Almost 30 years after its launch, some of us still haven’t recovered from the emotional impact the Fiat Coupé had on us back then. If you’ve been distressed – and many of us have been – it can still move you now, maybe even to your checkbook. The good news is that, for such a bold and individual and potentially collectible car, prices are still relatively low.
It’s unlike any other, to begin with, and love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it. For years, Fiat’s best cars have echoed Italy’s undisputed, deep-rooted loves for life and art, and this eye-catching beauty/beast seemed to draw influence from the art world for its to elevate into the rarefied category of mobile sculpture, a normally inhabited domain. by cars that demand much heavier compromises and need much deeper pockets to buy and operate.
However, this deeply Italian car was actually designed by an American, Chris Bangle, during his time at the Centro Stile. The Coupé’s demeanor is both goofy and awkward but also delightfully intriguing, while its look can only be la dolce vita. Its surfaces are highlighted by arbitrary slashes, which Fiat first claimed was influenced by the work of artist Lucio Fontana, a claim later denied by Bangle, who said he had never heard talk about him. Either way, there’s a hint in its overall proportions and stubby Kamm tail of the best and most original of Zagato designs, and anyone who knows them will know they’re equally loved or hated.
The car has benefited from many delightful little touches designed to appeal to enthusiasts and style-conscious alike, such as those curvaceous headlights, circular taillights, clamshell bonnet, hidden door handles and fuel filler cap wonderfully evocative. Inside, the Pininfarina-designed cabin was equally striking, with painted metal for the fascia and door panels. There was even room for children in the back.
In some ways, it was a shame that it was all more ordinary, because underneath was just the running gear of the contemporary Tipo. He still packed a punch, though. The Coupé was launched in 1993 and arrived in the UK in 1995, powered initially by a choice of 2.0-litre 16-valve four-cylinder engines, either naturally aspirated with 137bhp or turbocharged to make 187 c. Power went to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox, although on the Turbo it also went via a Viscodrive limited-slip differential.
In 1996, the 16-valve engines gave way to more powerful 20-valve five-cylinders, still naturally aspirated (145 hp) or turbocharged (217 hp). The naturally aspirated engine soon received a variable intake system which gave it 150 bhp.
Even so, with its impressive 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds, it was the Turbo (called VT) that everyone wanted. There were also a number of modified versions, starting with the VT LE (Limited Edition) sporting red Brembo front brake calipers, body kit, push button start, strut reinforcement and seats. Recaro. There was also the Plus, looking a lot like the LE but without its unique badge. Above all, both versions had a six-speed gearbox. With the arrival of the VT6 in 1999, the six-speed gearbox became standard.