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First car help - - 1976 Fiat Spider

Hello! First of all, I’m 18 years old and I normally drive my mother’s 2006 prius. Its nice but I’d like my own car.
Recently I saw an ad for a 1976 Fiat Spider. I think its the coolest car I’ve ever seen. Its been recently restored, engine taken apart and cleaned, new bearings in and out on all of the wheels, a removable hard top, and has a roll bar. If I get it, I plan on installing 5 point harnesses just for some extra safety. It would be a car that I would drive in the summers for fun. Since I’m going to college next year, I won’t be needing a car during the year. The nice thing about the sale, is there is another identical 1976 Fiat that comes with the first one that has new seats, a decent body, and a running engine plus various bits and pieces.

What do you think?
Thanks for reading!

It also has the number 12 painted on the side which is my lucky number/number on my water polo team throughout high school.

This is the one that I would be buying.

How Much?? Who’s money are you spending? The trouble with a '76, they got hit HARD with emissions regulations that the Italians didn’t quite understand…I think there was a monstrosity air injection system…But if you are lucky, you can escape emissions testing and inspections…

It’s great that it comes with a parts car, but should you need NEW parts, steering, suspension, brakes, that stuff may be somewhat difficult to find…

Do you have the skills to maintain it yourself? Because if you can’t, it’s just garage furniture…But if the suspension and brakes are right, they ARE a lot of fun the drive…By the way, this car pioneered the interference engine / rubber timing belt…That’s why there are so few of them running…

I’d be spending my own money on the car. $5500 of it to be exact.
I personally don’t have the know how to maintain it, but I want to learn and I have access to a full garage for free and many friends who work on cars 24/7.

I didn’t know about the emissions though… thanks for the heads up. What I decided to do if the engine went out was to simply swap in a VW or subaru engine. Is there a way around the emissions regulations, say, an engine modification?

thanks so much for taking time to help by the way.

You are going to learn a lot messing with this car,why dont you consider a later model Z or Celica? European cars are " special" especially Fiats-Kevin (Dont even think about an engine swap,good luck,do as you will)

Looks like this car has already been on a race track, do all the lights work? Are you sure the title and paperwork are there to register the car for street use? In general, fun cars prone to body and frame rust. If its been a CA, FL, or TX car you shouldn’t have a rust issue. If it has been driven on the salted winter roads of the north that’s what caused the rusting problems.

Mechanically not too hard to work on and fix, but you might have trouble finding some parts. Sounds like you have some money, be prepared to part with some of it if you buy this one.

Before you buy it, find out the answers to these questions:

How much is the insurance?
Does the car have a title?
In your state, do you need a title or inspection?
Is it street legal?

Otherwise, well, you are only 18 once. But a Mustang is a better choice for 1000 reasons I will not go into.

“What I decided to do if the engine went out was to simply swap in a VW or subaru engine.”

In case you are not aware of it, trying to mate a different engine to the Fiat’s transmission will require an adaptor plate, and I seriously doubt if adaptor plates for VW-to-Fiat or Subaru-to-Fiat swaps even exist.
Are you absolutely sure that adaptors exist for this type of swap?

Additionally, the horizontal format of a Subaru engine makes it unlikely that it would even fit in the narrow engine compartment of this Fiat.

Also–in addition to the aforementioned emissions equipment problems with these engines, Italian cars of this era are extremely prone to electrical problems.

As was already said, there are lots of better choices, and I would suggest that you focus on something more practical–particularly if you expect your car to run on a regular basis.

“Play for more than you can afford to lose and you will learn the game.” Winston Churchill.
This project will test you wallet, your patience, your friend’s patience and your resourcefulness. You will spend as much time working on it as you do driving it maybe more, but what else are summer vacations for. You’ll learn a lot more than just how to work on a car.

Two of them? You must have LOTS of room to keep them. And leaving your ‘driver’ in the garage for 9 months at a time will be rough on in. And forget the engine swap idea, you’ll need to use the engine off the donor car.

Were you 25 I’d say sure, have fun, but a '76 Fiat Spider has all the crash protection of an empty Coors can. Accidents are very likely at your age, I’d rather you were in something with a slight bit of protection.

As a former owner of a Fiat Spider I would advise against buying the car(s). I spent more time working on and pushing the little Spider than I ever drove it. Also…$5500 seems a tad high for the purchase price.

Uncle Turbo,

If this car was raced, it wasn’t recently. The roll bar doesn’t meet the specs of 20 years ago.

In addition to what the others have said, if you buy it, have the roll bar inspected by someone who knows about roll bars before you install the 5 point harness. 5 points in cars without roll bars or with decorative roll bars can kill you if you roll the car.

The car is from Oregon, so there are no emission standards to be met because its older than 20 years, Its street legal, new head, new valves, new transmission, (and extra head and transmission besides the extra engine), a new title, and the car/current driver hold records at the local Raceway and according to the current owner it is raced every weekend.
My insurance is extremely low as of now, but the insurance company said it would probably go up to about $800 a year. In terms of space, my family just bought a new house with 4 acres and a quite large barn.

Thank you all for the feedback, I’m finding this to be really helpful.

Back in the 1980’s I was seriously into Fiat Spyders and had at least three of them. They are fun to drive and easy to fix. Drive trains are reliable if properly maintained. Electrics are the biggest problem. I payed $500 tops for them at the time. The best Spyders were the 1600 and 1800 series. After 1972, the primitive emissions controls took away much of the power and a lot of the fun. Try to find a smog pump these days.

Unless it’s in show condition and all original, it’s not worth $5,500. For that money you can get a really nice Miata which is a much better car, more power and more reliable.

I guess I’ll have to look somewhere else for a car than craigslist in my area then. Cars here seem to be grossly overpriced. Except for MGs and old Cadillacs/Buicks…

I’ll keep that in mind.

@ mleich:

I can’t stand mustangs. At 6 foot 4 I can’t even sit up straight in the front seat of one of those cars. For some reason mustangs, for how large they are, they seam have the least legroom of any car I’ve ever been in. Less than the back seat of my buddy’s VW beetle.

The guys have posted a lot of good recommendations and ideas…The Devil is in the details…Clean titles, inspection requirements, insurance costs, storage and garage space, parts nightmares…Don’t let that #12 on the door blind you…That’s just paint…

My first car was a 1957 Triumph TR-3…I loved it…But it was only 4 years old when I bought it…But the maintenance kept me broke…

Unless that vehicle has been totally restored, $5500 is too high. And if you’ll be paying a shop to maintain it, the $5500 will just be a beginning.
This is a great project car for someone who already has reliable transportation and turns his own wrenches. It would be a disaster for someone hoping for a reliable daily driver without putting even more money into it.

For the record, my dad had one many years ago. I loved driving it. But you could almost hear the body rot forming, and a reliable form of daily transportation it definitely was NOT.

This is a very bad idea unless you also have $10,000 saved for repairs.
You’re in way over your head if this is a first car.
Get a Honda, and be “cool” some other way.