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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 fender well.

Fiat Spider 2000

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.

Fiats Leaves The U.S. Market

Due to numerous issues, Fiat withdrew from the U.S. market in 1983. Malcolm Bricklin, the man behind the ill-fated Bricklin sports car, recognized the appeal of the Fiat Spider and X1/9, and did something about it.

Pininfarina Spider Azzura

Bricklin launched a new company, called International Automobile Importers, with the specific purpose of importing both the Fiat Spider and the mid-engine X1/9. Starting with the 1983 model year, the Spider 2000 was back in America, with the Fiat name and badging gone. The Spider 2000 was now the Pininfarina Spider Azzura.

The Spider was now built entirely by Pininfarina, with a redesigned dashboard and center consoles, with minor changes in trim. The rear seat was replaced by a luggage shelf.

A European version, sold without a catalytic converter, was known as the Spider Europa. Also offered was a Europe-only, supercharged version called the Volumex.

1985 Fiat Spider

For 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.

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Lada Classic Series

The Lada Riva, also known as the Lada Nova, were a series of compact cars made in the former Soviet Union. Production began in 1970 as a modified license copy of the Fiat 124. Millions of these cars have been sold worldwide, and it's third most popular car in the world, following the Volkswagen Beetle and the Ford Model T. Although no longer produced in Russia, the Lada Classic series continued production in Egypt until 2015.

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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

Timing Belt Replacement

Timing belts on the 2.0 Spider motor are only rated for 20 to 25k miles. If you're not sure when it was last done, replace it before you start driving the car. If a timing belt breaks, the 2.0 engine will free-wheel. On earlier 1800cc engines, broken timing belts will damage engine parts.

read Fiat Spider Timing Belt Replacement