In a world where sketchy Fiat 850 Spiders are selling for nearly US$10 Grand, there are few classic European roadsters that can still be bought for that amount in anything but “fixer-upper” condition. The Triumph Spitfire stands out as an anomaly, and although far from powerful, a subtly upgraded Spitfire like THIS car available on CraigsList in Southern California for $8,500 makes a great case for driving a slow car fast. Add good looks and an open top, and the case just gets stronger.
After writing about that gorgeous Alfa Romeo Duetto the other day, I got to thinking: there are a lot of ways to enjoy sleek European styling and a sonorous dual overhead cam motor combined with open air motoring. Most of those have been covered in TTS before – cars like the Alfa Spider, the Jensen-Healey, and even Fiat’s 850 Spider and X1/9. Shamefully, we have not covered Fiat’s 124/2000 Spiders in any depth. Until now. This car, advertised on Craigslist in Leesburg, Virginia for $3,950, represents the same basic experience as the Duetto but for about 10% of the entry fee.
The Fiat 124 was basically the Torino firm’s counterpoint to Alfa’s Spider, and their specs are comparable if not remarkably similar: they were both penned by Pininfarina and released to the world in 1966, both had varying displacement DOHC inline-4 motors, both had full synchromesh manual transmissions and four-wheel disc brakes from the get-go, and both started rusting about six hours prior to leaving their respective factories. In many ways, choosing between the Fiat and the Alfa was really down to preference. Of course, the Alfisti will argue that their Spider came with oodles more pedigree and had sleeker, sportier styling. The Fiat side of the camp will conversely argue that their car ticks all the right sports car boxes, but with more robust running gear that was used throughout the world in hundreds of thousands of their contemporary models. Frankly, I like both of them, albeit for different reasons.
I cannot tell you definitively if the British or the Italians actually invented the two-seater sports car, but both take credit. My money is on the Brits, at least for cars that the everyman (or woman) could afford, having built some of the most iconic sports cars ever including the MGB, Spitfire, TR6, Austin-Healey, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. By the beginning of the 1980s, however, the roadster ship had all but sunk, cars were bloated and underpowered and the British car manufacturing industry was collapsing. Still, there remained a handful of small niche manufacturers building sports cars for enthusiasts, and TVR was one of them. Find this rare TVR Tasmin 280i convertible – one of 472 1985s –
here on eBay with a buy it now price of $10,950.
Having learned to drive in an old Alfa Romeo Spider, I have always been partial to two-seat roadsters. One of the best feelings in in my world is carving the back roads in a convertible with the top down, matching the revs on every downshift, and listening to the symphony emanating from the tailpipe. About two years ago I decided to recapture that feeling by buying another Spider just like the one I’d had before – but this time without the terminal rust. Nostalgia is a funny thing, however, and instead of a flood of memories from my youth with a Bryan Adams soundtrack behind them I spent the next several months trying to get an otherwise perfect Alfa to start, stop, and run properly. I remember thinking I should have just bought a Miata.
This past weekend on the heels of looking at two horrible German convertibles which were incidentally nothing like the pictures or the descriptions from the seller – shocking, I know – I went to look at a Miata that I spotted on Craigslist and just sounded like a good little car. With 82,000 miles, a relatively recent timing belt, water pump, and fluid change, and full books and records including the original window sticker. I bought it on the spot.