Fulvia Choices – Down To Two, Red vs Blue

There’s a lot of text and a LOT of photos here. It’s basically me trying to figure out my own thoughts on these two Australian Fulvias. Feel free to climb inside my mind.

I’ve been looking at Fulvias for a few months and I’m coming to a point where a decision is warranted – which one do I pursue?

The situation has changed a little since I last wrote about Fulvias. Another car has come on to the market here in Australia. We’ll it’s returned to the market. This car was sold on Ebay a few weeks ago but the sale fell through so it’s now available once again.

With two Fulvias available in Australia, the overseas options are temporarily shifted to the sidelines. So let’s take a closer look at these Australian cars and perhaps you can help me choose.


1968 Fulvia in Red

I was watching this car when it sold on Ebay a few weeks ago. I didn’t bid on it because there were a few things that concerned me at the time. First, the seller told me a couple of things on the phone that weren’t mentioned in the ad – like the fact that the spare parts would only come with the car if it reached a certain price. I didn’t think that was fair.

I had a friend take a look over the car and there were some things about its condition that weren’t mentioned in the ad, either. Some (possibly) questionable body work and a reasonable size oil stain at the bottom of the engine bay.

Back when the car was on Ebay, I mentioned on this site that I wouldn’t be surprised if the sale fell through because the car was not described correctly in the ad. It seems that’s come to pass so it’s back on the market again.

Lars (my test-driving friend) took a bunch of photos for me, which are included in the gallery below. I think the car will need some work but it’s basically OK. I’m more wary of the seller.

Here’s the first gallery of photos, the ones featured in the Ebay ad.

As with all these galleries, please click to enlarge.

It looks pretty sweet there, right?

It’s been done up to look like a HF rally car. It’s not a HF. It’s a regular 1.3 Rallye with a some flares, wheels and stickers. I’d remove the stickers but I’m happy with the flares and the wheels. In fact, the flares, wheels and steering wheel are very attractive items and they’re difficult and expensive to replace. That’s one of the attractions of this car.

It runs OK, too. My friend Lars had a chance to drive it. As expected, the engine note was totally addictive but it also got down the road OK. It’s not fast – Fulvias are more about carrying speed than acceleration – but it’ll keep up with traffic OK.

Lars also took some extra photos and sent them to me. These photos show the real condition of the car, the details that the photos from the ad don’t show you. In this collection you’ll see some cracks in the paintwork (not really OK, but indicative of some poor preparation or worse), some faint surface rust (OK), some cracks in some of the interior surfaces (understandable), some oily bits at the bottom of the engine bay (to be checked) and some missing window seals (not great).

My thoughts on the red Fulvia:

I like the stance of the car and the wheels, flares and steering wheel are very desirable accessories. It’s likely I’d look for those down the track anyway so getting them on the car from the get-go is a bonus.

The seats are from a Subaru but the seller says that he has the original seats and seat belts. The original seats need refurbishment.

It runs but the engine will need to be looked at to determine the cause of the leak.

I’m getting Lars and a friend of his (bodywork expert) to take another look, focusing on the integrity of the subframe. If it checks out, I think this’ll be a car that could be used with minimal attention while saving up for the fiddly bits that’ll need to be addressed down the track.

Having said all that, I’m quite wary of the seller and therefore I worry about what secrets this car might hold.

I reckon this car could be bought for a figure in the mid-teens. Around $15,000 should do it and that should also secure a bunch of spare parts that the seller has. The problem is that it’s proving hard to get that list of spare parts out of the seller so I don’t even know what to expect as far as the parts are concerned (the seller’s not the easiest bloke to deal with).

Thankfully I’m buying the car and not a relationship with the seller. It’s tricky, but I think the car’s worth the investigation.


1967 Fulvia in Blue

I told this car’s story on site here just a few days ago:

This Fulvia Coupe has an interesting history – if only it could be verified. The owner’s story goes like this….

He bought the car in the early 1980′s and it had been off the road for 5 years at that point. He’s never registered it, either. It still has the registration sticker from the last year it was on the road legally, in 1977. The owner was young and moved around a lot for work in country Victoria, so never got to work on the car as he wanted to. Time passed, he got married and had kids. The car has been sitting in his in-laws’ garage for nearly 15 years now in non-rusty Canberra. He claims the mileage – just 22,000kms – is genuine.

Unfortunately, none of this is documented. It’d be a great low-mileage history and I don’t doubt the truth of it when it comes from his mouth, but in order to form part of the car’s history when it passes from one owner to another, you need to be able to back it up. That old registration sticker is about as good as the proof gets.

I took a look at this car myself while visiting Canberra a few weeks ago. The car hasn’t been started in 10 years. It hasn’t been registered for 36 years!!

That means there’s a hell of a lot of work to do. The seller is a very nice guy who I’m not wary of at all. He swears black and blue that the engine is absolutely fine. He even mentioned some work being done to the engine but I didn’t get the timeframe for that. Bottom line, though, an engine that hasn’t run in 10 years is going to need some work and if you go into a purchase like this thinking otherwise, you’re kidding yourself. Then there’s the brakes, all the plumbing, the suspension, etc, etc.

Thankfully the interior’s in fantastic condition with the seats having accommodated absolutely no-one since they were refurbished some time ago. They look sensational.

Time for the photo gallery:

My thoughts on the blue Fulvia….

There’s a hell of a lot to like about this car and there’s a lot that frustrates me. It has a great backstory and low mileage, although that history is totally undocumented. You have to hope that it’s non-use over the years would come through as being genuine in the restoration.

I would hope that this car could be bought for under $10,000. There’s most likely $20,000 worth of work to be done. The seller wants a price in the low teens, but I don’t think that’s a fair representation of the work that has to be done.

What really appeals to me is the romance of this car. It’s basically been without any meaningful purpose for more than 30 years. The idea of bringing it to life again and learning about these wonderful cars in the process is a very, very appealing idea.

The downside is that that’s going to take some time and a whole lot of money. I’d like to drive something in the near term.


If you’ve got this far, congratulations and thankyou.

Both are genuine options and I need to figure out which one I’m going to pursue more aggressively this week.

I’m drawn by the blue car’s story and I’m wary of the red car’s owner, but then the red car is set up almost exactly as I’d like to set up a Fulvia myself. And while the red car will need attention to the body down the track, it’s basically a driveable proposition right now (albeit with a little oil leak to attend to). The blue car will need a lot of work but I think the payoff for that work will be huge – a genuine low kms car that you’ve basically brought back from the dead. I really like that idea, even if I lack the skills right now to bring it to fruition myself.

Your thoughts would me most welcome in comments.

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  1. I agree with your thoughts in general, but I’d say you are essentially buying a guaranteed blue bucket o’ trouble if you opt for the Victorian car.
    How can the seller know the engine is OK after a minimum of ten years non-running? You can almost guarantee that every oil seal will need replacing. The wheel bearings will be shot, so will the brakes, master cylinder and callipers. Add a water pump, radiator, heater core, plus some hidden rust, and you will not get change from $15K, I’d reckon.
    Either way, the engines of both cars will probably need to come out.
    If these are your only choices, get the red one, plus as many of the original spares as you can.

  2. To be honest I’d walk away from both of them. Too many unknowns and what ifs. Plus from what you say I wouldn’t buy a sandwich from the first guy let alone a car with cracks in the paint work.
    You are a logical and intelligent fellow Swade but IMHO you may be in danger of letting your heart rule your head with this one.

    1. Steve, if I thought only with my head I’d buy nothing but a Prius. Cars are pretty much the only area nowadays where my heart gets a look in. I’m trying to be as prudent and analytical as I can, but if it were only a matter of head over heart there’d be no historic car market out there at all.

      It may well be that I leave both of them alone, that I leave Fulvias alone. But I’m far too drawn to the character of older cars to leave them alone.

      1. Good point, sometimes we need to feed our hearts desires. All I’m saying is it might be prudent to wait for the right one who will totally win your heart rather than jumping straight into bed, so to speak, with the least worse of two old slappers that happen to be available now, getting burnt and regretting it for years. Just think if you dive in and its a disaster you may miss the car of your dreams later because your logical side will say ‘never again’.
        I have to say if I was tempted it would be the Alfa but the price would put me off.
        Good luck whatever you decide to do.

  3. You know the little detail that bothers me with the red car?, It is the flywire plastic inserts that have been pushed into the window rubbers. Not good. The proper mylar.chrome trim is missing and whoever did the last body refurb took short cuts. So what else did they skimp on…? Young paint on an old body is almost worse than the original being in poor nick. You wont know until you start sanding it back one day. And then you will need to take a good lie down.

    1. Me again,
      The ‘Blue Guy’ you need to take on face value. What other evidence is there? The ‘Red Guy’ plainly irritates you. And you baulked at the car the first time. So did another guy who saw the car didn’t live up to its promise or pricetag. To me the Blue car is close to being a Barn-Find….which is why you are having that reaction to it. Head versus Heart. Tricky.

      1. To my limited knowledge, the only documented evidence as to the car’s off-the-road story is the 1977 rego sticker on the window. It’s genuine (I remember them from my childhood). I also spent 4 or 5 hours with Mr Blue and aside from his hesitance about the need for a rebuild (he seems to think it’ll be fine), he’s a genuine guy.

        As to the red car, I’d have to speak to the person who walked from the Ebay sale to find out why. Not gonna happen. I’ve got my own theories based on what I know of its condition, though. It’s good but not as he advertised it.

        But this would be a matter of differentiating between the car and its owner. Seeing the car for what it is rather than how he’s advertising it. If I can satisfy myself as to its condition and get a deal that suits, that would be OK.

        1. So one of the major factors is the drive-away capability? The red car actually goes is more important ?

          1. The blue car has been in a bingle at some point I think. Not major but it has been refinished in a shade of blue that is slightly lighter than what is under the bonnet. Not a high quality job in its day either. The red scuff marks are primer, probably spray on filler putty from 1975 onwards, in the one pack acrylic era. The whole paintwork is crazed, with crow’s feet etc, being either nitrocellulose or early acrylic one pack. So the body needs lots of TLC. Lots.
            Radiator looks like a rat has eaten it. $600 just to get another in there before you can start it.
            Red is looking better now.

  4. I’m with SteveW. I’d walk away from them both. The red one sounds dodgy and the blue one, as described by others, will require huge amounts of time, money and labour to return a purpose to it, as romantic as that idea seems.

  5. The best Fuliva’s in my experience were built in Dieppe, France around 2007 – 2008 with two litre turbo engines……

  6. The blue car certainly looks tired. I think you’re right, there’s a lot of money to be spent, probably not even remotely in proportion to the pleasure it will give you – it would be consuming. It looks like a huge task. As you’re aware I’m also interested in there cars, and this one in particular seems like such an intriguing prospect, but I don’t think I’d go near it for unless it was less than half the price wanted, and even then I’d be very cautious. It’d take a long long time to get it on the road, and all you’d want to do is drive it. Unless you have the skills yourself, I think it’s too much work.

    The red car is something you can drive now, but that really sounds like the only major plus! $15k might be reasonable but if the seller is difficult it’s usually a sign of something not being up to snuff.

    At this point I feel I have to agree with others – you might need to be patient and either wait for a car to come up in auction, or to consider overseas options once more. In all my experience buying cars, I’ve often wished I’d waited and held back until I really knew enough about the market. So take your time.

  7. G’day Swade, one question…..has the blue car been kept under cover for all those years? It looks better than the red one. I add this caution with the experience of the Cressida I own. It is a genuine low km car that was owned by Andrea’s Grandmother. 25yrs old and it hasn’t even done 90,000kms! This presented some problems. Because of the lack of use, short trips and constant cold starts, it burns oil. Most of the damage done to engines is in the start-up when cold. You may need at the very least sometime in the not to distant future a reconditioned head and radiator, especially if the owner has only done the occasional start and run. The brake and transmission fluids were disgusting and I had them flushed twice! The bearings might need replacing if they have been unused for many years. Apart from that, you may get a really good car. My car has been really good, although Cressida’s do have a better reputation for reliability. I guess the big question is, if you don’t buy it, will it be an opportunity missed to own a genuine low km car? I doubt that the current owner has wound the clock back although it is hard to say what previous owners have done without a service history!

    1. The car has lived in Canberra for the last 20 years (approx). Canberra’s very dry anyway but it’s also been under cover that whole time in a garage. The owner’s had the car since 1982 and it’d been off the road for 5 years before that, hence the 1977 rego sticker.

      The radiator will definitely need doing but the engine’s internals should be OK. Gaskets and hoses will be the main problem, I think.

    1. That’s a fair point, Neil, and one that’s been in the back of my mind throughout this adventure.

      There are a few reasons why I think this situation is different, however.

      First and foremost, the cost of entry into this area pretty much compels me to making sure the end result is worthwhile. The 99T cost me next-to-nothing so when the too-hard basket was presented as an option due to lack of support both locally and in terms of parts networks, etc, it was a relatively easy choice to make. The car had a next home to go to (and is still there, albeit dormant) so it’s not like I had the guilt of a crusher weighing down on me.

      And that segues nicely into the second part – there’s a very good support network and parts network in place for Fulvias. I have a good local guy who’s got one himself and there are specialists in Europe and the US who offer what would be, in the Saab world, very hard-to-get parts. It’s not the support of a 105 Alfa, that’s for sure, but its there and pretty well established.

      And finally, I’m in a much better position time-wise and finance-wise. And that helps a lot when you’re a) learning, and b) likely going to have to hire the expertise of others.

  8. I think that both cars are in poor shape. Neither one is worth the asking price, which is that of a running, sorted car.

    The red one actually looks in worse shape to my eyes. Those cracks tell me that something very bad is going on. Mind you, I am looking at this with Canadian eyes: over here, the cracks would be a sign of terminal chassis rust issues. They could be normal wear and tear outside of the rust belt.

    I think that either car will need a complete refresh. Given this assessment (and I could be wrong), the blue one is the better bet because it’s more original.
    The red car looks neglected, so it’s going to require just as much mechanical attention as the blue car. In other words, you will end-up fixing just as many parts on the red car within the first year, but they will come up every few weeks rather than all at once.

    I would ask a body man (or woman) to look at the blue car and assess its condition. A professional will tell you right away what’s original and what’s been messed-with.

  9. Swade,

    I’ve noticed that you don’t mention Eddins Moto anywhere on Swadeology (eddinsmoto.com/id143.htm). It’s surely a must-read for anybody considering a Fulvia.

    1. that’s a brilliant site. If only it didn’t add to the romance of it all so much, I might be able to think about something else…!

  10. As you probably know, buying a classic is always a (big) risk. You never what is under the paint, window seals etc., neither can you look through a engine or gearbox. You will only know for sure the state of the car when you rebuilt it yourself or when a VERY trustworthy company did it. Since you are looking for an oldtimer, I suppose you are willing to this risk. I did it 3 years ago and I am still very happy with my fulvia coupe.

    I do not agree with was is been said above on the red one. The absence of the chrome inserts in the window seals is probably done because the HF’s (at least the second and third series) had a black rubber strip instead of the chrome insert in the window seals. I have seen many fulvia’s up close and my experience is that cracks and some rust are inevitably part of a fulvia and classic cars in general, unless the had a ‘body-off’ restoration/rebuilt a couple years ago. So, that is not something to worry about to much. In northern europe a car in that condition will do about 10 to 12 k in euros, I would not pay much more. You know for sure you will get some surprises with the car in the (near) future.

    The blue one really interests me, basically for its originality. You won’t be able to drive it soon, but it looks totally original to me and it might even be the original paint. Each car uses to run sometime, but that is not much worth after 3 to 5 years or more of neglect. It will need a total rebuilt and a lot of welding. The hole / gap at the right side under, directly behind the subframe mounting is a indication of severe rust damage to the construction of the body. If you have the skills and the means of doing that properly or the funds to let some do it properly I would buy that one, if it is affordable (say 3-4k, maybe 5).

    It is a little long reply, sorry. In short, if you have the means to restore the blue one properly buy that one and you’ll have a car that will makes you happy and is reliable for the rest of your live. Otherwise, if the red comes at and reasonable price and it drives ok, you can buy it as well.
    P.S. it is an advice from a long distance, if you pay my ticket, I am happy to come to australia to drive with the red one and give a better advice

    1. Thanks Hugo. A voice of experience. I appreciate your thoughts and am thinking along the same lines. Sorry, but I can’t afford the airfare 🙂

      1. Haha, unfortunately, I would have liked to come over, especially since I have some family in Tasmania…

        Anyway, back to cars, fulvia’s precisely. You should definitely buy one. They are unbelievable nice cars to drive if they are in good condition. Probably like no other classic car. Working on these cars professionally for three to four days a week, I love them each day more. It just a beautiful car, extremely overbuilt quality mechanics and after some time you’ll find that is more beautiful than a alfa gt. The style and quality of Lancia before Fiat bought it, is unparalleled by 90% of the cars of those days.

        Reading all your text and the comments, there is one question. Can you do or afford the rebuilt of the blue one? If so, do it!

        Otherwise, you might even consider to try to get the blue one at a low price, you’ll have a fabulous interior and all parts to built a RDH first series from a LHD first series, it will give you much more possibilities for finding a good one. This will only make sense if you can talk the seller into a low price, since the car is stationary for so long and the condition is that bad, I wouldn’t consider that a rip off.

    2. No such thing as a third series HF, and the second series HF has the chrome surround. I believe the 1.3HF had no chrome, and as that is the car he is trying to replica, I believe this is the reason he has not put the surround in.
      Looking at your photos and further research into the res car, I wouldn’t touch either to be honest.
      Patience will be key.

      1. As noted in the text:

        “It’s been done up to look like a HF rally car. It’s not a HF. It’s a regular 1.3 Rallye with a some flares, wheels and stickers.”

        I’m under no illusions as to which model it is. It’s just a dressed up 1.3 Rallye, but I like the HF stance, even if I’m not a big fan of the decals, etc.

  11. I’d honestly avoid both – the red car looks to be a bomb with a shiny exterior, whilst the blue one looks to be more honest but isn’t much better. You’d be better off buying that one from SA – or waiting and buying one that doesn’t need as much money spent fixing things as it cost to buy.

    1. I had a guy in Johannesburg look over the two cars available in South Africa. Both were to be avoided due to structural concerns (which are the unseen but most important part of checking out a Fulvia). Both these cars are better than the ones in SA.

      Not sure why the red car’s to be regarded as a bomb just yet. It has a somewhat less than forthcoming owner but the car itself is pretty honest once you look into it. It’ll need some bodywork down the track and there’s some oily bits that’ll need attending straight away. Both are observable from the pics.