I purchased this 1971 Fiat 850 Coupe in early April of 2003. I was looking for a lawnmower at a fleamarket and decided to check out the nearby charity auto auction. I was surprised to find this car! It's inspection sticker expired in 1981, which meant that it has sat in a garage for 22 years! I registered and bid against two other people to be able to take the car home. Originally I wanted it as a parts car for my 1967 850 Coupe, but since it was a complete car in decent condition I decided it needed to be saved.
When I looked over the car it appeared that someone has started to take the engine out. The little sales slip that the auction had said that the car needed a clutch, so most likely they were getting the engine out for that. I decided to put everything back together and see how bad that clutch was... I renewed every wearable part in the ignition system, cleaned the carburator, changed the oil and fired up the car. When I tried to drive it some part of the drivetrain made a whirring noise, but the car went nowhere. I found that the right side axleshaft has sheared its splines! The previous owner or his mechanic had misdiagnosed the problem.
After replacing the axleshaft the car finally moved on its own, but not exactly gracefully. Because of worn engine and transmission mounts the rear of the car bucked up and down terribly when leaving in first gear. I found that it was not only the rubber transmission mounts that were bad, but the metal brackets were also broken and letting the transmission sag (thus ruining the speedometer cable). I took them off, welded them up and reinforced them.
There was another important issues: the brake system was not working at all. I decided that the simplest thing was to renew everything: master cylinder, hoses, discs, calipers and rear brake cylinders were all replaced. The rear brake drums and shoes were in good condition, so they stayed. The work was a bit involved, but not difficult. The only problem was that the brake fluid reservoirs are rather small, so they need frequent filling when bleeding brakes!
I was ready to drive the car, but could not do so because of the gas tank. So far I have been running the car from an external gas can, as I did not want to clog up the carb with rust from the old gas tank. This was fine with the car stationary, but what to do if I want to drive it down the street? I ended up zip-tieing a one gallon can to the rear of the car and running around the block that way. I am sure my neighbors thought I was crazy! :-)
The car runs fine, but it does need a little fine tuning. I also need the underengine trays to keep it from overheating. I may end up just making some from sheetmetal, as they seem to be rather expensive to buy.
Recently I have fixed the speedo cable, the tach, put new tires with 5" wide wheels (from a Fiat 124) on it, replaced the belts, flushed the cooling system, renewed the alternator and the temp sending unit. You know, all the little stuff a car needs when it's been sitting for 22 years :-)
Here are some pics for your enjoyment. Note the original AM radio! Click on the thumbs to view the fullsize picture.
News: as of February 2004 I sold the car to a Fiat guy in New Jersey so I can concentrate on my other Fiat restorations. He is enjoying the 850 a great deal!
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