From the moment the first pictures were issued, it was obvious the Fiat Coupé was special, thanks to its distinctive Chris Bangle styling, and colour-coded interior dashboard trim. Thanks to the highly-tuned 20-valve Turbo engine, the Coupe could happily hit 155mph, makign it the fastest front-driving production car of the time.
Forget about Fiat’s reputation for producing rapidly dissolving greats; the Coupé is as durable as its contemporaries and generally a lot more interesting. Stylish and very usable, any well-kept Coupé is also an absolute blast to drive, despite the power going to the front wheels.
The Coupé is also surprisingly cheap to run, as long as you seek out a decent independent specialist. Even better, you can do a lot of the maintenance yourself, keeping running costs to an absolute minimum; what’s important is that you buy a car that’s been cared for as it’s essential that the oil is changed every 6000 miles.
Which one to buy?
Coupes respond very well to modifications, and it can be all too tempting for owners to go spoil the car’s natural composure. Most modifications are unnecessary, although with increased power, bigger brakes are an absolute must.
If you do decide to take the plunge, the most sought after editions are the Limited Edition models. Limited Edition spec was made standard on all cars built after August 1999, however Turbo Plus spec added a more aggressive bodykit. It’s these that are already the most collectible, but buy a good example of any cherished Coupé and you’re unlikely to lose money on it, as the sporty Fiat has already hit rock bottom in terms of values, with good ones already starting to appreciate.
Performance and spec
Fiat Coupé 2.0 Turbo 20v
Engine 1998cc, five-cylinder
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Power 220 bhp @ 5750rpm
Torque 229lb ft @ 2500rpm
Insurance Group 19
Top speed 155mph
Dimensions and weight
• Rust shouldn’t be an issue but crash damage might be, so check all the body panels for large or inconsistent gaps, as well as rust, the latter betraying poor crash repairs.
• On earlier Coupés, lift the boot carpet and check for corrosion along the seam where the floor meets the wheelarches. It’s down to leaking boot seals; fixing the leaks is easy enough, but sorting out any welding can be tricky. Water ingress through poorly mounted Pininfarina badges low down on the rear flanks can also cause unseen corrosion. Restoration costs often outweigh the value of the car, so if it has had any welding check the quality of the work.
• The 1995cc four-cylinder unit in early Coupés is similar to the Lancia Integrale Evo 2’s. Properly serviced it’s reliable, but the camshafts wear, while the oil cooler pipes below the radiator can corrode and fail with catastrophic consequences.
• Many cars still feature factory-fitted coolant cap and hoses, and they’re starting to fail. Cam cover gaskets on the 1995cc engine can also leak.
• On 20v models, look for leaks from the nearside rear corner of the cam cover. The cover bolts get over-tightened, but the covers can be repaired. The most common problem, especially with 20v cars, is a failed thermostat. This normally fails in the open position and results in a slow warm up and cool running, with resultant high fuel consumption. Replacement is simple and cheap.
• The 1998cc five-cylinder engine is generally found in turbocharged form; it’s tough but exhaust manifold cracks are common between cylinders four and five. Listen for ticking when starting from cold; the crack closes up once the manifold is hot.
• Blue exhaust smoke at idle betrays a worn turbo, caused by failure of the oil seals. If replacing a turbo, go for a later unit with a stronger bearing.
• The four-cylinder engine needs a fresh cam belt every 36,000 miles or three years; the five-pot engine needs a new belt every 50,000 miles or five years. Officially this means removing the engine, but a decent specialist can do the job with it in situ. The auxiliary belts are another weakness; they should be inspected every six months and changed every 24,000 miles or two years.
• Clutch slave cylinders can leak or seize, the latter leading to a heavy or stiff pedal, but replacement is cheap and easy. Of more concern is a slipping clutch, as replacing one of these can be costly. Also, crunching on fast second gear changes can often be solved by changing the transmission oil.
• The front lower wishbone bushes wear, along with the rear swing arm bearings – and particularly so on Turbos. Wear is given away by clonking over speed bumps (usually anti-roll bar bushes) and potholes.
• Listen for chattering from the rear hubs, as you corner, signifying worn rear wheelbearings. Fiat supplies the bearings only with the hubs, and while aftermarket suppliers can supply the parts separately, the price ultimately is often no cheaper.
• The under-worked rear brakes can rust up and the callipers seize, while handbrake efficiency can be poor. A common issue with the handbrake is a seized load proportioning valve; it’s on the passenger side of the rear subframe.
• Air-con systems fail and so can the central locking, the latter usually being down to duff door switches or the control unit under the driver’s seat, both of which are cheap enough second-hand. Check that the front seats both fold and lock into position.
• The radio’s signal booster fails, but replacements are available.
• Try to get all the keys; from late 1996 there were three. The silver one is for everyday use, the blue one is the spare and the red one is the master key, which allows fresh keys to be coded more easily.
1993: Fiat launches the all-new Coupé model in Europe.
June 1995: Almost two years later, the first officially-imported Coupe models arrive in the UK, fitted with 2.0-litre 16V engine, producing 137bhp in naturally aspirated form, or 195bhp when fitted with a turbocharger.
March 1996: Basic-spec 1.8-litre Coupe is launched in mainland Europe. Never officially brought into the UK or built in right-hand drive spec
November 1996: Four-cylinder engines make way for 1998cc five-cylinder engine, again offered in naturally aspirated and fire-breathing turbo form.
July 1998: Limited Edition model arrives in the UK with 300 sold.
June 1999: New 154bhp 20v engine with Variable Inlet System and a fly-by-wire throttle.
August 1999: New six-speed manual transmission becomes standard fitment, while the run-out Turbo Plus model is launched, with Viscodrive LSD, 16-inch wheels, leather trim.
Key clubs and websites
•www.fccuk.org - UK-based Fiat Coupe owners club
•www.fiatcoupe.net - Fiat Coupe club and forum, useful for spares and technical advice
•www.fiatforum.com - Forum covering all Fiat model including the Coupe
Summary and prices
While there are a lot of rough examples out there, there a great many usable examples as well as a few absolutely mint cars. Prices start from around £600 for an early four cylinder car in rough condition, rising to around £1500 for a turbo model in reasonable condition. Pay £2750, and you should be able to find a 20v Turbo with reasonable miles in pretty good condition. Top spec models in great condition can push £4500.