Half a century on and the new Fiat 124 Spider will deliver modern style and modern performance, mixed with a blast of freedom and fun straight from the 60s.
Fans of sporty two-seaters will immediately notice similarities between the new Spider and the much-loved Mazda MX-5, a motoring icon and the world's best-selling roadster. In fact the similarities with the Japanese sports car are more than skin deep. The Fiat 124 Spider shares a wheelbase with the MX-5 and will be built at Mazda's assembly plant in Hiroshima.
In terms of exterior styling however, the Spider boasts chic Italian lines and seductive contours. Big and bold LED headlights sit either side of the striking grille. Rectangular LED taillights at the rear of the car sit flush with the sides of the roadster, accentuating its curves. A simple opening and closing mechanism allows the soft-top roof to be lowered or raised by hand in seconds, ensuring the great outdoors always close at hand. Fiat has worked hard to reduce cabin noise with the roof up, turning to an acoustic front windshield, insulated instrument panel and thickened rear glass to cut out wind, road and engine noise.
The 124 Spider will be available in two trim levels, Classica and Lusso. The former will offer features including halogen daytime running lights, 16-inch aluminium wheels, dual stainless exhaust tips, and a leather steering wheel and gear knob. A range of colour schemes will be available at launch, including Meteor Grey, Aluminium Metallic, Jet Black and Arctic White.
The Lusso swaps the manual gearbox for a six-speed automatic transmission and adds larger 17-inch wheels. The front of the model comes with fog lights plus automatic headlights and rain-sensing windscreen wipers. Finishings include chrome exhaust tips and stainless steel scuff plates. The cabin offers heated leather sports seats and automatic temperature control, with dual zone available as an optional extra.
There will also be a special Anniversary limited edition model available at launch.
At the heart of the Spider is an Italian-built 1.4-litre turbocharged MultiAir powertrain, capable of developing 160bhp and 184lb-ft of torque. Pulse-quickening acceleration off the line is guaranteed. Helping to create a dynamic driving experience is a double-wishbone front suspension setup, combined with multi-link rear suspension.
The new 124 Spider comes equipped with the latest automotive technology. Its Fiat Connect system features a seven-inch TFT screen, allowing clear and easy access to the car's audio system and critical controls. The system also comes with an AM/FM radio, MP3 player and six speakers. Additional connectivity options include two USB ports, an auxiliary input and an SD card reader. A multimedia control knob ensures it's simple to access the correct settings quickly and safely while on the move. Thanks to Bluetooth connectivity, the driver will also be able to take calls and stream music without lifting a finger. Optional extras range from GPS navigation to a SiriusXM satellite radio.
Of course, with the roof down and the wind in your hair, it's not always going to be that easy to get the best out of your music collection. For that reason, Fiat has made available a top-of-the-range nine-speaker Bose audio system that's able to provide sufficient power and clarity even when you're enjoying some open-air cruising. In addition, two headrest speakers have been built into the driver and passenger seats to enhance the experience.
While Fiat seems to have kept its focus on developing a rear-wheel roadster that provides a straightforward and exhilarating ride, the manufacturer has not skimped when it comes to safety features on the new 124 Spider. During the launch event in Los Angeles at the end of last year, Fiat made a point of recognising the fact that convertible buyers are looking for the same level of safety as other drivers.
Speaking at the event, Fiat's chief marketing officer Olivier François said: "We've made a massive commitment to safety. This is a car that will be sold to a wide variety of consumers and safety is as much of a deal as it was with the 500X."
To begin with, the model features a high-strength steel safety frame. Crumple zones are included to ensure that as much energy as possible is absorbed in the event of a collision, and that it's directed away from the driver and passenger. A four-airbag safety system also features as standard in order to help minimise opportunities for injuries if the vehicle is involved in a crash.
As well as passive safety features, the 124 Spider is also available with state-of-the-art active driver assistance systems. For example, a blind spot monitoring system is available to sound an alert when a vehicle enters the driver's blind spot zone. ParkSense Rear Park Assist+ is another feature designed to minimise the chances of bumps and scrapes by warning the driver of objects behind the vehicle when reverse gear is selected.
The new Fiat 124 Spider is expected to arrive at Pentagon showrooms towards the end of this year, with prices and exact specs for UK models to be confirmed nearer the time. You'll be able to get updates on the model's forthcoming release by speaking to a member of the Pentagon team. Alternatively, pay a visit to your nearest showroom in Keighley, Barnsley or Huddersfield to take a closer look at the current range of Fiat models on sale.