Its technical design was an evolution of the successful Fiat 600. The internal name for the Fiat 600 development project was "Project 100" and consequently, the internal Fiat codename for the 850 project was 100G (G was a follow on of model designations for the 600 which ran from A to F). The engine of the 850 was based on that of the Fiat 600, but had its capacity increased to 843 cc. The 850 came in two versions: "normale" (standard) with 34 hp (25 kW) and engine code 100G.000 and "super" with 37 hp (28 kW) and engine code 100G.002. The maximum speed was approximately 125 km/h (78 mph). While it was not a large step forward in technical development, it possessed a certain charm with its large rolling eyes and its short tail, in which the engine sat.
The 850 family included several body styles sharing core technical components:
- Fiat 850 Special — Revised version of the 850 sedan, launched in 1968. It shared the 47 hp (35 kW) engine of 850 Coupé, and offered front disc brakes, sport steering wheel and improved trim. With a 25 percent increase in power, plus disc brakes nestled behind 13" wheels, it was a "sport sedan" in the vein of the BMW 2002, albeit on a smaller scale. Engine code 100GB.000.
- Fiat 850 Familiare — The Familiare was a boxier and slightly larger successor to the Fiat 600 Multipla. It featured space for seven passengers in three rows, suitable for groups including children and thin adults, but is too small to accommodate seven typical adults in comfort.
- The 850 Familiare continued in production till 1976 long after the saloon version of the 850 had been replaced by the Fiat 127. In 1976 the Fiat 900T was introduced, retaining most of the body panels of the 850 Familiare, but featuring the 903 cc engine from the Fiat 127 (although, in this application, still mounted behind the rear axle): the 900T benefited from significant enhancements in 1980, being now renamed 900E. At least in the UK the 900 series camper vans were badged as FIAT Amigo. Production stopped in 1985.
- Fiat 850 Coupé — The Coupé was introduced in 1965 at the Geneva Motor Show and had the original 843 cc (51 cu in) engine producing 47 hp (35 kW). The maximum speed at that time was 135 km/h (84 mph). Engine code 100GC.000.
- Fiat 850 Spider — At the same time as the Coupé, Fiat also introduced the convertible sporty two-seater Spider, with the original 843 cc engine tuned to produce 49 hp (37 kW) which allowed it to reach a top speed of 145 km/h (90 mph). The body was designed and built by Bertone in its Grugliasco, Turin plant. The folding fabric roof stowed under a rear metal body panel. The Bertone design featured smooth, simple lines and details, including recessed headlamps equipped with plexiglass covers angled to match the adjacent fenders/wings — and dihedral side panels similar to Bertone's 1963 Chevrolet Testudo. The Spider's engine code was 100GS.000.
At the time of their introduction into the United States the Sedan, Coupé and Spider were marketed with a reduced capacity, high compression 817 cc (50 cu in) engine in order to beat US emissions regulations at the time which applied only to engines equal to or larger than 50 cubic inches. Compression was raised from 8.8:1 to 9.2:1, requiring premium octane fuel.
In order to separate the sportier variants Coupé and Spider from the basic version, apart from the increase of engine performance, the equipment was also extended and adapted to the higher expectations. Both received sport seats, a sport steering wheel and round speedometer; Spider even received a completely rearranged instrument panel. The front drum brakes were replaced with disc brakes, although drum brakes remained on the rear wheels.
In 1968, Fiat revised the successful Spider and Coupé again and gave them an even stronger engine with 903 cc and 52 hp (39 kW). They were called Sport Spider (engine code 100GBS.000) and Sport Coupé (engine code 100GBC.000). The Sport Spider body stayed essentially the same, but with a restyled front. The headlamps were moved forward slightly and the glass covers were eliminated giving the car a "frog-eye" look, and the original flush front turn indicators were replaced with units hung below the bumper. Several limited special edition versions of the Spider were offered, including the Racer featuring a body-colored metal hard top and the Racer Berlinetta featuring a black vinyl hard top.
There was a minivan and transporter model as a successor of the world's first minivan, Fiat 600 Multipla, which was later renamed to 900T and likewise received the larger capacity of 903 cc.
Production of the Coupés ended in 1971, of the sedan in 1972, and of the Spiders in 1973, after altogether nearly 2.3 million models were sold worldwide, 140,000 of which were Spiders. Under the name SEAT 850, it was however further produced for some years in Spain, also in a four-door variant. As a successor the Fiat 127 was brought to the market in 1971 which combined the 903 cc push-rod OHV engine with the FIAT 128 transmission and suspension components in a fashionable fast- and later hatch-back 2-door sedan.
Between 1978 and 1983, the U.S. government issued a highly unusual recall for the Fiat 850—going back 10 years—for rust problems.
In 1967, Road & Track called the Fiat 850 coupé "one of the handsomest, best-balanced designs ever seen on a small car."
Spanish manufacturer SEAT also built the 850 into the 1970s. They also offered a four-door saloon derivative in two different iterations. The Fiat 850 was also produced under the name Pirin-Fiat in Lovech, Bulgaria, on the basis of complete knock down (CKD) kits between 1967 and 1971.
Abarth produced several tuned versions of the Berlina, Coupé, and Spider, with ever-increasing displacements. These belonged to the OT series of Abarth cars—standing for Omologata Turismo or "touring homologated", which also included two-seater sports racing cars.
- Fiat-Abarth OT 850 Berlina (model 101): Abarth's first 850 derivative, introduced in July 1964. Its Tipo 201 engine was the regular saloon's 847 cc inline-four brought from 34 PS (25 kW; 34 bhp) to 44 PS (32 kW; 43 bhp); top speed went up accordingly from 120 km/h (75 mph) to 130 km/h (81 mph). The OT 850 could be distinguished from the standard Fiat model by its Abarth badging, an asymmetric front ornament with the Abarth shield on the right hand side and the "Fiat Abarth" script on a red field on the left, and wheels with cooling slots. From October of the same year it became available in two guises: OT 850 Oltre 130 ("Over 130"), almost unchanged from the initial model, and OT 850 Oltre 150, with a 53 PS (39 kW; 52 bhp) engine, front disc brakes and a 150 km/h (93 mph) top speed.
- Fiat-Abarth OT 1000 Berlina: introduced in October 1964. Engine displacement increased to 982 cc, it produced 61 PS (45 kW; 60 bhp) and 79 N⋅m (58 lb⋅ft) of torque. Front brakes were changed to disks.
- Fiat-Abarth OT 1000 Coupé and Spider: introduced in October 1965. Compared with the saloon version, the engine was a more powerful Tipo 202 producing 62 PS (46 kW; 61 bhp) and 79 N⋅m (58 lb⋅ft) of torque. Top speed was 155 km/h (96 mph) for the coupé and 160 km/h (99 mph) for the spider. The coupé was facelifted in November 1968 concurrently with the regular Fiat 850 Coupé, receiving a full-width grille and twin round tail lamps.
- Fiat-Abarth OTR 1000 Coupe: launched alongside the OT 1000 Coupé, and based on the 850 Coupé bodyshell as well. Its type 200 engine had an all-new Abarth-designed cylinder head with valves arranged in a V instead of parallel—hence the R in the name, standing for Radiale, radial. The combustion chambers were shaped as two spherical caps, one around each valve; there was an inlet duct per cylinder, each fed by one choke of the two twin Solex carburettors. Abarth claimed an output of 75 PS (55 kW; 74 bhp) at 6500 rpm and a top speed of 172 km/h (107 mph) for the road version. The OTR was set apart from the OT 1000 Coupé by a rectangular front grille bearing the Abarth badge, needed for the front-mounted radiator.
- At the 1965 Turin Motor Show Bertone showed on its stand a one-off OTR 1000 berlinetta, based on the 850 Spider but with a fixed roof and a front radiator opening. Suffering the competition of less expensive and less complex OT models, production of the OTR 1000 ended with the arrival of the restyled 850 Coupé in 1968.
- Fiat-Abarth OTS 1000 Coupe: introduced in April 1966. OTR 1000 bodyshell, but standard head OT 1000 engine with output upped to 68 PS (50 kW; 67 bhp) and top speed to 160 km/h (99 mph). FIA homologated it in the GT class in 1966. Abarth later developed several modifications, including a new inlet manifold for two twin-choke Solex carburettors. This gave birth to the OTSS 1000 or OT 1000 SS. Both OTS and OTSS were restyled in November 1968 like the OT 1000.
- Fiat-Abarth OT 1300 Coupe: November 1966 launch. Visually identical to the OTR 1000 save for the widened 5½-inch wheels, it used a bored out Fiat 124 series engine displacing 1280 cc. The car also received a different carburetor and sharper cams, raising engine power to 75 PS (55 kW; 74 bhp) at 6000 rpm. Claimed top speed is 172 km/h (107 mph), the same as for the equally powerful OTR 1000, but thanks to the simpler engine the car was cheaper and more pliable as an everyday drive. Restyled in 1968 together with the 1.0-litre OTs.
- Fiat-Abarth OT 1600 Berlina (model 136/C): an extreme variant based on the 850 saloon body, unveiled at the October 1964 Turin Motor Show. It was fitted with a Tipo 236 1592 cc twin cam, twin spark engine from the Fiat-Abarth 1600 Sport racing car. The 1.6-litre put out 155 PS (114 kW; 153 bhp) and top speed was 220 km/h (137 mph). The rear wings were greatly enlarged to clear wide rear alloy wheels. Four examples were produced, all in beige color with red stripes.
- Fiat-Abarth OT 2000 Berlina Mostra because of the OT 1600's good reception from the automotive press, Carlo Abarth decided to create an even more extreme variant based on the 850 saloon body. One of the four OT 1600 was stripped down, painted white with red stripes and equipped with the 1946 cc engine from a 1965 Simca Abarth 2000 GT Corsa. Mostra means "display" in Italian. Its 2.0-liter twin-cam four-cylinder produced 209 PS (154 kW; 206 bhp) and made for a claimed maximum speed of 252 km/h (157 mph). The rear badging on the car read "OT Fiat Abarth 2mila", two thousand. Fiat didn't give a green light for the OT 1600 nor the OT Mostra, so both projects were stillborn.
- Fiat-Abarth OT 2000 Coupé America: introduced in February 1966, it was based on the 850 Coupé but powered by a two-litre engine. It differed visually from the 850 Coupé in having a barred grill between the headlights, a split front bumper flanking a spare wheel which projected forward below the grille, widened front and rear tracks and wings, and a vented front bonnet. The 1946 cc twin cam four-cylinder produced 185 PS (136 kW; 182 bhp) and could propel the car to 240 km/h (149 mph). Three examples were produced.
Francis Lombardi Grand Prix
Italian coachbuilder designed and built a small sports car with fastback coupé body based on the 850, the 1968 Francis Lombardi Grand Prix. The car was also marketed by OTAS as the OTAS 820, equipped with Giannini engines, and in an Abarth version, the Abarth Scorpione.
The Michelotti Shellette was a beach car based on the 850, styled and built by Giovanni Michelotti. Designed in the mould of Ghia's 500 and 600-based "Jolly", it was a more useful proposition, being faster and better equipped. Only about 80 were built, with some of the early ones using DAF underpinnings. The Shellette had the more powerful 47 PS (35 kW) engine of the Special/Coupé.
The Siata Spring was a 2-seater roadster built by Siata on the basis of the 850. Introduced in 1967, it featured retro styling with a mock upright radiator grille, separate wings and headlights, and running boards. In Italy it was initially priced at 795,000 Lire, 255 thousand Lire cheaper than Fiat's Bertone 850 Spider. Top speed was 125 km/h (78 mph).
- Ward, Phil (2007). Great Small Fiats. ISBN 978-1-845841-33-1.
- Fenu, Michele (22 September 1973). "Giugiaro, pittore d'auto". La Stampa (in Italian). p. 19. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
In tutti questi anni—afferma Giugiaro—ho realizzato più di 150 fra modelli in legno o gesso e prototipi in lamiera entrati successivamente o meno in produzione. I primi furono la 2600 Sprint, (...) l'850 spider, (...) per ricordare quelli che mi hanno procurato maggiori soddisfazioni.
- Fiat 850 Familiare owners manual, www.ebay.co.uk, as archived at web.archive.org
- Fiat 850T sales brochure, www.ebay.com, as archived at web.archive.org
- "Car-by-car guide: Fiat 850". Motor: 16. 22 October 1966.
- Bulmer, Charles (15 January 1972). "Road Test: Fiat 850 Utility". Motor. nbr 3628: 14–18.
- "Fiat 850 Idromatic—Fiat's entry into the growing group of economy cars with semi-automatic transmission". Road & Track. 19 (9): 57–58. May 1968.
- Fiat 850—Uso e manutenzione (owner's manual) (10th ed.). Fiat—Dipartimento norme e pubblicazioni. August 1966.
- "È uscita l'ultima 850 spider". Stampa Sera (in Italian). 9 June 1973. p. 17. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
- Sass, Rob (28 June 2009). "The Fiat Offers Italian Flair at Blue-Collar Prices". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2009.
- "Българското автомобилостроене" (in Bulgarian). Litex Motors. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
- Deganello, Elvio (April 2015). "Fiat-Abarth OTR 1000—Di testa propria". Automobilismo d'Epoca (in Italian). Edisport Editoriale S.r.l. 13 (4): 32–41.
- "Rij-impressie: Fiat Abarth 1300". Autorevue (in Dutch). Vol. 18 no. 19. 1967-09-22. p. 715.
- The Observer's Book of Automobiles (thirteenth ed.). 1967. p. 27.
- A Fiat Abarth 2000 America Coupe In Carmel, mycarquest.com Retrieved 4 August 2014
- "Lot 361: 1969 Fiat Michelotti Shellette Beach Car", Greenwich Concours d'Elegance: Collectors' Motorcars and Automobilia (auction catalogue), New York, NY: Bonhams & Butterfields Auctioneers, pp. 160–161, 2013-06-02
- ""Spring" una vettura per i giovani". La Stampa. 11 May 1967. p. 11. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
- "Caratteristiche degli spider italiani". Stampa Sera. 4 June 1967. p. 9. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
- Fiat 850 & Siata Spring fan site with strips, documentation and collectors
- Fiat 850 Spider Restoration and fan Site
- Italian Club Fiat 850 Spider, documentation and other
- Fiat Shellette registry
- playlist on YouTube, by the FIAT archive
|City car||500 "Topolino"||500|
|Small family car||1100 (Type 103)||128|
|1100 A / B / E||1200 Granluce||124||Ritmo|
|Large family car||1400||1300 / 1500||132|
|128 Coupé||128 3P|
|Pininfarina Coupé||124 Sport Coupé|
|2300 Coupé||130 Coupé|
|1100||1200||Pininfarina Cabriolet||124 Sport Spider|
|Off-road||Campagnola (1101)||Campagnola (1107)|