Fiat 850 history

How the Fiat 850 was born

The creation of the Fiat 850 started at the end of the 1950s when Fiat management realized that there would be a demand for a car that was somewhat larger than the Fiat 600 and a bit smaller than the Fiat 1100. Dante Giacosa and his team are commissioned to design this successor.

At that time, Giacosa was busy with the further development of the Fiat 500, 600, 1100, 1800 and 2100, but still found time to think about what the car could look like. He assigned numbers 119 and 122 (later to become the Simca 1000) to the project (later the project numbers also were to be used as type names: 124, 125 etc.).
When the final design was clear, it was given the model number 100G (this number also became the type number for the engine).

A few key features that were essential for the new model:

  • Cheap to build so that the selling price could remain low. Important to be able to sell the car throughout Italy because the south was still poorer than the north.
  • Reliable and cheap to use. After extensive testing, the 100G engine proved to be a reliable and economical design with low maintenance costs.
  • Excellent driving characteristics:
    - Manoeuvrable, allowing the car to be used both in the cramped cities and on the winding roads of Italy.
    - Good handling and braking
    - Easy to use
  • Satisfy the taste of the average Italian.

A first idea was this design; an enlarged version of the Fiat 600:

850 1960

Fortunately, this design was not developed further (among other things because this body shape had poor aerodynamics), but the pontoon shape of the larger Fiats such as the 1100 was used as a basis.
850 1960 2a

As for technology, a development of the 600 engine would be used in the same setup as this model.
The engine was enlarged from 60x56mm (633cc) to 65x63.5mm (843cc). To do this, of course, the distance between the cylinders had to be increased.
And as we now know, the direction of rotation was also reversed to anti-clockwise (CCW), most probably because a bigger radiator was needed, like in Fiat 850's stepsister, the Simca 1000.

A bit of explanation*: For the Simca 1000 a new, all-synchromesh, gearbox was developped, in which the differential was offset to the right, so both driveshafts were of equal-length.
All this required the engine to run CCW in this model. To save development costs, the 850 was to use the same gearbox design, so a CCW derivative of the 600 engine had to be engineered.
*Thanks to Pedro Seixas Palma on Facebook (Fiat International Register group) for confirming this.

850 1960 technical design small
If you click on the image you will see a larger version.

This version includes the nose of the Autobianchi Bianchina's and the rear of the Fiat 1800:
850 1960 3a

This is already starting to look a bit like a Simca 1000, a design that Fiat used at its subsidiary Simca.
850 1960 6a

The management-approved design looked like this:
850 1960 approved

This would become the basis on which to work towards the final design.

In the meantime, testing was already being done with this "mule":

850 prototype

In 1961 it was decided to build the car in two-door body (because this was cheaper in production), although in 1962 the four-door version was picked up again:
850 1961

850 1962

The photos are from "Dante Giacosa: Forty Years of Design with Fiat". You can buy this biography on Ebay, among others

Testing continued, although the body still bears little resemblance to the Fiat 850 as we know it today.

850 prototype 1

850 prototype 2

850 prototype 3

Meanwhile, there was already much speculation in Italian car magazines about what Fiat was doing:
850 quattroruote850 voorspelling


It's in the stars. This is what the Fiat 850 will look like.....

The best-looking prediction was published in Auto Italiana; who still remembers this magazine?


Scoop! The new Fiat 850

Italian magazine Quattroruote published the first drawings of the Fiat 850 in February 1964:

"Out of the 600 and the 1100 the 850 is born"

quattroruote 02-64

Still a bit too much of the Fiat 1100, but they didn't know everything at the time of writing.

Fiat 850 Coupé and Spider, in plaster.

When a car is being designed, there comes a moment when the sketches are turned into a tangible model. Nowadays this is done with clay or a synthetic derivative thereof. In the past, this was done in wood and plaster and that happened, certainly for Italian car manufacturers, often at specialized companies. One such company was "Alfredo Stola Modelli Dimostrativi In Legno Per Fonderia E Carrozzeria". They started around 1920 with wooden models for Lancia and later Fiat and Pininfarina became frequent customers. Find out more about their history HERE.

On their site you'll find these pictures, important moments in the development of the Fiat 850's (unfortunately I haven't found anything of the Berlina yet):

Fiat 850 Coupé studio torino master

Fiat 850 Spider studio torino master

Fiat 850T studio torino master

Fiat 850T studio torino master

Of course they wanted to make sure it was a nice car:

Fiat 850 T Stola wielrenners
Yes, as a support bus for their cycling team. 

Fiat 850 Press kit from 1964

A nice addition to my collection from a while ago. So extensive that I didn't dare to scan everything because the "News for the press" part was very fragile. But finally I dared to make an attempt and fortunately nothing was damaged.

850 presskit kaft

850 presskit

As you can see, the folder contains an introductory part with a letter from the importer, the part "Press Release" contains a description, drawings and graphs.
Click and enjoy.

Fiat 850, the first roadtest in Autovisie (1964)

One of the first Fiat 850s to arrive in the Netherlands was put to the test by Dutch car magazine "Autovisie" in a genuine "Roadtest" in 1964.

850 autovisie 1964 10 9

Autobedrijf Staal was my father's Fiat dealership.

Of course you want to read all this yourself, even though it's in Dutch. Click the image for a PDF.

Spoiler alert: they thought it was a remarkably spicy appearance, promising a lot of driving pleasure.

Getting to know the Fiat 850 in a Dutch newspaper

No idea which newspaper this article comes from, but judging from the conclusion, the Fiat 850 was good. The conclusion that the 850 is a suitable car for the (whether or not) working woman due to its good driving characteristics and easy handling is not really relevant these days.

850 intro krant 64 klein
Clicking is reading the article in large format.

Fiat 850 colors (in 1964)

At the introduction of the Fiat 850 in 1964, a nice booklet with the available colors and upholstery was published. Nice to share.
If you want to see it in a larger format you have to click:

850 gamma colori klein
Large format

Even bigger, by colour:

115 - Rosso Medio

233 - Bianco

433 - Azurro Aquamarina

453 - Bleu Medio

456 - Bleu Scuro

583 - Beige

653 - Grigio Medio

Full frontal: the Fiat 850 Coupé is extended 29mm.

Each and every month car magazines like Italian Quattroruote had to be filled with content and then thus, an adjustment of 29 mm to the front of a Fiat 850 Coupé was to end in an article. Because it contains drawings and photos of Fiat 850s, they also end up on this site. In other words: the facelift (literally) of the Fiat 850 Coupé.

850 coupe nieuwfront

Fiat 850 Coupé en Spider Press Kit

In 1965 the Fiat 850 Coupe and Spider were introduced. Dutch importer Leonard Lang provided a press kit. I only have the folder and a few photos, unfortunately not the introduction text:

850 coupe presskit

850 coupe 1965

850 spider 1965

Testing the Fiat 850

At the introduction of the Fiat 850, Fiat issued a folder with photos. Photos taken during tests conducted on various continents. I have had that folder for several years now and I found it back today in a box with the imperative inscription "To be scanned". Apparently never got around to it before. Today I make up for that  omission with all the photos in a separate document. Just click on the picture and start viewing them.

850 arctic2equator

Sales information Fiat 850 Coupé 1e series

When new models were introduced, Fiat not only issued a press kit with information, but also a booklet with all the unique selling points of such a model, for the salesmen.

This is also the case with the introduction of the first 850 Coupé. I know from experience that those cars were very popular at the time, so they almost sold themselves.
What information did the buyer need? They just chose color and signed at the bottom!

The booklet I received today is in absolutely mint (and unread) condition, which proves that no salesman ever needed it. 

850 coupe verkopersinfo kaft voor

And if you click on the image, you can read everything for yourself, in case you didn't know.

Press kit Fiat 850 Special

The Fiat 850 Special was officially introduced on January 28, 1698 and such an event always included a press kit: promotional texts, perfect photos and beautiful graphics.

A while ago I was lucky enough to be able to buy such a press kit and of course something like this will be shared here:

850 special press release68 0 map

You can browse the content (texts, photos and graphics) by clicking on the image

Fiat 850: 2000 km at an average of 110 km/hour

You did not expect it to be possible, but in June 1964, a 2000 km endurance test was conducted with a number of Fiat 850s. A bit short for an endurance test, but the challenge was to do that at an average speed of 110 km/h. Then it gets a bit more exciting.

850 duurtest

Proof can be found in a film on Youtube. First enjoy the commercials (not!).

Inside a Fiat 850 Coupé

A glimpse into the technology of the Fiat 850 Coupé (first series) is always a nice thing:

850 coupe transparant

Also available in blue, with tan trim:

850 coupe transparant 2

Fiat 850 powerhouse

The engine of the Fiat 850 is a reliable piece of technology. Unaffected by the most severe abuse and runs faithfully under the most brutal circumstances.

In Italy someone made this beautiful drawing. I don't know who was the artist but Bruno Betti and Franco Rosso are candidates for sure.

Fiat 850 motor

Fiat 850, 100.000 once more

Not only my site had 100,000 hits recently, a long time ago the Fiat 850 was a 100,000 hit itself:

100000 keer Fiat 850

Birth of a Fiat 850 (2)

In 1964 this photo of the production of the Fiat 850 was published in one of the Fiat Yearbooks. It was proudly stated that the Aqualit primer was applied to the sheet metal parts here. With today's knowledge, they should have chosen a different product ...

850 Turijn Aqualit primer

Fiat 850 introduction in Geneva

In 1965 the 850 was introduces during the Geneva salon d'Automobile. Swiss magazine "Automobil-Revue"devoted various articles to it in the salon catalog. A couple of photos:

850 op Fiat-stand Geneve1965

click on the photo to enlarge (opens in a separate window)

A few articles preceded that introduction, including a prototype. That started with a 600 with an extended rear:

Prototype 850

fiat 850 prototype 1

fiat 850 prototype 2

A four-door version was also tried. Maybe for the Simca 1000?

fiat 850 prototype 3

Italian magazine Quattroruote published this idea in the February 1964 issue:

quattroruote 02 64

Close. But no cigar.

A transparant Fiat 850

Have you always wanted to know what the inside of a Fiat 850 looks like? This is the place.

Despite the fact that I have been saving images of the 850 for years, I had not seen it before. And if you click on the image you can view everything full screen.

Fiat 850 doorzichtig (Vic Berris)
This one was drawn for Autocar by Vic Berris

Fiat 850 doorkijkje

Fiat 8 1/2

Earlier I published an item on "Auto Italiana" (Fiat 850 introduction). Today I came across another image of this magazine in which this time the 850 is presented as 8 1/2.

Fiat 850 Auto Italiana

Nostalgia. a glimpse into a Fiat 850

Because I've been at it for so long and it seems like an eternity since I've seen these parts separate.

De techniek van de Fiat 850 op een fabrieksfoto

The Fiat 850 drivetrain, beautifully photographed by Fiat.

New Fiat models for '64 and '65

Just a nice photo with an Fiat 850, especially because of the 600 Familiare:
Le Fiat del anno
When you click on the picture you get a better view.