In the years following the Second World War, most major European carmakers realised that small cars were the need of the hour. While many of them focused just on the size, Fiat wanted to develop a car that was small and genuinely fun to drive. And it did, with the air-cooled, two-cylinder Nuova 500, which went on to achieve iconic status, and the water-cooled four-cylinder 600, which also became a huge sales success.
So when the market demanded a slightly larger car in the mid-Sixties, Fiat stuck to the same recipe that worked with the 500 and the 600. Introduced in 1964, the Fiat 850 was based on the rear-engined 600, sharing with it a lot of mechanical components, but adding larger bodywork and a 843cc four-cylinder water-cooled engine, which produced 34bhp in the Normale saloon, and 37bhp in the Super variant.
While the 850 saloon with its added practicality and performance was the bread and butter version aimed at volume sales, the model's appeal got a shot in the arm with the introduction of the Coupé and Spider versions in 1965. These variants were entirely different in styling from the saloon, with Bertone penning the lines of the two-seater roadster while the four-seater coupé was designed by Felice and Gian Carlo Boano.
Initially powered by the same engine as the saloon variants, the Coupé and the Spider got a more powerful 903cc unit from 1968 onwards, which bumped up output to 52bhp. Although not particularly quick, the additional horses, combined with the lightweight construction and independent suspension, made the sportier version of the 850 a great fun-to-drive car.
There were a few other variants of the 850 as well, like the Familiare model that replaced the 600 Multipla, and the 850 Special, which was a saloon with the coupé's engine and disc brakes.
Responding to demands from export markets for larger cars and more powerful engines, Fiat came up with cars like the 124 coupé and the X1/9, making the 850 irrelevant by the early Seventies, and production ceased for all the variants by 1974.
Since corrosion was a huge issue for these cars, getting one in pristine condition today is extremely unlikely. Even if you manage to find one in good physical shape, make sure you do a thorough check of the mechanicals, especially the cooling system, which is known to give up in very high temperatures. Well-used examples are prone to very high oil consumption, so it would be good to think about an engine rebuild as well.
Even if you do all that, the total cost won't be much in classic car terms, as a late Sixties Spider that needs some work can be had for as little as Dh25,000, while a better example should cost you anything around Dh75-80,000.