The ad for today’s Nice Price or No Dice Fiat 124 shows it sitting up to its hubcaps in a half-grave of dirt and weeds. That’s no way for a desirable Italian sports car to spend its days, which means we’ll have to decide its fate and maybe its freedom.
I recently learned that baby goat yoga is a thing. It’s not actually yoga for goats, but people yoga that takes place surrounded by the cute little buggers. I didn’t agree to participate but my wife did, and she claimed to have a good time. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
One thing I think we all can agree on is the universal appeal of a traditional midsize station wagon with three rows of seats and, preferably, brown paint. Yesterday’s 1990 Mercedes-Benz 300TE checked those boxes and was an all-weather 4Matic to boot. At $4,500 its price proved equally agreeable, earning the car a solid 67 percent Nice Price win.
I have a question for you: Just how much of a car or truck do you have to see before deciding whether to buy it? I ask that because a good bit of today’s Fiat Spider is concealed by Mother Earth. And while it may be protected in her warm, cosseting bosom of fertile soil, she also might just be hiding some serious issues below the surface.
Questions abound with this 124 Spider. Why is it sitting half-buried on a hillside? How long has it been there? What actually is going on down in gopher town? Unfortunately for us, the ad isn’t all that helpful. The seller notes buying the car 20 years ago and last ran it a decade later.
A few things are obvious from the pictures. First off, while it’s described as a 1978, it wears ’74 model year bumpers, body-mounted front turn signals, and push-button door latches. Should it actually be a ’74, the title transfer will be much simpler since a smog test would not be required (in California, at least).
Other clues to the car’s history include an oddly flaccid convertible top, indicating the failure of one or more of the roof bows beneath. There’s also some surface rust popping through in places that should be noted. This is a Fiat from the ’70s so the rust is to be expected.
Not so expected are the mounds of dirt that circle the car and reach up to mid- hubcap level on three sides, though the soil doesn’t appear to actually bury the car. What it seems is that the owner, or some kind-hearted passerby, has created a trough on either side of the car to channel rainwater around the undercarriage rather than beneath it. Considering that the car is presently sitting in Southern California, which is generally drier than a Prohibition-era fart, that’s probably overkill. But one can never be too safe.
On the plus side, the car appears to be complete on the outside, including a luggage rack on the trunk lid and all four hubcaps. All four tires are holding air, and all the glass seems to be intact. The seller says that pictures of the interior are forthcoming. Perhaps there were rattlesnakes surrounding the car that prevented closer pics initially?
From what we can see through the windows, there are seats and a steering wheel. That’s all we really need, right? Mileage is claimed to be 90,000 and the car has a clear title — and amazingly, a CarFax. One hopes the seller has kept it on Non-Operative status with the DMV so that any new owner won’t be hit with a ton of back registration fees.
The car is being sold “as is” and from the pictures, this is one of the strangest states of as-is-dom I’ve ever encountered. There’s no word on what it might take to get the car out of the dirt and on the road again, nor what might have been done to it since it last felt solid asphalt under its tires. Yes, you are right — this car does appear to be quite the crapshoot.
What might such an odd a roll of the dice be worth? The seller is asking $2,000 from someone who wishes to drag this lawn art off to a new home. That’s about a quarter of what a modestly decent-driving 124 Spider might cost. And while these Fiats will never be big-money cars, they should at least be able to hold value. That makes any purchase a safe bet as long as the car in question isn’t a money pit.
This one is in a literal pit, and it’s now your job to decide if it’s worth $2,000 to extract and return to the road. What do you say, could this dirt-bound Fiat command that much cash? Or, for that price, would you just let it rest in peace?
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