1970s / Fiat / Italian / Rust in peace

Rust in peace: Fiat 124 Special

There was a time when Fiat 124 Spiders were a dime a dozen. They weren’t even worth all that much; you could drive home in a relatively clean example for anywhere between $3,000 and $4,000 if you looked hard enough. The coupes were much harder to find, however, and the sedans and station wagons had seemingly all but vanished from American roads.

I stumbled upon a 1972 124 Special parked on the side of a used car lot in Salt Lake City, Utah, about a decade ago. It didn’t look too bad when I caught a glimpse of it at 40 mph, but upon closer inspection I realized that it was suffering from pretty serious rust issues. The leaves below the windshield hinted that it’d spent years under a tree, something that the owner later confirmed. Rust isn’t what signed the 124’s death warrant, though. The automatic transmission, a $199 option in 1972, started slipping and the previous owners had no interest in repairing it so they took it off the road. If memory serves, they ended up giving it to the shop whose lot I photographed it in when they got sick of seeing it in their yard.

There’s a happy ending: while I never saw the car again after I took the photos below, a local mechanic told me it had been purchased by an enthusiast who had it perfectly restored.

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