
Best in Class at the Noosa Beach Classic Car Show;
Runner up at RACQ Motorfest;
Show n Shine Winner at the Festival of Italian Motorsport;
Best in Class at the Brisbane Car Show;
Best Fiat Convertible/Targa (2nd year) at Auto Italia 2018;
Best in Show at Auto Italia 2018;
Concours Show Champion at the Festival of Elegance 2018.
My Fiat 124 Spider is exactly how I imagined it would be, and I couldn’t be more proud of the end result.
BODY 2-door convertible
ENGINE 1438cc four
POWER & TORQUE 71.5kW 112Nm
TOP SPEED 170km/h
TRANSMISSION Five-speed manual
Front – unequal length wishbone, coil springs
Rear – live axle with coil springs
BRAKES discs (f & r)