Daily demonstrations at 11am, free with admission!
Fiat 850 Coupé- 1965
Following the introduction of the 850 Sedan in 1964, Fiat debuted the 850 Coupé in 1965 at that year’s Geneva Auto Show. The 850 Coupé was powered by a rear-mounted, water-cooled, 843cc four-cylinder engine. It’s pretty Italian exterior had a smooth, grille-less front end. The 850 Coupé was rear-wheel drive, so although the car was a little light on power, it had good handling for the time.
However, the 850 Coupé you see here is a bitsa’ car, as the British would say (bits and pieces from other cars). When the museum acquired this 850, we opened up the front luggage compartment to find an engine and a water-cooled, front-wheel drive set up as well! The now-trunk, formerly the rear engine compartment, had been nicely trimmed out and a place for the spare tire was neatly fabricated. The VIN was highlighted and easy to read, so we reached out to Fiat’s archives. Fiat replied that this car left their factory on June 15, 1965 as a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive Prima Series Fiat 850 Coupé. The Prima designates a base model 850 Coupé.
The engine is stamped SEAT (Spanish Fiat), which led us to determine that while the displacement is the same as the original Fiat engine, it is from a later 1980s SEAT Marbella, which was also sold as a Fiat Panda. The steering column was another clue: the turn signal and windshield wiper stalks are from a Panda, not an 850 Coupé. The steering wheel is from a SIMCA, a French manufacturer, just to add to the mystery.
This car came out of Poland, and while we can only speculate, we believe the best answer to this mystery is that an unnamed, talented Polish fabricator and mechanic had an old Fiat 850 Coupé body laying around, found a SEAT Panda engine with a four-speed transmission, and turned a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive car into a front-engine, front-wheel drive car! The level of craftsmanship and engineering are top-notch. This person even fabricated their own motor and radiator mounts! Sadly, we may never know the true history of this well-executed “Special”.
Manufacturer: Fiat S.p.A.
Country of Origin: Italy
Drivetrain Configuration: Front-engine, front-wheel drive (originally rear-engine, rear-wheel drive)
Engine: Water-cooled 843cc inline four-cylinder, 47hp
Transmission: Four-speed manual
Top Speed: 90 mph
Years of Production: 1965-1974 (original 850 Coupé production)
Number Produced: 467,533 (850 Coupés)
Original Cost: $2,500 USD