This sad looking Kermit coloured ’71 Fiat 850 sport Coupe once was a star in the Fiat Car Club owned by many, won more trophies than any other car in the clubs history! Before it was smashed into a concrete barrier at a 90′s AEM Classic Rally then repaired and painted in that hideous colour by a guy who actually loved it!
This trip down memory lane has to start with a Finnish Rally driver Ben Jarvanin, we meet him thru the Fiat Car club being invited to the Mundaring Autocross in the mid-80′s, he campaigned the 850 in the Light Car Club (it was a lovely deep Red!)under the Group-G category, yes this used to be a C.A.M.S log booked Group-G rally Car! Getting to know Ben we found he was hell-bent on getting more power from the original tiny 903cc push-rod Engine by using monster size cam grinds and boring it almost into the water jackets! don’t laugh he got the capacity out to almost 1100cc , when it was going it went and sounded fantastic! Ben wanted more power and speed so after it broke down again sold the 850 to me and purchased a Ford Escort. I bought the rally car minus a motor and looking abit worst for ware, but it did come with Paddy Hopkirk seats, adjustable Spax gas shocks all-round, copper water pipes from engine bay to radiator now mounted up front (Torana 4cyl) and many enjoyable meals with Ben and his lovely wife Cathy at their Rolleystone home!
Getting it home to Dianella assessing ,reading the “FAZA Bible” over and over with a friend Rod Randall while drinking far too much coffee made some plans, striping it back to metal ,resprayed in ”Ferrari” Red (I was young!) not the original deep Blood Red as it should have been(and will be again!),then rushing out to buy a brand new set of original Fiat Cromodora 13×5.5″ magnesium rims in the box, from the old Ital-spares in Osborne park and puting 185/60-13 Toyo 600′s , repairing the wiring to the head lights that fried (Italian electrics!) then taking the fresh but basic 903cc (100GBC) motor Daniel had built for my 850 Special(sedan) earlyer ,along with swapping out the Sport Coupe diff’ for the 850 Special lower diff ratio gave much quicker acceleration. Having a spare set of 165/70-13 Toyo “mud and snow” tyres on Globe Bathurst 5spoke alloy rims from a previous Fiat or two ,gave this rear engined Fiat a hard to beat name at FCC Autokhanas if it was a loose surface ,like the gravel at Moolabeeni (WW2 Air strip) Bullsbrook or in the dirt and clay at “Eadine” Clackline farm! after a couple of years wanted more power like Ben, so swapped the red 850 for a Twin-cam Fiat 125 Special Mk-2 with my brother Daniel, or Danno as he was known ,yeh that’s below the belt, but he did some real improvements while he owned her, rear disc brake conversion for starters,using Fiat 125 rear calipers and adapting to suit the 850 trailing arms and the inverted leaf spring mounted to the gearbox and limiting the movement of the rear arms to the vertical, stopping the positive camber VW type problem of the car wanting to swap ends in corners, when you back off the power. After a couple of years again I bought it back and then went the full monty on the original Fiat block, by binning the 5port push-rod head and mounting a Suzuki SOHC head from the first model 4stroke 4×4 (FJ80), only by mistaking that Suzuki head gasket for the Fiat gasket with Mike from Premier Motors did we end up doing this conversion, Neil from what was Head Exchange in West Perth whom I had known and trusted for some time , listened to my wild idea and direction need to go, slightly modified my direction but kept my idea and made it work (the FIAZUKI was born!), while I was on a roll got them to alloy weld a twin DCOE Carby manifold to suit, then a Cosworth cam grind from Camshaft Engineering in Osbourne park, this semi-standard little 903cc Fiat block with Suzuki head and twin DCOE40 webers now spinning anticlockwise the 850 direction, went from the original 48hp to whopping 114hp and sounded like a Ducati motorbike!! this power to weight ratio was good for taking on a standard Fiat 1800 124 sports and beating them in a straight line! ……and nothing came close on loose surface Autokhanas !
I again sold this Fantastic Fiat 850 SOHC (silly me!)to Nick Cunnington and bought a rusty Fiat x1/9 to repair and modify (space frame rear 1500c twin dcoe45s and 145Bhp), but then lost touch with what happened with/and to the mighty 850 and the Fiat Car Club a little time later, only to know he sold it and the club went into decline, not sure if Nick sold to David Hay directly or to another first but David was very enthusiastic about the 850 and the “Painter of the Green”, having used the car extensively over the years to a warn-out state and getting a write-up in the “Sunday Times” for owning it. He then sold it to Wayne Pavey, again not sure if directly ,I think Wayne was looking at parting it out and using the power-plant in a 600! However a phone call to me and a quick trip to a Midland factory unit, this covered in green, beaten-up run down peice of local motoring history finally made it back home to me for a rest, so no rush I’ve only owned it for years sitting out the front of my Malaga workshop and at home since then, anyway a restoration of this scale is going to take some serious time, at this time only buying of remake parts!
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Action? Race seats are in Manjimup now being done in black leather with Italian flag colours down the centre like “deck chair” stripes ,a original set of Fiat Cromadora 13×5.5″ wheels from Paul have been bought and refurbed, along with a New set of “Gold Superlites” in 13×6 and rear 13×7 from Paul’s tyre shop – Tyrepower in Willetton, to make it just as it was! Many hard to get bits imported from Mr Fiat in the U.S www.mrfiat.com/ ,the new old stock Gauges and MoMo “Prototipo” steering wheel with Abarth horn button from eBay Italy, the Ford Escort Mk-1 front spoiler as used when it was Red, from eBay Australia and the Stainless Muffler like last time to replace those cheap and ugly “Hot Dogs” also fron eBay Aust’, several 850 sport coupes in various condition have been purchased to get the bits needed to redo’ this classic, all ready to go when body rust is done and the car is painted Red again!
Update 28/1/2013 – car on hoist for inspection and planning , view all rust and dodgy work(red painted springs and swaybars? and unprep’ grey spray paint over red block flaking off!, crappy “hotdog” mufflers welded on an angle, but I have viewed a good upgrade done by other owner/s unknown , red urethane bushes to all suspension front and rear , only rust is in the front left floor to wheel arch, unbelievable condition under body for a ex-rally car used by many!
Update 21/2/2013 – found original Suzuki head gasket first used to see if this was a go! Pictures of the Y10A over the 100GBc head gasket show the gap in line-up of headbolds at either end of the gasket, problem was solved by upgrading from the tiny Fiat to the larger Suzuki headbolds and offset drilling and tapping new threads.Also the water galleries do line up but a face weld and re-drill fixed that!
Update 10/2013 – Kermit when refurbished will be driven by Benny in the “Round the houses” series with the VSCC if the age conditions are met, we hope to finish this alondside the “Mosta” for me and race at the same events! …Go Benny!