Fiat 850

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Fiat 850
Fiat 850 Special 1968.jpg
1968 Fiat 850 Special
Manufacturer Fiat
Production 1964–1973
Designer Dante Giacosa
Body and chassis
Body style
Layout Rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive
  • 817 cc I4 (US only)
  • 843 cc I4
  • 903 cc I4
Transmission 4-speed manual[1][2]
Wheelbase 2,025 mm (79.7 in)
Length 3,575 mm (140.7 in) (saloon)
3,735 mm (147.0 in) (familiare)
Width 1,385 mm (54.5 in) (saloon)
1,500 mm (59.1 in) (familiare)
Height 1,385 mm (54.5 in) (saloon)
1,655 mm (65.2 in) (familiare)
Predecessor Fiat 600

The Fiat 850 is a small longitudinal-rear-engined rear-wheel drive car which was produced by Fiat of Italy between 1964 and 1973.


Its technical design was an evolution of the very successful Fiat 600. The internal name for the Fiat 600 development project was "Project 100" and consequently, the internal Fiat codename for the 850 project was 100G (G was a follow on of model designations for the 600 which ran from A to F). The engine of the 850 was based on that of the Fiat 600, but had its capacity increased to 843 cc. The 850 came in two versions: "normale" (standard) with 34 hp (25 kW) and "super" with 37 hp (28 kW). The maximum speed was approximately 125 km/h (78 mph). While it was not a large step forward in technical development, it possessed a certain charm with its large rolling eyes and its short tail, in which the engine sat.


The 850 family included several body styles with similar technical components underneath.

  • Fiat 850 Special — Revised version of the 850 sedan, launched in 1968. It shared the 47 hp (35 kW) engine of 850 Coupé, and offered front disc brakes, sport steering wheel and improved trim. With a 25 percent increase in power, plus disc brakes nestled behind 13" wheels, it was a "sport sedan" in the vein of the BMW 2002, albeit on a smaller scale.
  • Fiat 850 Familiare — The Familiare was a boxier and slightly larger heir to the Fiat 600 Multipla. It featured space for seven passengers in three rows, which made it suitable for groups including children and thin adults. It was too small to accommodate in comfort seven large adults.
The 850 Familiare continued in production till 1976 long after the saloon version of the 850 had been replaced by the Fiat 127. In 1976 the Fiat 900T was introduced, retaining most of the body panels of the 850 Familiare, but featuring the 903 cc engine from the Fiat 127 (although, in this application, still mounted behind the rear axle): the 900T benefitted from significant enhancements in 1980, being now renamed 900E. At least in the UK the 900 series camper vans were badged as FIAT Amigo. Production finally ended in 1985.
  • Fiat 850 Coupé — The Coupé was introduced for the first time 1965 on the Geneva Motor Show and had the original 843 cc (51 cu in) engine producing 47 hp (35 kW). The maximum speed at that time was 135 km/h (84 mph).
  • Fiat 850 Spider — At the same time as the Coupé, Fiat also introduced the convertible sporty two-seater Spider, with the original 843 cc engine tuned to produce 49 hp (37 kW) which allowed it to reach a top speed of 145 km/h (90 mph). The body was designed and built by Bertone in its Grugliasco, Turin plant.[3] The folding roof section made of fabric could be stowed away completely under a rear flap. The Bertone design also featured smooth, essential lines and simple yet elegant details, such as the recessed headlamps equipped with tilted plexiglass covers to follow the lines of the wings, and the dihedral side panels inspired by Bertone's 1963 Corvair Testudo.This engine ran counterclockwise, a unique feature compared to other engines.

At the time of their introduction into the United States the Sedan, Coupé, and Spider were marketed with a reduced capacity, high compression 817 cc (50 cu in) engine in order to beat US emissions regulations at the time which applied only to engines equal to or larger than 50 cubic inches. Compression was raised from 8.8:1 to 9.2:1, requiring premium octane fuel.

In order to separate the sportier variants Coupé and Spider from the basic version, apart from the increase of engine performance, the equipment was also extended and adapted to the higher expectations. Both received sport seats, a sport steering wheel and round speedometer; Spider even received a completely rearranged instrument panel. The front drum brakes were replaced with disc brakes, although drum brakes remained on the rear wheels.

In 1968, Fiat revised the successful Spider and Coupé again and gave them an even stronger engine with 903 cc and 52 hp (39 kW). They were called Sport Spider and Sport Coupé. The Sport Spider body stayed essentially the same, but with a restyled front. The headlamps were moved forward slightly and the glass covers were eliminated giving the car a "frogeye" look, and the original flush front turn indicators were replaced with units hung below the bumper. Several limited special edition versions of the Spider were offered, including the Racer featuring a body colored metal hard top and the Racer Berlinetta featuring a black vinyl hard top.

There was a minivan and transporter model as a successor of the world's first minivan, Fiat 600 Multipla, which was later renamed to 900T and likewise received the larger capacity of 903 cc.

Production of the Coupés ended in 1971, of the sedan in 1972, and of the Spiders in 1973, after altogether nearly 2.3 million models were sold worldwide, 140,000 of which were Spiders.[3] Under the name SEAT 850, it was however further produced for some years in Spain, also in a four-door variant. As a successor the Fiat 127 was brought to the market in 1971 which combined the 903 cc push-rod OHV engine with the FIAT 128 transmission and suspension components in a fashionable fast- and later hatch-back 2-door sedan.

Between 1978 and 1983, the U.S. government issued a highly unusual recall for the Fiat 850—going back 10 years—for rust problems.[4]

In 1967, Road & Track called the Fiat 850 coupé "one of the handsomest, best-balanced designs ever seen on a small car."[4]

Non-Fiat derivatives[edit]

SEAT 850[edit]

Main article: SEAT 850

Spanish manufacturer SEAT also built the 850 into the 1970s. They also offered a four-door saloon derivative in two different iterations. The Fiat 850 was also produced under the name Pirin-Fiat in Lovech, Bulgaria, on the basis of complete knock down (CKD) kits between 1967 and 1971.[5]


Abarth produced a tuned version of the Spider, known as the Fiat Abarth OT 1000 Spider. With engine displacement increased to 982 cc, it produced 61 hp (45 kW) and 58 lb·ft (79 N·m) of torque.

Abarth also produced the Fiat Abarth OT 2000 Competition Coupé, based on the 850 Coupé but powered by a 1946 cc engine.[6] It differed visually from the 850 Coupé in having a barred grill between the headlights and a divided front bumper flanking a spare wheel which projected forward below the grill.[6]

Francis Lombardi Grand Prix[edit]

Main article: Lombardi Grand Prix
Francis Lombardi Grand Prix

Italian coachbuilder designed and built a small sports car with fastback coupé body based on the 850, the 1968 Francis Lombardi Grand Prix. The car was also marketed by OTAS as the OTAS 820, equipped with Giannini engines, and in an Abarth version, the Abarth Scorpione.

Michelotti Shellette[edit]

1969 Michelotti Shellette

The Michelotti Shellette was a beach car based on the 850, styled and built by Giovanni Michelotti. Designed in the mould of Ghia's 500 and 600-based "Jolly", it was a more useful proposition, being faster and better equipped. Only about 80 were built, with some of the early ones using DAF underpinnings. The Shellette had the more powerful 47 PS (35 kW) engine of the Special/Coupé.[7]

Siata Spring[edit]

Siata Spring

The Siata Spring was a 2-seater roadster built by Siata on the basis of the 850. Introduced in 1967, it featured retro styling with a mock upright radiator grille, separate wings and headlights, and running boards.[8] In Italy it was initially priced at 795,000 Lire, 255 thousand Lire cheaper than Fiat's Bertone 850 Spider.[9] Top speed was 125 km/h (78 mph).



  1. ^ "Car-by-car guide: Fiat 850". Motor: 16. 22 October 1966. 
  2. ^ Bulmer, Charles (15 January 1972). "Road Test: Fiat 850 Utility". Motor. nbr 3628: 14–18. 
  3. ^ a b "È uscita l'ultima 850 spider". Stampa Sera (in Italian). 9 June 1973. p. 17. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Sass, Rob (28 June 2009). "The Fiat Offers Italian Flair at Blue-Collar Prices". New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2009. 
  5. ^ "Българското автомобилостроене" (in Bulgarian). Litex Motors. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  6. ^ a b The Observer's Book of Automobiles (thirteenth ed.). 1967. p. 27. 
  7. ^ Greenwich Concours d'Elegance auction (auction catalogue), New York, NY: Bonhams & Butterfields Auctioneers, 2013, pp. 160–161 
  8. ^ "«Spring» una vettura per i giovani". La Stampa. 11 May 1967. p. 11. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  9. ^ "Caratteristiche degli spider italiani". Stampa Sera. 4 June 1967. p. 9. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 

External links[edit]