Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cute: Giugiaro's Fiat 850 Spider

The Fiat 850  line (produced 1964-73) was comprised of its basic sedan, a sporty coupe and a convertible called the Spider ("Speeder").  The latter's body was a Bertone design and product, the designer being the now-famed Giorgetto Giugiaro who worked at Bertone early in his career.

The 850 Spider was small and underpowered, an impractical car for long-distance touring due to lack of luggage space.  On the other hand, it was nicely styled.  Being a tiny car, Giugiaro chose, consciously or otherwise, to have it look cute rather than pretentious.  He also was able to avoid being forced to decorate a cheap concept such as was the case of the Austin-Healey Sprite I wrote about here.


To set the scene, here is a 1967 850 Spider's sales photo.

I don't know the source of this phantom illustration, though it looks like it was scanned from a book or magazine.  The Spider had plenty of overhang at the front, something common on front-wheel drive cars.  But the Spider's motor was in the rear and the frontal space was occupied by the spare tire and a small trunk.  This overhang, not present on other 850s, allowed Giugiaro to craft a longer, more graceful shape.

The Spider's graceful lines are apparent in this publicity photo.  An important detail is the headlight design which enhanced the cute appearance of the car.  The bumpers are quite flimsy by today's standards, but necessary for the design theme.  Note the subtle character fold along the side.

Rear view of a Spider for sale.  There are two lids at the rear, the forward one for the top and the other for engine access.  This shows how the character fold ties into the tail light ensemble.  The wire wheels on the slightly too-small wheels are probably not stock.

Part-way into the Spider's production run the headlight design was altered, probably due to government regulation in the USA and perhaps elsewhere.  This detail change largely destroyed the "cuteness" of Giugiaro's design.

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