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I live near Phoenix, and I have found a 1978 124 fiat spider for sale for a good price. The car is in need of alot of cosmetic work, the engine supposedly runs and since it has been in Arizona all of its life it doesn't have any rust except for a little surface rust. It has new tires and brakes. I would like to restore it, but before I buy it I want to make sure I have enough time to do it. Would 200 hours be enough time? I know it is not any easy question to answer but I thought that fiat restorers would be the best people to ask.

Any help is greatly appreciated.


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At the rate body shops and mechanics charge, 200 hours could easily end up costing over $10K not including parts and materials.

Do you know anything about Fiats in the first place?They didn't call them "Fix It Again Tony" for nothing. I worked on them in the early 80's and they were very problematic and it was difficult to get parts for them even then.

If you really like the model, try finding one that doesn't need any or very little work. They can be terrible money pits. There's a reason that very few are on the road anymore.

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Thank you for the help.

Sorry, if it I wasn't clear but I want to restore the car myself.

I have looked in to that " fix it again Tonny" saying. What I came out with was that fiats have an oil leak problem but not as bad as MGs and there engines are not as bad as people think. Fiats also have a bad rust problem but this car doesn't have alot of rust. It is true that the engine will give me problems now and then but I am more looking for a car to work on than to drive in. So if I have to work on it now and then after I restore it I don't mind doing that. I shouldn't need alot of parts for this car but I have found some sources with a lot of parts and not that expensive.

Just to clarify my question is would a car in that shape take 200 hours approximately to restore?

I hope this helps.


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As the previous owner of two Fiats (1963 1200 convertible and 1976 sedan), I can speak with some authority. Get the best Fiat you can afford in the beginning, because you will be working on it continually. An engine that "supposedly runs" is asking for trouble. Find a Fiat you can drive and seems to run well.

There are plenty of 124 Spiders for sale in Craigslist and other places. You should be able to get a good, running car for about $3500 - $8000.

Good luck. Fiat 124s are really nice cars. But don't rely on it for daily transporation. Fiat parts break not through use or misuse - just because they can.

P.S. I just love their air horns. Just like the Ferraris of their day.

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Thank you RansomEli. That is the same type of information I have been getting on other forums. At the moment I am nearing in on a 124 fiat 1978.

"...their engines are not as bad as people think..." no they're not, they're a lot worse.

As a positive note, you'll learn how to swear in Italian very fluently after getting a Fiat.

Edited by Bleach (see edit history)
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  • 3 weeks later...

Google International Auto Parts and look at their catalog to see what is available and what the prices are. I had a very enjoyable ownership of a 1980 Fiat and found the parts easier to deal with than the 1950s and 1960s Pontiacs I was accustomed to. I really liked mine and enjoyed learning to work on it, good luck to you, Todd C

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  • 1 month later...

Lancia Beta used the same engine as this FIAT, and that Lancia is the best ordinary road car I have ever driven. There are few neglects that can eventually cause repair problems. If you do not change oil, filters, and timing belt when you are supposed to, you bring these on yourself. There is said to be an age risk factor with the belts, so you start off with a new one. You can get wider timing belts and the pulleys to suit, which give a longer replacement interval. If you look after one of those FIATs or Lancias enthusiastically, you will drive it enthusiastically, and it will look after you.

The engine is a gem, and is capable of extensive development by anyone who has reason to need that. Best information is from Guy Croft, from his web site. (He was a formula 1 engine builder for V8 Minardi and V10 Arrow cars). I bought a copy of his book, and his DVD on the cylinder head work, and it is the best workshop instruction I have seen on any car.

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  • 1 year later...

As an  owner of three 124 Spiders (currently) I can truthfully say that I have never been on the side of the road awaiting a tow truck.  I started back in 1977 with a brand new 124 Spider in a pretty rare color combination.  I saw this beauty roll of the truck and had to have it.  It was cream exterior with a red interior.  Stunning.  That began my love for this misunderstood  and often maligned auto.  If you are on the East Coast or East of the Rockies, one soon finds out how little was done for rust protection.  Had we all known about how Fiat used Russian supplied steel and did minimal rust prevention in those days, we all would have taken our cars to get a ZBart treatment (or done a thorough job ourselves).  That problem was not unique to Fiat but almost all car manufacturers in the 60's and 70's.  Not till the Feds came up with the 50,000 mile rust through law did the manufacturers get serious about metal protection.  (1975)


As far as the engines, transmissions, rear ends, brakes, electrical and function, these cars, with a good ear tuned into LISTENING  to your car (it talks to you)  and good  maintenance,  will give the you an excellent bang for your buck.  AND with that top down and driving on a nice spring day, not too many cars can garner the oohs and aaahs that I get with my Spider.  The most common remark that I hear from our older generation (50 to 60s).   NICE CAR ! or "Man, I had one in High School or College", or "My brother (or sister) had a Spider and I would get to drive it once in a while".  They are surprised to find out that they can pick one up relatively inexpensively compared to an MGA, MGB, BMW 2002Tii etc., etc.  


Parts are   as reasonable in comparison to other cars and in some instances very reasonable.   


I am currently in a ground up restoration of a 73 Spider.  Wish I had started sooner as the prices for chrome work, body and paint is getting very expensive.  I am building a 1608 performance engine that will be putting out over 160 HP. In that little car, that is going to make it a very fun car to drive.  I was lucky to find an individual that restored a Spider (in Pasadena, CA) for his daughter.  Two weeks later, she ran it into a telephone pole.  He had just finished the car complete with a new interior.  I got the whole shooting match, (Dash, console, seats, door panels, rear seat, new Robins top, etc, etc) and a rear bumper for less than it would have cost me to do the two bucket seats in my restoration.  SO the deals are out there if you are patient and keep at it.  


Being a good mechanic is very helpful. And knowledge of the Fiat and its workings goes a long way.  I was fortunate to have a friend who has the original Roosevelt (the importer of all Fiats to North America) Parts book (5" thick covering not only Spiders but the 124 Sport Coupe) showing EVERY part, and location of that part in the construction of the car.  THE BIBLE for a restoration.  If you are ever able to get your hands on one of these books, that is the most important element in a restoration that you can have.  NO GUESSING or "does this go here?".


When FIat had the Ferrari engineers design this little engine with the neoprene belt drive overhead cam engine, it was a shocker to the auto industry.  A nice running SMOOOOOOOOTH little engine that was an absolute pleasure to drive. Car and Driver and Road and Track wrote extensively on how nice this car was and really boosted their sales in America.


The one item that I do on my engines is scrap the dual point system in the distributor and go with the electronic ignition module.  I started with a Crane "Fireball" electronic system, but mine crapped out after 15,000 miles NOT A FIAT PART ! !   Now I have a Pertronics unit in my distributor.  Very inexpensive and reliable.  Quick start up and runs great.  


As long as you don't hot rod this car, the transmission and rear end will give you (with normal maintenance and checking fluid levels) many many miles of trouble free driving.  I changed my rear end and tranny fluid when I bought the car.  I wanted to see if there was any metal in the oil, indicating misuse or if something was not wearing properly.  I was fortunate to find them clean of any metals.  Even the trans oil did not have the brass bits that indicate abuse to the synchro rings. All in all, these cars were very well designed and built for their day.


The neoprene timing belt will give you good service and at 25,000 miles, I replace that diligently.  Gates makes a good belt for that engine.  


All in all,  There are a lot less of these cars on the road today because a lot of them met the crusher.  Cash for Klunkers was the worse program that the government (I like to say LACK of good government) imposed on our hobby.  But there are still a good selection of Spiders out there.


The pleasure that these cars can deliver is immeasurable. I dump a lot of stress when I get behind the wheel of my 78 and drive up the coast, wind in my hair, nice sounds from my stereo.  Can't beat it.



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