Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ranting Stan's Sunday Drive: Fiat 850 Coupe

When I was a young lad having just passed my driving test there were lots of cars available to buy in my price range - between £100 and £200. There were big old cars like early Cortinas, slightly younger mid sized cars like the Anglia or Austin 1100 or there were cheap little cars like the Riley Elf I eventually settled on. As new young drivers we could get hold of just about every kind of car you wanted - except a fast one.

There were fast cars around, of course, but these were generally expensive to both buy and insure - so, instead we looked for cars that looked like they might be fast even if they weren't. The astonishingly pretty Fiat 850 Coupe was just such a car. Developed from the 850 saloon - itself a development of the Fiat 600 - the 850 Coupe was a pretty little rear engined fast back that made a very decent alternative to the Imps and Minis which so many young drivers favoured.

It had a similar performance to these cars, but the different layout and slightly exotic flavour made it an attractive proposition to someone who wanted something a bit different so the 850 coupe was my first choice. I spent many hours poring over the Thames Valley Trader looking for an 850 Coupe in my price range only to find once I'd identified one that it was already sold or badly afflicted by the metal moth (rust).

Eventually I gave up and bought the Elf from a friend of a friend of my mother. Over 10 years old and less than 30,000 miles on the clock with leather seats, wood dash and go kart handling .... for £185, but I always retained an affection for the pretty little Fiat that was my first choice.


William Gruff said...

Fiat? Mrs Gruff owns a Mk 2 Punto. It's a beautiful car, except for that inelegantly styled rear, and was once a delight to drive. I hang on to it because I cannot afford to replace it; wish to restore it (it needs restoration); love the look of it and have spent so much hard earned cash maintaining the fucking thing that to sell or scrap it would be madness.

My apologies for the early modern English but Fiats bring out the worst in me, even though I love them. Alphas are the same.

Stan said...

I own an Alfa at the moment which, touch wood, has been wonderfully reliable since I bought it new in 2001. I've no intention of changing it soon, but I can't see me buying another one when I do - that would be pushing my luck a little too far!

Anonymous said...

A flatmate of mine had one of those 850's.

It would never, ever, start, except on the third warm fine day in a row, well into the morning, after all the dew had gone. Which made it pretty useless in St. Andrews.

Stan - enjoy the Alfa (I used to drive 'suds - wonderful cars but every last one has rusted away now, I fear), but CHANGE THE TIMING BELT when it's due. Otherwise ginormous grief will assault you.

Stan said...

I never claimed that the 850 was reliable, anon!

Timing belt on the 156 was changed last year even though I've done barely 50,000 miles.

I had a 'sud (Ti Cloverleaf) back in the eighties. Great to drive, but bits would fall off. On one occasion I hit a small pothole and the rear hatch lock snapped. The boot lid flew up hard and ripped the struts out of place then slammed down and shattered the rear glass. Over a grands worth of damage. Fortunately it was a company car so I didn't have to pick up the tab. And it was less than a year old!

Anonymous said...

I once owned one of these. It was the most unreliable car that I ever had and many of it's problems were inherent in the design of the car. I shed a tear for Chrysler...

Dante Mallet said...

It’s just sad that you weren’t able to find the car that you really wanted. But with your Elf, I guess there’s nothing to be sad about because that car is pretty good. It may not be of the same style as the Fiat 850 Coupe, but it can still give you a great driving experience, just like the one you wanted. Don’t be disheartened. You’ll be able to find the car that you really love soon enough.