Roadshow Video Reviews
1968 Fiat 850 CoupeWhat's that hiding behind a Smart ForTwo?
[ Music ] ^m00:00:03 >> Everyone's buying smaller cars these days. Manufacturers are obsessing on them too, but there was a time when small cars were small cars. Let's flash back to the 1968 Fiat 850 Coupe, and check the well... tech. ^m00:00:18 [ Music ] ^m00:00:22 Fiat sold 850's hand over fist from '64 to '73. There was a sedan, the popular Spider, even a van, and this - the Coupe. Fiat's Mario Boano did the styling in house, unlike using pen and farina, or bertone, which was so common at the time. You don't know Boano's name, but you do know another car he drew - the Carmen Gia. OK - let's check the tech. What? There isn't any. I mean, an AM radio was the big option. That would have lived over here, in the dash, in a hole that your dealer would have kind of jury rigged in there. Seat belts - also an option. Remember? These were not required until 1970. Also on the option list would be a sideview mirror. Only this one came standard. But check it out - this is the cruise control. You pull this and look, it holds the throttle in a particular position. Hell yeah it's dangerous. That's why they do that anymore. Now the lights are different than on any car today. You've got this little set of switches. You got to play a little game. This one turns on the instruments lights, and that's about all it does. This one enables the headlights, but they're not on until you then follow that up by moving this stalk 1 or 2 detents down, for low or high beams. That's also not legal anymore. And this emergency flasher panel was also tacked on to meet U. S. law. They didn't do those in Europe. Next to those rockers is a rubber bulb. Pressing this is how you get washer fluid on the windshield - no motor, no foot switch, just push, push, push. Now 1 of the hallmarks of the 850 Coupe that's not found on any other 850 is this instrument cluster with these 2 oversized gauges that say 'I like driving'. Speedo on the left, electronic tach on the right, kind of advanced for the era; water temperature, fuel gauge, charge state, and oil pressure that are all handled by idiot lights. ^m00:02:16 Now by now you may have noticed something. Space inside this car is really good. I'm past 6' 2" and I have ample leg room, plenty of head room, and the shoulder room's not even an issue. Foot well space is a little snug. Notice - this thing... that's the wheel well, right up there by my leg. So when you're not on the clutch you gotta leave your right foot behind the clutch. Don't even ask me about air conditioning. That's insane. It's not offered, it's not even possible on a car like this. Instead you've got the red lever here, which you pull for heat, the blue lever over here you pull for ventilation. Or just leave the window down, and put your arm out. This era of car has low enough sills that you can do that comfortably. You don't see that anymore, because sills are much higher due to collision impact and aerodynamic goals. ^m00:03:05 [ Music ] ^m00:03:09 These are optional. These are actual mag wheels - chrome-dora, magnesium wheels. That's where the old name from. They're made of magnesium and that's not really a good thing, because they are wicked expensive, real brittle, and if they ever catch on fire like in the friction of a collision, you can't put them out until they've burned out. But they're incredibly light, they feel like styrofoam when they're off the car. Now if you think the engine's up front, don't feel bad - you weren't the only one. My camera man Charlie put an oil catch under the trunk. That's all that's up here, that and brake fluid, a supply spare, and a can opener jack. Now the 850 Coupe was nominally powered by an 843 CC, that's .8 liters, inline 4, overhead valve, 2 barrel down draft carburetor. This is the old fashioned way. Now I say nominally 843 CC's because remember, back in 1968 there was some new U. S. smog regulations coming into effect, and they applied to engines 50 cubic inches and larger. That's not very big. This engine was 51. Rather than comply with the smog standards, Fiat made that little engine smaller - 817 CC's is about 49.8 cubic inches. Guess what? That's no longer considered a car under regulation by U. S. standards, and it didn't need any smog gear. The resulting 47 horsepower, and 45 foot pounds of torque goes out, forward and out, put to a 4 speed transaxle ahead of the engine. The 850 Coupe weighs just 1,590 pounds, almost 1,000 less than a honda Fit. But it still takes about 18 seconds to get from 0 to 60. MPG is readily in the mid 30's, and up to about 40 when cruising on open roads. Oh, and here's another one you may not see anytime soon - this is the fuel filter cap. That's right, back here in the engine bay, directly above the red hot exhaust headers. ^m00:05:04 [ Music ] ^m00:05:09 Now sub liter motoring, in anything of this vintage, is not like driving your car. The 850 Coupe is kind of connected to you, and you must think ahead all of the time to plan the use of gears, and the application of power. You can't just step on it when you need to get out of trouble. And you'll often drive a car like this flat out. There just isn't too much power. Visibility is tremendous, thanks to thin pillars and a tall greenhouse. They didn't have rollover crash standards, or pillar mounted airbags in those days. You couldn't build a car this dangerous today. Fiat 850's are unvarnished and kind of loud by today's standards. The optional sport exhaust doesn't help on this one, but there's not a lot of room for a muffler anyway. ^m00:05:51 [ Music ] ^m00:05:55 An 850 Coupe costs about 1,830... 18 hundred and 30 in 1968. That's about 11,300 in today's dollars - still impossibly cheap. So you can imagine not a lot of these still exist, build quality being what it was. The only tech option was that AM radio I mentioned for 50 dollars then, that's like 320 dollars today. You almost never see that. A car like this is very out of date today, but not entirely. The best small cars we test at CNET still have the 850 Coupe's main feature - an unadorned connection to the road, and a simplicity that puts you back in touch with driving. That's what small cars do at their best. ^m00:06:36 [ Music ]