Fiat 1200 and 1500S Cabriolets
|Production||1959 to 1963|
|Body and chassis|
|Engine||2.5L I-4, 3.0L Six Cylinder|
Fiat 1200 and 1500S Cabriolets Built: Turin, Italy, from 1959 to 1963
By the end of the 1950s, Fiat, who were Italy's largest manufacturer of cars, were expanding their model range in all directions. Earlier in the decade, their sporting car effort had been directed, rather half-heartedly, towards the handbuilt 8V model, and towards the rather ugly Pininfarina-bodied two-seater model.
From 1959, however, a much more satisfactory, and potentially more popular, sports car appeared. The new model, smart and very much up-to-the-minute in its styling, was shaped for them by Pininfarina, and had a choice of engines. The new car was first seen at the Geneva motor show of 1959, where it was seen to have a particularly trim open body style. Logically enough, it was known as the 1200 Spider, for it used the 'chassis' platform of the latest 1200 saloon, along with the classic front-engine/rear-drive/live-axle layout, and the pushrod overhead valve engine of the 1200 Gran Luce. That, however, was only a start, for later in the year the same basic unit-construction shell became available with a twin-overhead-camshaft engine of 1491cc, which was a product of co-operation between Fiat and O.S.C.A. (a small specialist Modena company, owned by the Maserati brothers). Osca had designed the engine, which was built under licence by Fiat at the Mirafiori works; Osca, incidentally, bought back quantities of the engine for their own use, and for selling in very limited numbers in their own cars.
The cylinder block was of cast-iron, but the head was in light-alloy, and the widely-splayed valves were arranged Jaguar-fashion to give very efficient breathing. Unlike contemporary engines like the MGA Twin-Cam and the Ford-Lotus twin cams, the Osca unit was not a conversion, but was completely different from every other Fiat engine. Even so, the engine was never destined to be offered in any other Fiat model. Production was always somewhat limited, and twin-cam 1500S models were never built at a greater rate than 50 cars a day. The only important technical change made in the life of the model was the adoption of Girling disc brakes in 1961. At the end of 1962, the model was revised, with an enlarged twin-cam engine of 1568cc, and with the use of the pushrod engine from the latest Fiat 1500 model, and these cars carried on until 1966.
Perhaps the Fiat 1500 Cabriolet, to give the twin-cam model its full and official title, was never a roaring success in the market place because it was badged as a 'Fiat', instead of something more exotic. It had to face formidable competition in the same price and engine size brackets from the very stylish Alfa Romeo Giulietta/Giulia models, where snob appeal far outweighed the service practicalities of buying a Fiat.
However, it was an important car for Fiat, particularly later in the 1960s, for it paved the way for the enormously popular Fiat-designed twin-cam engines and sporting cars which dominated the 1970s.
Engine and transmission: Four-cylinders, in-line, with choice of engines. 1200 unit with pushrod operated overhead valve cylinder head, by Fiat. 1500S unit with twin overhead camshaft cylinder head, designed by OSCA, built by Fiat. 1200 unit: Bore, stroke and capacity, 72 X 75mm., 1221cc. Maximum power 63bhp (gross) at 5300rpm.; maximum torque 611b.ft. at 3000rpm. 1500S with twin-cam engine: Bore, stroke and capacity, 78 x 78mm., 1491cc. Maximum power 80bhp (net) at 6000rpm,; maximum torque 771b.ft. at 4000rpm. Four-speed manual gearbox in unit with engine. Hypoid bevel final drive.
Chassis: Front engine, rear drive. Unit-construction pressed-steel body/chassis unit, on Fiat 1200 Gran Luce platform. Independent front suspension by coil springs and wishbones. Worm and roller steering. Rear suspension of live axle by half-elliptic leaf springs. Four-wheel drum brakes, disc brakes from winter 1960/61.
Bodywork: Pressed-steel monocoque two-door two-seater open sports car or
notchback hardtop style, by Pininfarina. Length 13ft. 2.7in.; width 4ft. 11.9in.; height 4ft. 3.25in. Unladen weight, depending on engine, from 19851b. to 21851b.
Performance: (1221cc engine): Maximum speed 90mph. 0-60mph 19. Isec. Standing 1/4 -mile 21.0sec. Typical fuel consumption 36mpg. (1491cc twin-cam engine): Maximum speed 105mph. 0-60mph 10.6sec. Standing IA-mile 18.5sec. Typical fuel consumption 30mpg.