Fiat 850 Coupe
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The 850 sportscar arrived just a year after the saloon model in 1965
as a neat fast-back four seater. Despite near useless rear seats the 850 was hugely popular. It had more power than the saloon and a top speed of 145 km/h with excellent handling, power steering
and front-mounted disc brakes.
The fact that it could achieve 40 mpg was also a plus. In 1968
a revised coupe was established which had a bigger 903cc motor that could top 152 km/h. It was styled differently too but Fiat kept this design until 1971
by which time over 380,000 cars had been manufactured. The Spider model stayed in production until 1974
due to its popularity in America
eventually replaced by the X1/9
Fiat 850 S Sport Coupe
If you wanted a small car that exuded good taste, then it was hard to go past the Fiat 850 S Sport Coupe. The little two plus two drew its lines from the Italian Fiat company's draughtsmen, who surpassed their earlier 850 coupe design in line, performance, comfort and increased size fractionally and price about A$90 when released in 1969
Changes included new nose and tail panels, wheel and tyre
sizes and engine modifications. At the front there were additional driving lights, while at the rear there was a spoiler, obviously of doubtful value in a car of with this performance but it did improve the line, and there were also four tail-lights incorporating backing lights.
Extra features on the inside included the fitting of carpets, re-shaping the seats, painting the alloy spokes of the imitation wood rimmed steering wheel and adding a wooden knob to the floor gear lever
. The view from the driver's seat was altered with an enormous pair of dials behind the wheel, tachometer and speedometer, with the water temp, and fuel gauges inset in the speedo. Black with white calibrations, these lent the car a real performance air - and the tachometer red line was raised from 6200 to 6800 rpm.
In the centre of the dashboard were the straightforward heater controls - all six – although in the days before inertia reel seat belts these were difficult to reach. The choke was located behind the gear lever
on the tunnel, steering column levers looked after turn signals and headlight dipping and flashing and sundry switches were easily reached on the right hand side of the dashboard. There was room for two adults and two children or three adults and a child if the passenger in front was willing to accept reduced legroom. The seats themselves were very good in front and adequate in the back. Luggage room was meagre.
The rear mounted motor of the Fiat coupe was a stretched and fiddled version of the 850 S sedan unit. The stroke was lengthened to 68 mm., raising capacity to 903cc and power to 51 bhp at 6500 rpm (net). Steel in the exhaust valves
and seats was a special composition to ensure the motor would take its extra speed range and to keep it cooler, there was a fatter, finned sump with 20 per cent more oil capacity. To match the current drag of all the extra lighting, an alternator was fitted instead of the earlier generator. The four speed, all synchromesh transmission of the Fiat was mounted ahead of the rear axle and special suspension modifications at the back were made to neutralise the effect of the engine's weight.
Semi trailing arms with coil springs were used for the independent rear suspension
and a transverse leaf with wishbones in front. The 850 was shod with 155 section 13 in. radial ply tyres
sitting on five inch rims – which gave the car much better road grip, Around town the 850 handled brilliantly. The 31 ft. turning circle was small enough, although the rear corners were out of sight when parking. Acceleration was brisk and the tachometer needle swung readily to 5000 rpm. Gear- shift, steering and brakes
were light. The dashboard had, for the time, two of the biggest dials in the business. Steering wheel spokes were now painted black. On the highway the 850 would run swiftly although with some extra noise. The rear engine was particularly smooth at 5000 rpm, which gave a road speed of 70 mph.
Corners taken at high speeds would point up the car's inherent directional problem in a cross wind. On dirt or when severely provoked on wet bitumen the engine made its weight felt and the tail would move out. Mild understeer prevails at most times. The brakes
were powerful and more than adequate for the car's performance and weight. Top speed of the coupe was raised some four or five mph through the engine's extra power and the rev. counter would swing to 7000 rpm in top - 95 mph - in favourable conditions. Average top speed was a little less. This could be unnerving for those who doubted the engine's reliability at these speeds but the motor would take 7500 rpm without strain. All this extra performance did not mean a less frugal car – and the 850 Sport had a fuel figure below 30 mpg, a credit to Fiat ingenuity.
For the Germans, running at a steady 70 mph, 35 mpg was possible. Despite their experience in building small rear engined cars, with the 850 Fiat were yet to conquer the tendency to pitch fore and aft over bumps. Ride was otherwise firm and comfortable. The driving position was good although the seats were angled to the left between the front wheel wells, and to ensure you could reach the pedals Fiat did away with the left foot rest. The steering wheel was set well away for those who liked straight arms when driving.