0 ABARTH 124
Fiat Celebrates 50 Years Of The 124 Spider Photo:

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Brad Leach | Nov, 04 2016 | 0 Comments

Long before the current model shared with the Mazda MX-5 arrived, Fiat’s 124 Spider was wooing the hearts of motoring enthusiasts and celebrities and featuring in motorsport, movies, and TV shows.

In fact the legend began 50 years ago in 1966 when Fiat captured headlines by unveiling the first 124 Spider at the Turin Motor Show.

Designed by Italian powerhouse designer Pininfarina, the first Fiat 124 Spider was a sibling of the 124 sedan but featured retracted headlights, twin tailfins and two side windows which retracted when the soft-top roof was folded - a hard-top was an optional extra.

Power came from a high-tech (in those days) 1.4-litre, four-cylinder engine with double overhead camshafts and the valves arranged in a ‘V’, delivering 67kW at 6,500rpm.

Drive was to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual transmission and stopping power was state-of-the-art (at the time) courtesy of four-wheel disc brakes.

While enjoying immediate sales success in Europe, Fiat had eyes on bigger things and introduced the 124 Spider to North America in 1968 where those in California and Florida in particular enjoyed being able to quickly open and retract the roof without leaving the drivers’ seat.

An updated version debuted in 1968 - again at the fashionable Turin Motor Show - and was immediately identified by the two oval-shaped humps in the bonnet which were required to accommodate the optional 82kW 1.6-litre powerplant.

Generation two of the Fiat 124 Spider also scored a new grille with a honeycomb radiator, new rear lights and some extra technology.

The next generation arrived in 1972 and was headlined by two new engines - an 80kW 1.6-litre and an 87kW 1.8-litre (the latter delivering a top speed of 185km/h).

Production continued until 1982 including, from 1978, a new 64kW 2.0-litre engine.

At the 1981 Geneva Motor Show, Pininfarina unveiled the ‘Spider Europa’. Styling was largely unchanged but under the bonnet was a 78kW 2.0-litre engine and in 1983 a turbocharged version offering 101kW debuted which delivered 200,000 global sales (75 per-cent in North America).

Motorsport has always been part of the legend and the Fiat Abarth 124 rally version debuted not long after the road car in 1966. It enjoyed an uprated engine, fiberglass roof and bonnet and aluminium doors amongst a raft of weight savings. A road-going version debuted in 1972.

And of course the new 124 Spider (above) - a co-development with the Mazda MX-5 - wears the Abarth badge today.

MORE: Fiat | Abarth | 124 Spider

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