A Fiat for Free? Am I nuts?

So a friend of the family has a '69 Fiat 124 Coupe that she’s offered to me free for the taking, just have to make the trip from DC to Birmingham, AL and back. Supposed to be in pretty good nick, she hasn’t driven it much in the past few years since her husband passed away, but it’s been garaged and generally well cared for.

Oh, and I don’t know how to drive a stick shift.

So this’ll either be a fun learning experience of a road-trip in a classic car, or I’ll find myself marooned somewhere in the mountains of Tennessee with a burnt-out clutch and a rusted chassis.

Thoughts? Advice?

If you really want to take the car, have it shipped. It is likely in no shape to be driven long distances.

“in pretty good nick”–in what dialect/regionalism is that phrase? I have never heard it before.

I agree with mleich that a 42 year old car of virtually any make is not a good candidate for a long road trip. Then, when you factor in the lack of reliability of Fiats of this era when they were fairly new, it makes this expedition particularly unwise. And, if you want to put the fun to an end very quickly, add in the probability that you will burn out what little remains of the clutch in short order, due to your inexperience with a stick shift.

As was said, having the car shipped is much wiser than attempting to drive it from Birmingham to DC.

Oh, and as to, “in pretty good nick”, that is an expression used in England, mleich.

Good To Hear It’s In AL, But Check For Rust Damage, Anyhow.

To make a long story short, when I managed a body shop ( former short career faux pas ) back in about 1981 ( Northern road salt region ), a guy wanted to repaint a Fiat ( X-19 or some darn thing I think ). My painter helped me look it over for an estimate and saw lots of rust here and there and knew it would require lots of extra work.
I gave a very high estimate to either cover the labor or discourage the guy from even considering it. To our surprise, he left the car and told us to go ahead.

It sat there for several days and every time the painter looked at it to get started he discovered more rust. The windshield was even in danger of rusting out of the body !
I sheepishly had to call the guy and tell him we couldn’t guarantee the work, it was a waste of his money, we wouldn’t take his money, and “Please come and get it.”

It was one of the rustiest cars I’ve ever seen. To this day I still have a bad taste in my mouth when somebody says “Fiat.” I hope things have changed for them.


I wouldn’t drive that thing beyond city limits, seriously.

I knew a young woman who had one in the late '70s.
She would navigate her trips around DC to always be near a service station.
So she would almost always be close enough to push it in instead of a tow.

[edited per VDCdriver’s comment]


I doubt that the car would even make it as far as the DC beltway!
Based on the OP’s wording, I think that he/she lives in DC, and the car is located in Birmingham–hence: “just have to make the trip from DC to Birmingham, AL and back”.

If you are intent on doing this, first, take stick driving lessons in DC from a professional driving school.

Then when you travel to Birmingham, make sure you have alternate travel arrangements home in case the car turns out to be a disaster. Such as, you and a friend/spouse/sibling drive to Birmingham together. Before putting the Fiat on the road, have it inspected by a shop in Birmingham for rust, suspension, tires, etc. If it turns out to be a pig in a poke, leave it there and come back with your ride. If it seems OK to drive, your friend/spouse can follow you and provide backup in case something fails on the way.

You might want to plan a route back that avoids expressways. Try to keep it at 55, 75 on the beltway might be too much until you really get a feel for how the car drives.

Then, plan on replacing the clutch after arriving in DC.

If it was me, I’d take a trailer, and tow the thing back (or a one-way rental trailer). It’s the only sure way to get it back in one piece, and still running. It’s likely to need lots of TLC to keep it on the road, and - as above - rust is a major drawback to these particular cars. Not quite as bad as Alfa Romeo’s, but a really, really close second.

This will also end up being a weekend toy, and definitely NOT your daily driver. Even if it really is in good nick, it’s still a 42 year old FIAT…that’s really never a good decision to rely on one. Tart it up and put in a museum, sure, but not drive around in.

I had a 75 Fiat X19. I don’t think I’d accept an old Fiat if it was given to me. It’s going to be more money and trouble than you think.

Unless you want to spend a lot of money and time on this car, let them sell it to somebody in AL.

So the prevailing sentiment seems to be running towards “nuts” :slight_smile:

The more I research it, seems like it’s a no-go, maybe I’ll recommend my friend sell or donate it locally.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

These vheicles can be fun (my dad had one) but this ole is old and hasn’t been driven in a few years. You need to get it checked out thoroughly before driving it.

The thing you should be worried about isn’t getting stuck in the mountains…it’s finding out while coming down out of the mountains that a brake cylinder seal was ready to “give up the ghost”. The “ghost” could be YOURS!

Not Getting The Fiat Is Not Nuts. Not Everything That’s Free Is A Good Deal.
For Example, I Would Turn Down Free Tap Dance Lessons In A Heartbeat.


Do you need to get it right away? If not, your friend could take it to her favorite mechanic and see what it needs to make the trip to DC. It should cost a couple hundred bucks. If you are willing to pay for repairs after the estimate, then have them done and get the car in November or December. Northern Alabama and most of the trip to DC have similar weather. There should not be any snow. Just don’t expect it to be more than a hobby car.

You should learn to drive a stick shift anyway. You don’t need a professional driving school. Maybe you could rent one over a three day weekend. Take a friend who knows how to pick it up. My uninformed opinion is that Fiats, like MG’s, are great hobbies.

Fiat for free? You get what you pay for. Why do you think some one is giving it away ? Now if you were paid to take it…