The new Fiat 124 Spider is really a Miata in disguise. If you like your cars out in the open then maybe this Nice Price or Crack Pipe original 124 project will be more your cup of tea. That is, if its price isn’t hiding anything.

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Do you think that pop-up headlights work on four-door sedans? I don’t mean sliding or pivoting covers like on an old Town Car or Imperial, but the actual now you see ‘em, now you don’t ones in a sloping hood like on Jean Tastevin’s otherwise awesome Monica or a mid-eighties Accord. I think that like Congress, they don’t work at all.

Fortunately, that’s a moot point with yesterday’s 1983 Toyota Celica Supra. That was a hatchback two-door and the pop up lights on that form work just fine. Something else that apparently worked in its favor was its price, which earned the tidy GT a resounding 83% Nice Price win.

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Okay, what do we say? No, not ‘hold my beer,’ that comes later. No, our mantra here is ‘never buy someone else’s project.’ Doing so means you are dealing with questionable workmanship, choices that aren’t your own, and the emasculating admission that you can’t/don’t wanna do it yourself. Try using that as a line at the local single’s bar, and see what it gets you.

What however, if you could pick up your own project. Oh sure, no Jalop will ever buy it from you, but why would you sell something that you have put your own sweat, money, and perhaps even your own poor choices into? Would you ever even consider getting to that point in the first place?

Before you answer that, have a look at a practical example of this quandary, a 1978 Fiat 124 Spider, and then decide if this is how you might want to spend your time. I will sit out the debate as I am already armpit deep in questionable project cars and so my fate is predestined.

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Like most small-ish Italian sports cars the Fiat 124 Sport Spider shared its mechanicals with a stodgy and upright sedan sister, but with sexy Tom Tjaarda-designed Pininfarina bodywork. Another plus is a one-hand operable convertible top made for blissful summer evenings after the sun has bid adieu, and the passing air is filled with jasmine and backyard barbecue.

This ’78 has all the bonafides you could want—on paper. It sports a DOHC four cylinder engine, a five-speed stick shift, disc brakes all around and that sexy-cool bodywork you’re envisioning yourself cruising in all summer long.

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Well, maybe not all summer long because as we discussed, this is a project car. In fact, while it does apparently crank, it doesn’t presently start.

A moment about that engine too. The ad says that it’s a 2.0, but also that the car is a ‘78. The 2-litre didn’t make an appearance until ‘79 so either the car is a year younger than claimed, or (based on the hood bulges) the engine is really a 1,756-cc unit.

What it does comes with for sure is a tired coat of red primer, and there are spots of road rot on the doors and front fender. Look, let’s be honest, this is an Italian car over the age of 10 minutes, so of course there’s going to be rust. You just have to keep the red tide at bay and that’s not all that tough.

The interior looks pretty rough but eminently serviceable. Cleaning it should be a breeze too as a lot of the parts are already outside the car. The top is as rumpled as honeymooners’ bedsheets but should do until a suitable replacement is found.

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That in fact, seems to be the case with most all of this car, that it might just do until each little subsystem can be addressed and tidied up. Get it running, slap some new meats on the factory steelies (which have all four covers), and clean it up a bit. That might be all it takes to start enjoying it. Then take a week to use the car to learn basic bodywork, another to address that interior, and a few more to take care of the niggling bits.

There’s no shame in driving an in-process project car. In fact, it’s almost a badge of honor. And it’s your project. Yes, you!

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To make this Fiat your project you’d need to come up with $1,295 and probably one of those two-wheel dollies from the U-Haul. What do you think about that price for this project, does that seem like a good place to start? Or, does this Fiat seem too far gone for that kind of cash?

You decide!

Harrisburg PA Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

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H/T to Kinja-less Erin for the hookup!

Help me out with NPOCP. Click here to send a me a fixed-price tip, and remember to include your Kinja handle.