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Fiat Spider 1979-1985

Starting with the 1979 model year, Fiat changed the name of the 124 Spider to Spider 2000. A minor redesign included new front grille and hood, flush-mounted door handles, taller and wider tail-lamps, and larger 14-inch wheels. For the first time, an automatic transmission was offered. Demands for a bigger motor with more torque prompted another bump in displacement - a new 1995cc motor used a taller block, larger crankcase and longer rods. An electronic unit replaced the points-style ignition.

Fiat 2000 Spider ad

Fiat Spider Engine Upgrades

The last of the carburetored Spiders were 1979 and early 1980 models. These are the worst performers in stock form, but can be retrofitted with an earlier intake manifold and carburetor. One of the best intake manifolds fitted by the factory came on (1975-1978) 1800cc Spiders, also on all 132-series DOHC engines. This is a single-plane intake manifold and will accept downdraft carbs with up to 34mm bores without modification. Casting number will be 4264350.

Fiat Spider Fuel Injection

Midway through the 1980 model year, fuel injection replaced carburetors. Fiat used Bosch's L-Jetronic system, which was complicated, but helped restore lost performance while still complying with U.S. emission regulations. All models were equipped with a catalytic converter, which in good operating order worked well and caused little power loss. Air pumps, along with other emission-related hardware and their accompanying myriad of vacuum lines, were no longer needed.

Fiat Turbo Spider

During 1981 and 1982, a partnership between Fiat and Legend Industries in America produced approximately 700 Turbo-Spiders. The stock engine compression ratio was lowered from 8:1 to 7:1, with special hoses and ducts feeding the intake charge from the turbo. A special exhaust manifold and downpipe were used. Enrichment and overboost switches were mounted on the left fenderwell. With peak boost of six psi at 3,000 rpm, the turbocharger brought horsepower from 86 to 115 horsepower. A boost gauge on the dash replaced the factory analog clock. Turbo-Spiders came equipped with 14" alloy wheels, stripe kit, and logo decals on the fenders.

Pininfarina Spider Azzura

Fiat Spider 2000

Due to numerous issues, Fiat stopped exporting cars to America in 1982. Malcolm Bricklin, the man behind the ill-fated sports car, launched a new company, called International Automobile Importers. Its specific purpose was to continue the import of both the Fiat Spider and the mid-engine X1/9. Starting with the 1983 model year, the Fiat name and badging were gone. For North American markets, the car was called the Pininfarina Spider Azzura. The European version, sold without a catalytic converter, was known as the Spider Europa.

The Fiat Spider was now built entirely by Pininfarina, with redesigned dashboard and center consoles and minor changes in trim. The rear seat was replaced by a luggage shelf. In Europe, a special supercharged version, called the Volumex, was offered. 1985 Spiders were upgraded with rack and pinion steering and larger front disc brakes. These improvements also brought a higher price-tag, which did not help already low sales. Fiat Spider production ended in 1985.

If you're looking to restore an affordable classic sports car, consider a Fiat Spider. Aside from the changes brought about by safety and emissions regulations, the Spider changed little in its 18-year production run. There are many aftermarket suppliers, parts interchangeability is good, and most maintenance can be done by the owner.

Fiat Spiders at Carolina Car Show

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