Somewhere in the late sixties my father replaced his Beetle with a Fiat 850 Special. It was a logical choice since his brother was a car mechanic at a Fiat garage, so all of my family was driving this brand, some of them until today.
My first remembrance on this car is the long drive from Belgium to the South of Germany to spend the vacation over there. I knew my dad had a closed trailer to fit all the camping gear in but still today I wonder how this little car managed to bring us 800 km further every summer. At least that was what the little Fiat did 2 years in a row. Being only 3 years old I remember being stuck on the highway with a burning motor, which was the end of the Fiat. Faith in the brand was however quickly restored as a Fiat 128 was chosen as a successor.
Move forward to 2017: a well preserved Fiat 850 Sport Coupé crossed my path. No rust, mechanical ok, price was right but the only thing I needed to do was convince myself that car nr 5 in my garage would be an Italian, something I swore I would never buy.
My opposition fell away as soon as I was behind the wheel, I collected some raving reviews of 1968 when this “secretary Ferrari” hit the market and they were spot on: despite its dimensions it’s a comfortable car (in the front at least, the backseat is more a storage for a cool box and my better halfs handbag), the engine, despite its 903 cc can cope with today’s city traffic. But most of all: it’s one of the best designs ever for a small Italian car, Felice Mario Boano and Gian Paolo Boano created a masterpiece from every angle. Aurelio Lampredi, designer of the 4 1/2-litre Ferrari V12 engine which ended the domination of the Alfa Romeos in 1951, used his know how to develop a fine engine that can go high in the revs. Fiat licensed the Porsche synchro gearbox by paying Porsche and the legendary inventor Leopold Schmid a couple of Deutsche Mark per gearbox, knowing that millions of these boxes were used it created a steady income for the Germans.
Put this all together and you’ll end up with “La Bomba Rossa” - the red bomb, a name not chosen for the little Fiat’s speed, but for her extreme loud sport exhaust, but that is something for another post.