1961 Fiat-OSCA 1500S Spider
The Classic Motor Hub
1961 Fiat-OSCA 1500S Spider
The Classic Motor Hub
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This Fiat-OSCA 1500S features ‘baby Ferrari’ styling by Pinin Farina and is powered by an engine from the Maserati brothers’ OSCA concern, and therefore combines the best of Italian design and engineering. Fully restored between 2013 and 2015, it is now in immaculate condition throughout. In 2020, it was a class runner-up at the Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance – one of the most prestigious such events in the world.
The Production Record Trace Certificate shows that chassis number 118S-16042 was built in October 1961 and delivered new to its first owner in France via Simca in Paris. At the time, Fiat was still the major shareholder in Simca and the two companies shared a distribution network.
The Fiat-OSCA stayed in France for the next 11 years before being sold to a new owner in California. They would end up keeping it for more than 40 years, and after it had been treated to a meticulous nut-and-bolt rebuild, it was offered for sale at the Gooding & Co auction at Pebble Beach in 2015.
It was acquired by a UK-based enthusiast and imported across the Atlantic, and is thought to be one of fewer than 10 Type 118 Fiat-OSCA 1500S Spiders in the country. Now being offered for sale by The Classic Motor Hub, it is presented in concours condition and is beautifully sorted.
Stylish, rare and with the combined talents of Pinin Farina, OSCA and Fiat behind it, this little 1500S Spider is one of the finest remaining examples in the world. It has an impressive history file, plus a workshop manual and original instruction book, and offers the sort of effortlessly chic open-top motoring in which Italian marques specialised during the 1950s and 1960s.
At the end of the 1950s, Fiat had a pressing need to replace its slightly awkward-looking 1200 Spider. The answer came with a sharply styled new model that was penned by Pinin Farina (the company was rebranded as the single-word Pininfarina in 1961), and to go with the fresh look it was decided to offer a more sporting engine.
After leaving their eponymous car-making business, the Maserati brothers had founded OSCA in 1947 and achieved considerable success in motor racing. Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd won the 1954 Sebring 12 Hours at the wheel of an OSCA MT4, while an 1100 Coupé won its class at Le Mans in 1953.
Fiat therefore did a deal with OSCA to build its 1491cc twin-cam ‘four’ under licence, the engine reputedly being prepared for use in a production road car by none other than former Ferrari engineer Aurelio Lampredi. Breathing through a single twin-choke Weber carburettor, it gave the 1500S a top speed in excess of 100mph.
That competition-derived engine meant that the Fiat-OSCA 1500S was a cut above the standard 1500, and it would be built in much smaller numbers. When The Autocar tested one in December 1959, it noted that ‘the body is very rigid, free from any shakes or tremors’ and that ‘at speed the car is quiet and completely draught-proof’.
Its sporting character was not lost on them, either: ‘Throughout its range, the engine is very smooth… the rev counter has a red band between 6500 and 7500rpm and the lower limit was reached regularly in the intermediate gears’. After finding a suitable stretch of road, the testers wound the engine up to 6500rpm in top gear, which equated to 105mph.
Of the gearbox, it noted that ‘synchromesh is provided on the upper three ratios of the four-speed box and the change is quick, with relatively short movements.’
Disc brakes replaced the original drums early in the car’s production run, and in 1962 the OSCA engine was bored out to 1568cc – the upgrade leading to it being renamed as the 1600S. The front end was later altered, with extra spotlamps and a revised grille, before the model was replaced in 1966 by the new Fiat 124.