Fiat Spider 1979: The Amazing Classic You Can’t Forget

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Just like Icarus was drawn to the sun, I’ve always been captivated by the Fiat Spider 1979, a car that dared to soar in design and performance.

In my thorough exploration of this iconic convertible, I’ve come to appreciate its 2.0-liter DOHC engine, a marvel of engineering that delivers a spirited drive reminiscent of the era’s Italian sports car renaissance.

It’s the meticulous craftsmanship of the Pininfarina-styled body, combined with the advanced-for-its-time five-speed manual transmission, that sets the ’79 Spider apart.

I’ve studied its double wishbone front suspension, a feature that contributes to the car’s agile handling and road-hugging prowess.

As an enthusiast seeking mastery, I understand that to truly appreciate the ’79 Spider, one must consider its historical significance as Fiat’s testament to blending performance with aesthetic beauty.

Let’s embark on a detailed journey through the legacy of the Fiat Spider 1979—a classic that continues to turn heads and captivate hearts.

Key Takeaways

  • The 1979 Fiat Spider featured a 2.0-liter DOHC engine with fuel injection, improving performance, reliability, and emissions.
  • The Fiat Spider 1979 had a timeless design, engaging driving experience, and a rear-wheel-drive layout for balanced weight distribution and sports car handling.
  • Identifying an original 1979 Fiat Spider can be done through specific VIN sequence, unique badging, seat patterns, and production date on the driver’s door jamb.
  • The value and reliability of the Fiat Spider 1979 vary based on condition, originality, mileage, rust, and adherence to maintenance intervals and rust prevention.


The Fiat Spider 1979’s story begins with its predecessor, the original Fiat 124 Sport Spider, which was introduced by the Italian automaker Fiat in 1966. As an enthusiast dedicated to restoring a Fiat Spider, I recognize its place in automotive history.

The ’79 Spider, part of the third generation, boasted a 2.0-liter DOHC engine, often paired with a sophisticated 5-speed manual transmission or an optional 3-speed automatic. It was a period when fuel injection replaced the previously used carburetors, enhancing reliability and performance.

The Spider’s design, with its sharp lines and classic proportions, echoed Italian elegance. Understanding its evolution from the ’66 model, including mechanical and aesthetic refinements, is crucial for anyone serious about model authenticity and preserving this iconic piece of history.

What’s New

In exploring the 1979 Fiat Spider, I’ve discovered its introduction of fuel injection as a notable modernization that significantly improved engine efficiency and drivability.

This particular upgrade marked a departure from the traditional carbureted systems of earlier models, aligning the Spider with emerging automotive technologies of the era.

Delving into the fiat spider specifications, the ’79 model featured a 2.0-liter DOHC engine, which was now equipped with a Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection system.

This transition not only enhanced the Spider’s performance by ensuring more precise fuel metering but also reduced emissions, meeting stricter environmental standards.

The fuel injection’s precision played a pivotal role in refining the Spider’s throttle response, cementing its reputation for spirited driving dynamics and reliability amongst aficionados.

Why you should consider it

While I’m captivated by its rich history and technological advancements, I can’t help but recommend the 1979 Fiat Spider for its timeless design and engaging driving experience. This classic Italian roadster boasts a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, double overhead cam engine—truly a marvel of its era. It’s paired with a 5-speed manual transmission that offers precise gear shifts, making every ride exhilarating. The Spider’s rear-wheel-drive layout ensures a balanced weight distribution and classic sports car handling.

Below is a table summarizing the key aspects:

Aspect Detail Significance
Engine 2.0L DOHC Inline-4 Robust and reliable
Transmission 5-Speed Manual Driver engagement
Design & Handling RWD & Pininfarina Styling Timeless appeal & dynamics

Owning a 1979 Fiat Spider is more than just acquiring a vehicle; it’s about embracing a piece of automotive history that continues to resonate with enthusiasts.

What People Ask

How can I identify an original 1979 Fiat Spider from replicas or later models?

The ’79 Spider is distinguished by its specific VIN sequence and federally mandated 17-digit format introduced that year.

I’d also examine the exterior for the unique badging on the rear quarter panel and the front grille’s distinct design that was characteristic for that year.

Under the hood, the original Spider came with a 2.0-liter DOHC inline-four engine, characterized by its Lampredi design and a five-speed manual transmission.

Internally, the ’79 model featured specific seat patterns and dashboard configurations that aficionados could recognize.

Always check the production date located on the driver’s door jamb; it should correlate with the ’79 manufacturing period, ensuring authenticity and differentiating it from subsequent model years.

How much is a Fiat Spider worth

As an enthusiast, I’ve noticed that depending on condition and originality, a 1979 Fiat Spider’s value can range from $10,000 to over $25,000. Pristine examples, especially those with verifiable provenance and matching numbers, command top dollar. Collectors prize original paint, interior, and unmodified engines. The 124 Spider, with its Lampredi-designed twin-cam engine, offers a spirited driving experience that’s essential to its valuation.

Mileage, rust, and mechanical condition greatly influence the market value. A low-mileage, rust-free Spider with documented maintenance may fetch upwards of $20,000. Conversely, a project car with significant needs might only bring in the lower end of the spectrum.

It’s crucial to assess the Spider’s specific variant, as the later fuel-injected models are often more desirable than their carbureted counterparts.

How much horsepower does a 1979 Fiat 124 Spider have

I’ve learned that the 1979 Fiat 124 Spider originally came with a 2.0-liter engine that produced around 86 horsepower. This figure is critical to understanding the vehicle’s performance parameters. Equipped with a double overhead camshaft (DOHC) and a five-speed manual transmission, the 124 Spider’s engine was quite advanced for its time, reflecting Fiat’s commitment to engineering excellence.

The 86 horsepower output was sufficient to give the relatively lightweight roadster sprightly performance, embodying the Italian philosophy of prioritizing handling and agility over raw power. Furthermore, the engine’s capacity to rev freely added to the driving pleasure, a characteristic that enthusiasts of this vintage model still celebrate today.

It’s a testament to the era’s engineering that this powertrain configuration provided a balance of efficiency and performance that remains appealing to classic car aficionados.

Are old Fiat spiders reliable

While the 1979 Fiat 124 Spider’s 86 horsepower engine delivered a charming drive, it’s my understanding that its reliability is a subject of keen interest among classic car enthusiasts.

As with many Italian sports cars of that era, the Spider’s dependability can be quite variable, hinging on rigorous maintenance and proper storage. It’s crucial to note that, due to its age, parts like the original Marelli ignition system may require updating or frequent attention.

The twin-cam engine, a masterpiece by designer Aurelio Lampredi, demands adherence to strict servicing intervals, particularly concerning the timing belt and tensioner – failure to do so can lead to catastrophic engine damage.

Ensuring that rust, which often afflicts the Spider’s bodywork and frame, is kept at bay is also essential for maintaining its integrity over time.

Is Fiat Spider a Mazda

I’ve noticed some confusion when it comes to the Fiat Spider’s lineage, especially regarding its association with Mazda.

It’s important to clarify that the 1979 Fiat Spider was an Italian creation, distinct from the Mazda MX-5 Miata that much later shared its name.

The modern Fiat 124 Spider, introduced in 2016, does indeed share its platform with the Mazda MX-5, but that’s a story for a different model year.


As a classic car enthusiast, I’m often asked if the 1979 Fiat Spider is related to the Mazda brand, particularly because of its affordability compared to other vintage vehicles. Let’s clarify: the ’79 Fiat Spider isn’t a Mazda. It predates the collaboration that led to the modern Fiat 124 Spider, which shares a platform with the Mazda MX-5 Miata. The 1979 model is distinctly Italian, designed by Pininfarina, and it’s sought after for its design purity and driving dynamics.

Pricing for a well-maintained 1979 Fiat Spider varies significantly. A showroom-quality example may fetch upwards of $15,000, while models in need of restoration can be found for a few thousand. As with any classic, provenance, originality, and condition are key value determinants.


The 1979 Fiat Spider boasted a 2.0-liter inline-four engine, paired with a five-speed manual transmission that provided a spirited yet smooth driving experience. Its fuel economy was commendable for its era, balancing performance with efficiency.

Inside, the Spider’s cockpit offered a blend of Italian elegance and practicality, with a straightforward approach to both comfort and cargo space.

Engine, Transmission, and Performance

Beneath the hood of my 1979 Fiat Spider lies a spirited 2.0-liter inline-four engine, paired with a smooth five-speed manual transmission that delivers a driving experience as close to Italian sports car perfection as you can get without breaking the bank.

This powerplant is a DOHC design, a testament to Fiat’s advanced engineering ethos at the time, and it’s capable of churning out 86 horsepower—a respectable figure for the era. The double overhead camshafts (DOHC) and the use of a Weber carburetor, later replaced by fuel injection in some markets, underscore the Spider’s performance-oriented build.

The rear-wheel-drive layout ensures a balanced weight distribution, contributing to the nimble handling and responsive acceleration that make the ’79 Spider a joy to drive on winding roads.

Fuel Economy

How does the 1979 Fiat Spider fare when it comes to fuel economy?

This classic Italian roadster, equipped with a carbureted 2.0-liter engine, reflects its era’s technology and priorities. The Spider’s fuel consumption is modest by today’s standards, typically averaging between 20 to 25 miles per gallon (mpg) in mixed driving conditions.

It’s crucial to note that these figures can vary based on maintenance and driving style. The car’s relatively lightweight design and modest engine size contributed to these efficiency numbers.

However, enthusiasts seeking to optimize their Spider’s fuel economy should ensure the engine is well-tuned, the carburetor is properly adjusted, and the vehicle is regularly serviced, as these factors significantly impact fuel consumption in vintage models like the Fiat Spider.

Interior, Comfort, and Cargo

My Fiat Spider’s interior blends Italian styling with functional comfort, offering a surprisingly spacious cargo area for a classic roadster. The dashboard, with its straightforward gauges, exudes a pure, driver-focused design indicative of its era.

Original models came with vinyl seats, but mine features the optional leather, which has aged gracefully, conforming to my contours like a well-worn glove. The tactile pleasure of the wood-grain steering wheel and classic manual shifter enhances the driving experience, reminding me that this machine prioritizes connection over convenience.

Behind the seats, the trunk space is adequate for weekend getaways, defying the cramped expectations typical of two-seaters from the period. It’s this thoughtful consideration of driver and passenger needs that solidifies the Spider’s enduring appeal.

Infotainment and Connectivity

In contrast to modern vehicles, I don’t expect my 1979 Fiat Spider to boast high-tech infotainment. Yet its simplicity in design extends to the straightforward radio and speaker system, offering a classic soundtrack to complement the drive.

Original units came with an AM/FM radio, and some were equipped with a cassette player – a cutting-edge feature at the time. The two-speaker setup provided an adequate audio experience, true to the era’s standards. Enthusiasts seeking authenticity must source period-correct radios, which require familiarity with DIN standards and electrical impedance specifications.

Retrofitting modern audio without compromising the classic aesthetic can be challenging. Yet, for purists, the tactile sensation of turning a manual tuning knob and the monophonic sound are part of the Spider’s timeless charm.

Safety Features and Crash Test Ratings

I’ll admit that the 1979 Fiat Spider’s safety features are modest by today’s standards, with no crash test ratings to rely on from that era.

At that time, the focus on automotive safety was just burgeoning, and the Spider, like many cars of its vintage, wasn’t subjected to the rigorous crash testing that’s a staple today. The Spider did feature a reinforced windscreen, safety glass, and for rollover protection, a sturdy windshield frame, but these were basic measures. Seat belts were present, though not the three-point, inertia-reel type that’s now ubiquitous.

It’s also important to note that the Spider’s body was designed with crumple zones, even if they weren’t as advanced as modern equivalents. Discerning enthusiasts understand that driving a classic like the Spider requires a cautious approach, given its historical safety limitations.

Reliability and Maintenance

How does the 1979 Fiat Spider hold up in terms of reliability and what can I expect when it comes to maintenance?

Well, as an aficionado of this Italian classic, I’ve delved into the specifics of its upkeep. It’s no secret that the Spider requires diligent maintenance to remain roadworthy.

The twin-cam 1995cc engine, designed by the legendary Aurelio Lampredi, demands regular tuning to keep its carburetion and ignition systems in sync. Rust is a notorious adversary, often necessitating thorough inspections and preventative treatments.

Parts availability has improved, thanks to dedicated enthusiasts, but sourcing OEM components can still be a quest. Nevertheless, with meticulous care, the Spider rewards with a driving experience that’s as robust as its Pininfarina-styled lineage implies.

Common issues

Many Fiat Spider 1979 owners, including myself, have encountered electrical issues, ranging from quirky gauges to erratic behavior of the lighting system. It’s not just an inconvenience; it’s a challenge that demands a deep understanding of the Spider’s unique wiring.

Here’s a brief rundown of common electrical gremlins:

  1. Faulty Ground Connections: The Spider’s grounding points can corrode over time, leading to sporadic electrical faults.
  2. Aged Fuse Box: Original fuse boxes often develop cracks and loose connections, causing intermittent power loss to vital components.
  3. Alternator Weakness: The charging system can be temperamental, often due to worn brushes or faulty voltage regulators.

Each of these issues requires a methodical approach, combining historical knowledge with technical expertise to maintain the Spider’s vivacious spirit on the road.

Direct competitor

While the Fiat Spider 1979 holds its own charm, it squares off against the likes of the MG MGB, a British roadster that was widely popular during the same era. The MGB featured a robust 1.8-liter B-Series engine, renowned for its reliability and ease of maintenance. It was a direct rival in terms of market positioning, offering an accessible sports car experience with a similarly engaging open-top design.

However, the Fiat countered with its Italian styling and a more sophisticated 2.0-liter DOHC engine that provided a peppier drive. Both vehicles catered to enthusiasts who valued nimble handling and a direct connection to the road, but the Spider’s Pininfarina-designed body often gave it an edge in aesthetic appeal.

Other sources

Although I’ve covered the Fiat Spider’s direct competitors, there are numerous other sources that provide detailed insights into its legacy and impact on car culture.

Enthusiast forums and registries are goldmines for model-specific nuances, detailing the evolution from the 124 Sport Spider to the 2000 Spider.

Restoration guides often delve into the intricacies of maintaining the Spider’s Lampredi-designed twin-cam engine, a masterpiece of engineering that demands a comprehensive understanding of its timing belt system and carburation nuances.

Historical archives and auction databases, like RM Sotheby’s and Bring a Trailer, offer a lens into the Spider’s market valuation and collector interest over the years, charting its ascent from an affordable roadster to a sought-after classic.

These resources are indispensable for anyone seeking to master the Fiat Spider’s storied history.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Specific Maintenance Routines Are Recommended for Preserving the Condition of a Fiat Spider 1979?

To preserve a Fiat Spider 1979, I’d recommend routine oil changes, timing belt inspections, rust protection treatments, and ensuring the twin-cam engine’s valve clearances are properly adjusted for optimal performance and longevity.

Can Modern Audio or Navigation Systems Be Integrated Into the Fiat Spider 1979 Without Compromising Its Classic Interior?

I’ve successfully integrated modern audio and navigation systems into my Fiat Spider while preserving its vintage charm by custom-fitting components and concealing modern interfaces behind classic-styled facades. It’s a delicate but doable enhancement.

What Are the Unique Driving Characteristics of the Fiat Spider 1979 Compared to Contemporary Convertible Sports Cars?

I’ve driven modern convertibles, but the Fiat Spider 1979 stands out with its tactile steering, responsive manual gearbox, and the distinct balance provided by its rear-wheel-drive layout and lightweight body.

How Does the Fiat Spider 1979 Perform in Terms of Fuel Efficiency, and What Are Its Average Running Costs?

I’ve found the ’79 Spider’s fuel efficiency averages around 20-25 MPG, and annual running costs can vary, influenced by maintenance, parts availability, and whether you’re sourcing original or aftermarket components for repairs.

Are There Any Special Considerations for Storing the Fiat Spider 1979 for Extended Periods to Prevent Deterioration?

I ensure my classic car’s longevity by using fuel stabilizers and maintaining tire pressure during storage. I also keep it covered and disconnect the battery to prevent electrical system drains.

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