85.5 Spider... in the wild. The square badge. Those wheels! That is not a Fiat.
A heartbreaking cool Zagado V8 Fiat (left) and a '70 Mercedes 280SL Pagota
Yes... those are the wheels you look for! 85.5 era wheels
Auctions are everywhere now - really - but if you want to see as many high quality cars in one spot as you can, here is how the biggest and best known "top Auctions" shake out every year. Many more auctions this year than last. In general, there is 100's of auctions each year -but - three times a year you'll find the most watched and most written about auctions in magazines by looking here:
-Jan..... Scottsdale AZ is really the biggest Auction Week with many auction houses gathered. Local AZ car shows swell up this week as well. Mecum Auctions do American cars very well, Barrett -Jackson is based in Scottsdale, plus Bonhams, RM Auctions, Russo & Steele and Gooding & Co all offering cars for every taste all week long.. it's thrilling. Insiders tip: huge local car shows in shopping mall parking lots all that week.
- March.... Amelia Island Florida should be on your list.
-Monterey Week, In August. It could be argued the most important auction week as the biggest dollar cars are sold here. Many new cars are first shown to the public here as well. Book early to see it. Bring your best game to show or sell. Monterey Ca. and of course.. Pebble Beach as the Pebble Beach Concours is this week as well. The king of car shows.
At todays prices paid the Azzurra has a huge advantage in just the handling. Consider the Porsche 356C.. a luxury sports car with only 75 HP. These little jems were just cool used cars 20 years ago. Few cared. Now... you could buy a really nice bungalow in Cincinnati for the price of a 356C. Pushing a car to it's limits below 100mph is addictive. Yes a 60's designed Pininfarina is still cheap... but for how long?
From any angle and one of the few cars (besides the Mercedes 107 era SL's) that still look good in federal bumpers. (no hate mail, please)
The metal kick panel, side mirrors and the long "full-word" logo behind the door are the "tells" it's a Pininfarina. The alloy cast "Cromodora" wheels are now standard.
When we talk of "markets" we are generally speaking of catalog retail auctions. These sales results are what most price guides rely on. Not local sales but public sales. Mostly those auctions that print a nice catalog with photos and nice descriptions for people willing to fly in, get a hotel and compete to get a car they want. Too bad they never get offered a clean properly restored Pinin Spider.
This site is about the Pininfarina Azzurra, an unsung hero. This page is about the vintage car market in general and we try to place the Pinin Spider in this market. The Pinin Spider is low on the ladder of vintage values but still rising in it's class. Even after selling over 200,000 copies of the Fiat 124 and another 3 - 4000 copies of the Pinin era 124 spider most auction houses (and price guides) lump all 124 spiders together. Some auctions houses "don't allow" the 124 and good luck getting a concours to accept one of the best selling mid century Italian designs of all time. This is both a shame and a blessing to the fans of these cars.
For me, I could look at mid-century Ferrari's all day, However, I could buy an island country for less than a well sorted Ferrari 275GTS and I missed an affordable 206 GT Dino years ago and the market never looked back, so I'm content to just look. Still I longed for a 60's Italian classic. The market on midcentury Pininfarina designs keeps breaking price records. I was afraid that market has passed me by... or had it?
This is interesting: Paolo Pininfarina the current director of Pininfarina was asked by Octane Magazine what his favorite design of all time was. While standing in the Pininfarina museum surrounded by stunning current prototypes and historic superstar cars, said: "I love the 124 Spider...I believe these cars would still sell in great numbers if still made today" (Oct. 2014 issue) Paolo is Sergio Pininfarina's son. It's interesting he chose the car you see on the left over any of the Ferrari icons. The humble Azzurra is prominent in the Milan museum sitting next to the $3million Ferrari Sergio prototype
The Pininfarina era Spider has a brand panache and offers exclusivity.
The Azzurra has that mix of exclusivity (see our shipping totals) and yet parts are still easily available. And the panache of the Pininfarina name.
The 124 Spider represents 1960's Italian style like the Mustang reflected American style.. However.... by the 1980's the mustang got larger, at bit sluggish, and poorly made ( plus the V-8 could barely keep up with the Lampredi dual cam when comparing the 0 to 60 stats). The fox body design was trying hard to look european. The Spider however remained truer to it's design roots... then really blossomed in it's last chapter as the Azzurra. Five minutes behind the wheel will show the mid 80's Azzurra was much better made - but also 25% more money in it's day next to the ubiquitous Ford pony car.
Summer 2015: The vintage car market had had a previously unheard of upswing in values. It appears that the vintage cars that fill the auction houses every year had previously been way undervalued. However.. as we looked at it last summer the markets upward movement has slowed a bit. Certain high end cars like the venerable Mercedes 300SL Gullwing and Roadster are holding steady - the days of ever rising values have calmed down. No longer a given that cars will be worth more tomorrow.
Update Jan '16 The auction houses in all reported a slow down in sale prices as many models that had a rise in value over the past 5 years seems to have stabilized. Many Ferrari Dino's and Corvette's went unsold. My personal count at Bonhams Scottsdale showed that out of 115 cars offered 57 went unsold or below the lowest estimate. Only 7 cars went for over the high estimate. Of the 7 cars going over estimate, only (2) went for over 30% over estimate. One was The Pininfarina Azzurra that went for 34% over high estimate.
Update Jan '17 Restoration Shops can't keep up But there has been no clean - i said clean - 124 Spiders sold at auctions in the last year. Yes one or two good unrestored cars sold at $20K - $24K but these were survivors. We hear of 85.5 Spiders in Europe changing hands for twice that money. One 85.5 was sold in the USA thats was quite remotely located... this 40K mile, unrestored 85.5 Pinin Spider sold for.... $40K
Update Jan '18 Generally speaking: The market on many cars has softened. Less printing of money, and more lucrative places to park money (pun unintended) has brought many prices flat or down. Thats healthy for any market to take a breath. Buy because you love it and you will be happy. I love the Pininfarina Spiders but no clean examples have come to market this year. If they do - sadly- the magazines will lump them with Fiats, and find other cars to write about. ( MG midgets, oddly get more 10 times more ink)
The Recession of 2009 brought more people to repair shops instead of buying a new cars and thus repair shops thrived. As reality TV shows became more popular we saw shows about repair shops reviving old cars growing, witness "Counting Cars" or "Fast and Loud" being huge successes. The public realized you could realistically and fearlessly fix up old classic cars. Every week these shows aired how cool old classic cars could be. There is an organic feel to motoring along in a car with simpler mechanicals. It's less isolating than modern cars that are becoming more autonomous each year.
As demand for refeshed classics has really grown, so has prices. It's generally safe to say the Pininfarina designs of the mid century, mostly with the Ferrari badge.. are among the most desirable in the world. If you can afford an Enzo era Ferrari by all means get one. (Enzo Ferrari died in 1988)
But if you've missed your chance years ago, then maybe you're considering the Pininfarina while it's still affordable. It won't do 140 mph (with out modification) and that's partly the point, because you're to busy to spend the night in jail. However with top speed of 105, light weight and happy go lucky handling make the Pinin Spider a joy in modern traffic.
The Azzurra's are quick, with ample leg and shoulder room, yet small and easy to toss around. In the right colors, the car's subtle classic 60's lines are really quite sexy, more so in person than in photos.
Surprisingly the Azzurra does not get attention from the major auction houses. Bonhams did sell a early '69 Fiat Spider at a Scottsdale AZ. 2013 auction, for $48,300 (the current world record and a rare #1- car thats now a 5 year old record) However I've NEVER seen a clean post 1983 Pininfarina come up at auction....... until my old '83 Azzurra sold in Scottsdale in 2016 for over $26K
Barrett- Jackson sold a #3 condition refinished car back in 2012 for $12K... this one and only sale is what 90% of the price guides use... a refinished example?... even to this day in 2018 the Fiat 124 Spider and Pinin era Spiders are priced together in the price guides based on that one example.
Update: Freshly/ fully restored cars now go north of $40K... And the rarest 85.5 models are selling from restoration shops for 20 - 40% over that.
The recent past.
The original 124 Fiat was placed between the Porshe 912 and the little British MG. Then with the US congress in 1981 demanding they fix rust issues "fix it again tony" became Fiat of America's catch phrase. The 124 fell from grace and many cars were left to rot in backyards across America.
The Pininfarina era spiders have been easy to lump together with the Fiats.... but really only in America. European buyers get it that Pininfarina was a much more serious car. The Pininfarina Spider Europa had much more respect, because it was a better car - with better paint and features.
I like to keep in mind that in 1985 you could buy a Fiat Dino (left) for $4-5K (but your buddies thought you'd be nuts for buying a car that needed a Ferrari mechanic.) or..you could have bought that "other" Dino for about $24K , That Ferrari 246GT "Dino" and not even considered a Ferrari because it had no Ferrari badges.. Now they sell @ $300-$400K! An Aston Martin DB4 was only $20 - $25K (don't do the math - it hurts) Back then, you would have been crazy to think they could even double in value soon. But who cared? They were fun.
The Pininfarina Azzurra and especially the Spider Europa is still a bargain is this growing vintage car market. Restorations are never cheap, be it on an Alfa Romeo, a later E-type or an early Fiat. But the Pinins have great parts supply and there is a few restoration shops that offer some real bargains compared to other marquees. You might ad reversible improvements like retro bumpers and some small alterations like lightened flywheel and improved exhaust. These little sports cars have much to offer after a nice restoration. They look great - if not painfully cool - and have that light sports car thrill that later - heavier - cars just don't offer.
Our contacts page is below for where to start looking for restoration shops and parts suppliers in the USA.
Backstage at the Auctions. The Barrett-Jackson Auctions in Scottsdale are a spectacle and you must see it to believe it. (Right)
Gooding &Co. (A more aristocratic experience) sold a '58 one off Maserati spider on the left. They had a little trouble keeping it started (little italian devil) just before they sold it for 3.8 Million. And it will prove a bargain very soon I'd wager.
The Market for "Spider Europa era" 124 Spiders is in a very sweet spot at this time, still affordable. Smaller engine cars appeal more to buyers who also want to use less fossil fuels. The very top of the market will always be about quality, low production numbers and connection to race history. However for some, these cars are now longer transportation but are rare art objects only to be observed. It's fun sculpture, maybe, but fast mid century sculpture is not getting any cheaper these days.
But owning a baby Ferrari, designed in 1965, with 1/3 of the horse power is all kinds of fun. The Italian auto tide is rising ..... lifting many other brands up as well. Maserati, Lancia, Alfa Romero.. but the Pininfarina offers a smaller - easier to digest - slice of the classic Italian automobile finery.
It's relative. A whole Pinin Spider costs as much as a correct windshield or a tune-up for an early '60's Ferrari Spider. Think of Fiat as if, Henry Ford Jr. married Sofia Loren. Fiat is the Ford of Europe... just sexier. The 124 might be compared to the Ford Mustang only for it's sexier Italian style. The Spider remained truer to it's roots - over the years - and did not get as fat as the Ford... and of course our Pinin Spiders are more refined offering DOHC motors, fuel injection and 4 wheel disc bakes.
The 124 is a sports car built to be affordable even as Pininfarina took over manufacturing. But in truth - despite the Fiat era's reputation for rust - this era of the 124 Spiders are really quite durable given proper care. Ferrari owners will gleefully tell you the extra maintenance costs are worth it, 124 owners agree.
Sometimes 124 owners forget what other Italian car owners pay, as a percentage of the cars value, for repairs. As I said earlier.. it's relative. 30 year old sports cars made overseas will need some love now and then. It has been said Ferrari owners pay $4 per mile to own a Ferrari. We've figured after resale at about $.40 cents per mile to drive a Pinin Spider.
The 58 Ferrari 250GT California Spider (right) sold for over 6 million dollars in Scottdale AZ. at Gooding & Co Jan. 2013. ---> I bet a water pump costs more than the $385.00 Fiat water pump i just got.
Rust. Truth is even Ferrari had a reputation for rust in period. Pininfarina addressed the rust issue offering 7 year rust thru warranty. (Again the best of ANY manufacture at the time) It's all about maintenance. Same as any Italian classic, no matter the brand. Look at the Lampredi motor on the right (upgraded) clean and cared for! No problems expected. Have pride in your ride. Keep it maintained, look for leaks, check your fluids and use real oil not synthetics. Casteral GTX 20-50 recommended.
The Fiat you drove as a student (in med school perhaps?) was treated with disrespect and flogged like a nanny goat... thats why it had issues later.
If you own a Jaguar E type you come to "love" the fact it needs tweaking almost after every outing. (Almost) The hobby is love of mechanical scuplture and design....
Fixing the "way back machine" is part of the fun. Tom Tjaarda is quoted as saying he designed the spider to be worked on by the owner. They are beautifully simple in that respect. They may need attention, but to crawl under a 124 spider is to marvel at simple brilliance ... meet your new Italian girlfriend!
Roadster Salon in Chicago did this spider custom. (With hard to find vintage Campagnolo wheels) for me. It is in a class by itself! I believe it's best to leave Pinin era spiders "mostly" stock... so they found a rust free '80 Spider to modify for me. They have taken the classic Pininfarina 124 design and created something special. It's retro yet modernized. Restoration work like this not much cheaper to do than if they had done such to a Jaguar E-type. This is a prototype of what they call an RS Lusso 2 that gets you lots including: 30% more power on rebuilt motor, bigger brakes , rack and pinion steering added, and better suspension, as well as chassis bracing. My mechanic noted: they made it into a real sports car... very impressive! A very 1960's Ferrari looking car as well. As amazing to drive as it is to look at. A freshened/resto spider going for $59K or more? Before you do that "Home Alone" face slap remember the artisans at Roadster Salon have a year long backorder. These are like nothing else on the vintage car market.
Sergio would have thought.... finally! someone gets where I was going with my Spider Europa!
The bottom photo is a Ferrari 275GTS (also designed in 1965 by Pininfarina/Tom Tjaarda.) A true classic that costs 15 time more money. Yet the Pinin -to me - is over 1/2 the fun at 1/15th the price!
Not a Pininfarina: this is an Alfa Romeo 2600 with a body by Tourin.
Carrozzeria Touring was italy's #2 behind Pininfarina
Pictured at a Gooding & Co Scottsdale auction. Another cool undervalued car.
(This one sold well over the $100K mark)
For the sake of brievity we will focus on the American cars. In Europe The Spider Europa had small euro (round) side marker lights and a less restricted motor, otherwise a very similar car to the US car. (by 1985 the model was called Spider Europa or Europa Spider in the US as well) A rare European model was the Spider Volumex. A limited factory super charged "hot rod". Only 500 made, most in red. Sadly, none were shipped to USA. (Volumex catalog shots below)
Once thought plentiful, now quite rare. Look for any other mid priced classic car: a Jag E-type, or an 80's Ferrari .. fairly easy to find. Then look for a clean low mile Pininfarina Azzurra for sale. There is very few out there (remember I said clean)... people love them, to drive, to look at, the sound, the feel. Once you own a well sorted Spider it's hard to say goodbye! Sexy yet pratical, 35mpg on the highway it's quick and it's pretty. It's not a track car, able to leap tall buildings or break speed records... but you'll smile all the way home, because you have a real classic. You always take the long way, snicking thru all 5 gears.
Finally... a sports car that you get to use some of it's potential- not just once in a while - but every time you drive it.
Warning: Pinin era Spiders are dangerously sexy. You might linger in the garage too long.. running a finger across it before turning in. Maybe you'll start a web site about it..... proving you're a wee bit nuts.
"Italian Style is not a style; it is a state of grace"
The rare 85.5 Spider seen here was another step up in luxury and refinement, but short lived. Offered now with rack and pinion steering, bigger brakes, and locking luggage compartment... The '85 1/2 is the "grail" of Pininfarina Spiders. Less than 60 may have survived. This restored Spider Europa was invited to the Ault Park Concours d'elegance in Cincinnati. The first 124 - ever - at a Concours d'elegance.
" ... The Pininfarina mark is a sybol of prestige appreciated by connoisseurs who have always connected this name with personality and elegance" (from the 1985.5 Pininfarina catalog)
One way you can tell an 1985 1/2 by it's unique 8 point cast wheels, as shown above. Compare to wheels in photo below.
Never seen at auction: The "Spider Europa" or The 85 1/2 Model.
Commonly called the 85.5 Spider, Sergio Pininfarina was out to make a continuation model like the Porshe 911, priced like a 914. Sergio knew there was a market for more upscale sports cars, .... it was the age of the YUPPIE - so he upscaled the car, raising the price to $20K (about $48K in '18 dollars) Hardly the rust prone car most people remember from the 1970's.
Ferrari's rarest little cousin has never been to an auction. Good for you as they are the most undervalued true urban sports car left. Trying to find a clean restored example of a Pininfarina Azzurra can be quite challenging. The rare 85.5 model has rack and pinion steering, 4 discs, Lampredi DOHC motor, sexy styling, more luxuries and exclusivity with only 1200 examples world wide, of those, only 186 Spiders made it into USA... most via the US Military Officers.
Here are some thoughts on the vintage market - 2014 thru 2018.
The market has been Porsche obsessed, but leveling in '18
Pininfarina Farm: Roadster Salon
Fiat Freek Out is every year. Photos above/ below This year 2017 the show is in Milwaukee USA.
A Sports car with room for golf clubs , or in my case a guitar and amp to go to gigs with. Or at least an overnight bag.
Why is personal storage so hard to find? I'm talking to you Jaguar "F" type.... and you Alfa Romeo 4C designers.
Looking for Pininfarina Spiders? Us too.
Photo of "Wheels of Italy" car show in Minneapolis
A Spiders nest
Not a Ferrari 275GTS
2018 and Ferrari Daytona's are slipping in price... gasp!
A Ferrari 275. The Pinin spiders more famous cousin.
Angles and curves subtly blended as only Pininfarina can
Tell me thats not sexy.
Fresh rebuilt motor getting dropped in.
My 1970 Jaguar Series 2 roadster as I found it, very origina and only 28K miles. These are very cool and sexy mechanical toys. And - in truth - are fussy little money pits. Both are great cars from opposite sides of the track.. The 124 Spider was designed for Italy's strict tax laws on motors over 2 Liters, where the E type was born of Formula One racing. Call me crazy, but I don't drive over 100 MPH... much. I'll always own a 124 Spider.
My '83 at the Desert Concorso in Palm Springs Ca. It had spent the night "on the lawn". Here it is peeking out from under the cover at 5:00AM the morning of the Concours.
This photo -above- was shown in Sports Car Market magazine. A truly great magazine for those of you into the hobby.
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