Not long ago, Rare Rides featured a top-line Fiat 2100 sedan that was rebodied at the order of Abarth into the luxury 2200 Coupe Allemano. Today we have a look at a subcompact Fiat that received a similar treatment. It’s an 850 Special, Vignale-style.
Fiat introduced its 850 line for the 1965 model year, intended as a replacement for the 600, which had been in production since 1955. A supermini in European terms, 850 was available in two-door variants of sedan, coupe, and Spider, as a three-door van called the 850T, and as a very early MPV with four doors known as Familiare. Reflecting consumer tastes, the 850 was larger than its 600 predecessor in all guises.
Contrary to what might be expected of a compact family-type vehicle, the engine of the 850 resided at the back in all variants. Sizes ranged from 817cc to 903cc, and all engines were of inline-four variety. Transmissions on offer were a traditional four-speed manual, or a slightly more complicated four-speed “Idromatic” semi-automatic.
Fiat then brought its 850 sedan, coupe, and Spider to the United States, selling them only with the smallest 817cc engine. At 50 cubic inches, its tiny displacement slid under emissions requirements. In the Sixties, the government was only concerned with emissions coming from engines larger than 50 cubic inches. Fiat upped the power a bit via increased compression, which meant premium fuel was required on the entry-level vehicles.
For 1968, Fiat introduced a revised version of the 850 sedan: the Special. With a larger engine borrowed from the Coupe version, it had a full 47 horsepower (a 25 percent increase). Other upgrades included disc brakes and larger 13-inch wheels. Considered a sports sedan, its styling was more upright than the Coupe version, and more awkward. Vignale had a look, and decided to have a go at revisions.
Vignale designed a new body for the 850 Special for a few select customers, imbuing it with some of the style of the more aggressive Coupe, and some from the sedan. The resulting car was more subdued than either of the standard versions, featuring details like a small hood scoop and inset fog lamps. The interior was also upgraded considerably, with nicer, two-tone leather trim on the seats, and more wood trim. Even the center console was wood-clad.
Data on how many Vignale versions of the 850 Special were made is not readily available, but they are assuredly rare. The Special lived through 1972 before its replacement by the very Communist-looking 127. Today’s green beauty is for sale in Italy for $8,800.