13 May 2014

Your Cars: Andrew DeSantis’ 1973 Fiat 124 CS Spider

Andrew DeSantis’ affection for Fiat sports cars began in 1963 as he was about to graduate from a Philadelphia engineering school. In the market for a new car, he stopped by a local dealership, and it was love at first sight. But Andrew’s parents didn’t exactly share their son’s enthusiasm for an “impractical” two-seater. “If Dad sits in the front and you drive,” his mother said, “where will I sit?” Game over. But Andrew’s dream lived on, and five decades later, he finally got a little red Fiat sports car, a 1973 124 CS Spider.

Clifton Park, N.Y.

Vehicle: 1973 Fiat 124 CS Spider

What’s the story behind this car? I started looking when I was finally able to afford a third car in the family. I saw this one – in No. 1 condition, zero rust, only 40,000 original miles, and it had been repainted on its 20th birthday. It had all the paperwork – all maintenance records (38 years through the original dealer) and the original window sticker, sales contract, bank note, original Fiat manuals and sales brochures.

I purchased it sight unseen from the second owner. The car was in Florida, but I had my cousin go and take a look at it. After he took a test drive, he called to give me the scoop. He said, “Looks great, runs well, no rust whatsoever.” I said, “If a new car’s paint is a 10, how would you rate this one?” He said, “Oh, Andy … a nine.” I said, “Looks like I’m going to buy a car today.”

I had it shipped home and it arrived on Easter Sunday. The driver rolled it out of the truck, and there it was – with a flat tire. But I had my little red sports car.

Repairs and Modifications (planned or completed): I’ve gone through all the mechanical stuff, keep up the maintenance and detailing. I replaced the original driver’s side exterior mirror with an aftermarket one, and for safety reasons I also added a mirror on the passenger side. No, they aren’t original, but they can easily be removed without any damage to the body.

Hobby activities: I’ve always liked to work on cars and maintain them as my father did. He taught me everything I know about cars while I was growing up. My newest hobby is participating in local car shows. The Fiat has won four trophies. People are amazed that a 41-year-old car looks so good. I’m looking forward to more car shows this year, meeting more car enthusiasts and making new friends.

Best Moments/Favorite Drives: My most memorable moment was when my wife, Carolyn, and I took the car out for our first joy ride. That brought back joyful memories of when we were first dating. (She doesn’t drive a stick. I have four grown children – three daughters and a son – and none of them drive a stick.) I also enjoy driving under the George Washington Bridge on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.

14 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Stephen Farrell Pensacola, Fl May 14, 2014 at 16:56
    I loved my 1973 Fiat 124 Spider, dark blue & tan interior purchased new in Arlington Va for 3858 dollars! Five years later traded for a 78 Fiat X19 and got $2700 in trade.
  • 2
    Gopherman Santa barbara, CA May 14, 2014 at 17:38
    Had this year fiat 124 spider. Bought it straight out of the Navy. By far it was the worst car I have EVER owned. It used oil like it was related to a middle east oil tycoon. The alternator was held on by four different size screws. Two of them were too small so they just sat in the openings. One was too big and had stripped the threads, and luckily, one was the right size. I do have one good thing to say about it. It had a convertible top that should win an award for engineering. it was a marvel of design. At the time there weren't many cars with four wheel disk brakes like the fiat, but you had to look a block ahead in order to be able to stop in time. They were awful!! Gas mileage was good, but at 35 cents a gallon I didn't really care. The two bumps on the hood did look cool. It fooled kids into thinking it was really fast, and when they would look at the 140 MPH speedometer their eyes would get real big. Too bad the engine had other thoughts about speed. I will have nightmares tonight after seeing the picture. PS.. plan on replacing the electric fuel pump a few times. At least its east to get to in the trunk.
  • 3
    John Martin Spring City TN May 14, 2014 at 18:31
    I have a 1979 Fiat Spider I've had 33 years. It has 90,000 on it. I also have a hardtop for it. I love it.
  • 4
    Dave H Houston, TX May 14, 2014 at 18:48
    I have an uncle that owned a Fiat Lancia dealership when I was a teen so drove 124 Spiders as demos but the 1979 was the one I finally bought when he told me losing a timing belt won't bend the valves as mods were made on the 2000cc engine. High maintenance but so much fun to drive.
  • 5
    Rich ny May 14, 2014 at 19:23
    Great story, Brother
  • 6
    Rex Port Townsend, WA May 14, 2014 at 19:23
    Lucky you! My 124 just passed 200,000 miles & we have friends who are approaching 300,000. Fun cars.
  • 7
    F Page virginia May 14, 2014 at 20:45
    I bought a 1972 in 75 and drove it a number of years, which I enjoyed and finally sold it and bought a TR-6. Nice car, but watch the rust on the front fenders.
  • 8
    anthony orwin Nyack New York May 15, 2014 at 14:23
    I share all of what Andrew stated I am the 2nd owner of a 1982 Spider 56m original miles same color also repainted I love it but it has lived up to the Fix It Again Tony (AKA Fiat) and my name is Tony and will keep it until Im too old to drive.
  • 9
    Dan Grant Pittsburgh, PA May 15, 2014 at 18:17
    Brings back some memories. I had a 124 Sports coupe in the UK when I was growing up. I remember the beaten metal dashboard and the short gear stick. I believe it had twin choke overhead Weber carbs. When I picked it up I was given the advice to treat it like "a fiery Italian girlfriend". Speak to it nicely and treat it right and it will work (most of the time). Ignore it (or look at another car) and boy you were in trouble.
  • 10
    Mike Ridgefield, NJ May 15, 2014 at 08:49
    In '75 I drove a Fiat 124 Coupe(hard top) fun drive. Now my classic is a 74 VW Super Beetle Convertible and my wife and I also enjoy that ride under the GWB.
  • 11
    Ed in Saranac lake Saranac Lake, NY August 18, 2014 at 20:24
    Andrew, loved the story. Good luck. Peace. ed gualtieri
  • 12
    william ornduff sr virginia December 4, 2015 at 13:42
    I have a 1973 fiat 124 conv. runs&drives good. needs clutch cable & top has body rust. will sell with new top & cable for 2800.00 interior good
  • 13
    Doug Billings mt March 9, 2016 at 23:23
    I have a nice 1973 124 spider previous owner did quite a bit of work on it. New paint new upholstery new top. Still needs some things done. Kinda nice car. Make me offer
  • 14
    Rob OH June 27, 2016 at 14:49
    Original owner of my 1973 124 Spyder. Have done a few mods to the suspension, wheels, tires and motor, it still runs great after 43 years and over 140,000 miles.

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