History of the 1966-1983 Fiat 124, 1983-1985 Pininfarina Azzurra
Since the 1950s, Fiat had marketed a series of attractive convertibles (Spiders) in the U.S., usually designed by Pininfarina. They were generally a lower price and lower performance alternative to Alfa Romeo Spiders. The last series sold in the U.S. was to be the longest lived of these.
First known as the 124 Spider, when introduced in 1966, the car sported a 1500 cc DOHC four-cylinder engine that over the years went up and down in displacement several times, with most of the cars sold in the U.S. being 1756 cc and 1995 cc, both variants equipped with a single Weber carburetor. Fuel injection was added to California cars first in 1980 and to the other 49 State cars later that year. The earliest cars with small bumpers and no emission controls and the last Bosch injected cars are the most desirable with the latter being genuinely quick.
A coupe version of the 124 was also produced. While it shared the same platform as the Spider, it was slightly longer and wore Boano styling as opposed to Pininfarina.
About 700 turbocharged cars were factory authorized conversions by Legend Industries. These are quite entertaining and usually bring a significant price premium over standard Spiders. All of the 1995 cc cars (known as Spider 2000s) are quite well appointed and sport one of the best designed manual convertible tops ever. Some came with leather and all feature a real wood instrument panel and handsome Veglia gauges.
Following Fiat’s exit from the U.S. market in 1983, Pininfarina offered the car for sale for another two years as the Pininfarina Azzurra. Build quality of these final cars is said to be quite good. No matter the vintage, rust is the biggest problem along with soft second gear synchros. All are quite nice to drive and make ideal first collector cars.