Sunday, April 3, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1970 Fiat 125 Special

In the US, a lot of people seem to forget that they used to be able to buy Fiats outside of a Chrysler dealership. Those who did buy them, either seem to still have them, or got rid of theirs after they got tired of fixing it. There's a reason why Italian cars have a crummy reputation in the States and why none of the mainstream Italian brands have been sold here for about 15 years. In an amusingly ironic twist, Fiat now calls the shots at Chrysler.

I'd guess that the average American could look at this Fiat 125 Special and mistake it for a Russian Lada. That's understandable, I suppose, since if you watch movies taking place anywhere in the former Soviet Union, you're bound to see a Lada or five. Or ten. The Lada (VAZ 2101) is a licensed version of the older Fiat 124.

The Fiat 125 was an evolution of the 124, longer and with more interior room (enough to classify it as a large car in its home market). Most of the Fiats that survived in America were 124 Sport Spiders, the two-door roadster which got much of its running gear from the 124 sedan. I see enough Spiders in California that I don't even bother to photograph them anymore.
This being the 125 Special, it's equipped with a more powerful engine and a 5-speed manual. It also features a facelifted front end with four square headlights, making it a post-1970 model. I almost always have trouble dating older European cars, since they don't often change as rapidly as American models targeted toward an audience accustomed to something new and different every year. If you know the correct model year, feel free to leave a comment and say so.

I've seen this this Fiat no fewer than four times since I started going to university in San Francisco over four years ago. It used to be in really great condition, too, until it suffered a collision which messed up the front end and lost the Fiat grille badge. When I saw it parked outside a repair shop (coincidentally, the same one where this 1966 Chrysler 300 is usually parked ) I got really excited. Click click went the camera as I walked around it, and then I got around to the front. It was an "Awww..." moment.
Oh well. Fix it again, Tony...

The 125 Special in happier times, shot way back in fall 2008.


  1. Even with the damaged front wing this car is in amazing shape, for a FIAT, my own FIAT 128 of similar build year rusted so bad the front suspension started falling away from what was left of the bodywork when it was just nine years old.

  2. Nice! I thought I'd spotted this car about a year ago in San Mateo, and that it was a 125 - cool to have that confirmed.

    Nice blog - keep up the good work!