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Junkyard Find: 1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

For as long as I have been poking around in American automobile graveyards (35 years), the presence of the occasional Fiat 124 Sport Spider has been a constant. Even while Pininfarina-badged, Malcolm Bricklin-imported 124 Sport Spiders were still available as new cars in the United States, I was seeing 20,000-mile late-70s examples about to be crushed.

Nowadays, most of these cars show signs of decades-long outdoor storage after awaiting restorations that never came. Here’s an extremely rough and rusty one that I spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area yard a couple of months back.

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, interior - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
How many of these cars have we seen in this series? Many. This ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’76, this ’78, this ’80, this ’80, and this ’80 (plus this ’80 in the Junkyard Treasures Series on Autoweek). That doesn’t count the many I didn’t bother to photograph, of course.

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, military parking permit - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Like many older cars found in Bay Area wrecking yards, this one has ancient military-base parking permits. Having grown up in a Bay Area city with a huge Navy base, I’m familiar with the acres-wide long-term storage lots on bases where soldiers and sailors stored their often-quite-hooptified vehicles, and this car has the look of one that spent 25 or so years at the Mare Island Naval Complex (not far from this yard), getting the paint burned off by the sun and the metal rusted by the rainy winters.

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, rust - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Cars do rust in California, sometimesverythoroughly in the case of close-to-the-Pacific parking places, and they tend to do it from the top down. This car has rust where rainwater gathered and where the paint failed.

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, AC evaporator - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
This is the only Fiat 124 I have ever seen with air conditioning. This looks like an aftermarket (probably dealer-installed) unit.

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, Twin Cam Engine - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
With only 86 horsepower available from the 1,995cc Fiat Twin Cam four-cylinder engine, acceleration with the AC on must have been leisurely. This car had a curb weight of 2,240 pounds, which gave it 26.05 pounds for each horsepower; compare that to the 62.5-horse/2,338-lb 1979 MGB and its 37.41 pounds-per-horsepower (or to the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider and its 15.26 lbs/hp ratio).

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Worth restoring? Hell no, not when you can get a nice one for five grand. Some useful parts are here, though, and we can hope that they get rescued before The Crusher digests this old Italian.


“Engineered for the Eighties.”

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, air conditioning compressor - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, interior - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, rust - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, rust - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, side mirror - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, Sangria bottle - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, rust - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, rust - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, rust - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, trunk - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, Patina - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, military parking permit - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, LH rear view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, AC vents - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, speaker - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, AC evaporator - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in California wrecking yard, Twin Cam Engine - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars