One of my first cars was a 1971 Fiat 850 Special, bought for Lm25 when I was 18. After making some very primitive and bodged repairs to the bodywork and handpainting it to make it look somewhat more presentable, I used and abused this car daily for two years. I soon grew fond of the little machine and its character, and before I knew it, the bug had set in and I became hooked on 60s and 70s Fiats. When I reluctantly took the Fiat off the road in 1995, I decided to replace it with its much prettier and rarer sister, a Fiat 850 Sport Coupe'. After some searching, I managed to find a 1969 Series 2 example in the hands of a retired old man from Sliema.
The initial impression I got of this Fiat wasn't too good. The red paintwork hadn't seen a drop of polish for years and the classic sporty Italian styling was seriously let down with the addition of various modern bolt-on accessories, such as plastic wheel trims and a plastic air scoop on the bonnet. The front end was also sprayed black and pin-striped, to give the impression of a front radiator grill. Furthermore, the owner had a large tree in his driveway under which the Fiat used to be parked. As a result it was always shielded from direct sunlight and remained damp whenever it rained. Definitely not the best environment to keep an old Fiat in! On the plus side, the Fiat was essentially complete and running, thus giving me the option to use and enjoy it before actually beginning its full restoration.
The first thing I did was to remove all the non-original accessories. I then gave the car a general service and sealed the area above the windscreen in a more presentable, but nonetheless bodged way. Finally, after thoroughly cleaning the interior and giving the paint and chrome a good polish, I began to use the 850 Coupe' as my daily car.
After some two years of constant use, the Fiat was taken off the road for restoration in December 1997. The main reason for this was the rust around the windscreen area, which used to allow a lot of rainwater seep into the car. I began by removing the engine and gearbox together with all the trim and chromework. The greatest shock was when I removed the windscreen, the bodywork around it was completely rotted out. I was astounded as to how the windscreen hadn't fallen out whilst I was driving!
I then stripped it down to bare metal and it was towed to a friend's garage for work to begin on the body. All repair panels were made up by my friend and the most time-consuming and difficult part of the whole job was to repair the roof area around the windscreen, we must have trial fitted the windscreen at least a hundred times! The car was then sprayed in Fiat Rosso Sportivo.
I then began the re-assembly. The 903cc engine only required a thorough service whilst the brakes were fully overhauled. A donor car, purchased from the back of a lorry on its way to be crushed, donated lots of trim items and a host of useful spares.
Finally, all that was left was a trip to the licensing office to collect my new set of number plates. Since then the Fiat has participated in various events organised by the Old Motors Club, including rallies and shows. My current project is another sporting Fiat, a tatty but original 1970 Fiat 124 BC Sport Coupe'.