Martin Philippo was looking for a Fiat 850 to shoot for the article about his very first car. The 850 Coupé of Hans Halvemaan turned out to be a story of its own.
In the Autumn of 1964 Fiat introduces the 850 as the intended successor of both the legendary 600 as well as the larger 1100. The 850 is a cosy little car with a 843 cc engine that is placed longitudinally in the rear of the car. The 850 sports a cute little behind, that isn’t really needed to house the engine, hence the amount of unused space left beneath the bonnet. The little engine based on the even smaller engine of the 600 offers no more than 34 hp in these early versions. However with a sporty approach the car does pretty well in everyday traffic. Due to it’s useable size and swift performance the 850 rapidly becomes a bestseller. To cash in on its succes, Fiat quickly presents two more body styles. The Spider, designed by Bertone and the Coupé done in house. The latter sporting an elegant, sporty look, suggesting more speed than the car has on offer, despite the 47 hp Fiat manages to squeeze from the little engine. The public is soon convinced and the Spider and Coupé sell pretty well. In 1968 the engine capacity of both derivates is increased to 903 cc and it now produces 52 hp. At the same time both cars find the adjective ‘Sport’ added to their names.
One of these Sport Coupé’s becomes the first car of Hans Halvemaan. In 1971 he buys the then three year old car. In his family album Hans dressed in military outfit proudly poses in front of the Fiat. That first car eventually has to go and many cars of all sorts will follow. As it happens ever so often, that very first car is etched in the memory, so when years later an Italian import 850 Sport Coupé is offered for sale, the temptation is big. It’s simply unavoidable. The vendor is payed a visit, a test drive is arranged. Ria, Hans’ wife recalls: ‘That smile on his face said it all. The adolescent deep inside Hans came straight back to the surface. It just had to be this car. We even had to circle the roundabout we crossed during the test drive twice, just to re-live that great feeling of the time.’
Hans has owned the car for quite some years now, but he still loves to take it for a spin. Locally, but touring with clubs as well. They even take the car on vacation. ‘I think I drive it for 3.500 to 4.000 km a year. It’s used regularly, which it can take easily. We share the experience, my wife and I.’ The 850 is cherished, that much is obvious. Leaving his hometown Leiden for a house and garage somewhere else says it all. Being able to see the car every single day. Hans likes to go down to his workshop, just to start the engine and enjoy the smell of warm engine oil.
Together they rack up quite the mileage, but what is enjoyed most is the contacts with other classic car owners. Preferably the conversations that do not concern the technique, but those about how every single one of them enjoys his vehicle, how they live their classics. This feeling the classic car lifestyle is what makes owning such a car the most pleasant thing. Passers by telling about the role a little Fiat just like it used to play in their families, just like it did and does again in Ria’s and Hans’ household. The classic car as a binding factor. The Fiat 850 Sport Coupé as first love as well as in the rebound, what else could you wish for?