THE CAR AND ITS OWNER
1980 Fiat Spider owned by Gabriel Villamizar
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING
If your New Year’s resolutions include a vintage Italian convertible, but your budget is more ravioli than “bistecca,” then the way to go is a Fiat Spider. With designer coachwork and performance “con brio,” these stylish 2+2-seaters were sold in large quantities from 1966 to 1985 under various model names. While many succumbed to rust or reliability issues, nice examples can still be found at bargain prices.
The attractions include a body crafted by iconic designer Tom Tjaarda under the auspices of Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina, a lusty four-cylinder engine, spirited handling and, of course, the prospect of wind-in-your-hair driving. “This is a very special car to me,” says Villamizar. “There are not many of these left around and its uniqueness makes it very interesting to people. It’s got twin Weber carburetors, which sound simply amazing.”
HOW LONG HE’S OWNED IT
“It was purchased in 1984,” he says. “It was my sister’s car when she was in high school. I still have memories of first seeing the car as the owner raised up the door to the garage.”
WHERE HE FOUND IT
The previous owner was in northern Virginia.
“It has almost 150,000 miles on the original drivetrain, most of which were at a screaming 5,000 RPMs (revolutions per minute),” says Villamizar. “It has never been restored. And the engine has never been taken apart. However, it did have rust issues around the rear wheel wells, which, after repairs were made, required a repaint. I made a lot of modifications to her in order to get her to look just right.” The upgrades included tube-styled bumpers from earlier models, lowered suspension, racing wheels, a lightened flywheel, larger camshafts, and carburetors to replace the original fuel injection.
TIPS FOR OWNERS
“Don't be cheap and fix things that need attention,” he advises. “Join a local Fiat club. There is valuable information out there, but you need to be proactive in finding it.”
Villamizar declines to value the Fiat, but Hagerty, the classic car insurer, places an “average value” of $8,334 on similar models.
THE BOTTOM LINE
“This car, to me, is so exhilarating to drive,” Villamizar says. “It's also extremely affordable when things do break. I don't feel like I'm wasting money, nor do I feel that it's too valuable to take out for a spin. I think it exudes class. It makes me feel like I'm in a multi-million-dollar vintage Ferrari every time I take her out.”