Blog : Steven Ward’s AROnline Car of the Year…

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Steven Ward, AROnline’s some-time man in the trade jumps the gun and awards Car of The Year to what was his own Fiat Coupé  – honorable veteran of two European capers in 2012…

That’s his view – what other cars would you consider worthy of the title?

Fiat Coupe (3)

With great fanfare, I’d like to declare my old Coupé Fiat 20v to be AROnline’s prestigious Car of the Year for 2013. I hereby accept the burnt-out piston as my trophy to hold aloft. I’d also like to extend my commiserations to Mike Humble for manfully putting up with that 75 of his and to Keith for quitting his Compulsive Heap Purchasing Disorder (CHPD). Nobody likes a quitter, but I think Keith deserves special mention.

In 2012, my previously ignored and once disgraced Coupé came to represent AROnline’s International Motor Show Machine. In March is braved terrible weather and traffic to get Andrew Elphick and me to Geneva’s wonderful Salon where we thought the unthinkable and asked ‘is this question stupid enough for you?’ to all the main manufacturers.

In September the car was dispatched with the gruesome twosome and ace driver and crash Pilot Steve Wright to the Paris Salon where we asked ‘what’s the point of this?’ to all the main manufacturers. This time the car returned somewhat worse for wear; we’d blown a hole in the rear silencer from spending and hour doing a tonne along a French autoroute.

With the car now looking stunning in its newly revitalised Rosso Red paint job, the car was sold to a worthy new custodian, one Ben Adams of this parish. Once a car looks, sounds and drives perfect, my interest wanes and its time to move it on. I understand Ben is over the moon with his modern classic.

The Coupé Fiat came into my life when I was low and on the rebound from a Montego I’d nearly bought. It was parked on a grass verge with a large ‘For Sale’ sign in the window and it looked magnificent in the spring sun. I spoke with the owner, a delightful interior designer who had owned the car for 13 years and she had spared no expense on maintenance. I was given a carrier bag bursting with expensive invoices to prove her love. The timing belt bill alone was almost £1200 in 2007.

I collected the Coupé in a hurry the following week and missed one small issue when I’d kicked the tyres; the engine was pissing out oil at an alarming rate. Yes, me, a professional motor trader bought a car, for cash, on the roadside, outside of a house which wasn’t actually on the V5 as the registered address. I should have been shot, but love is blind.

Eventually, we traced the oil leak to a rocker cover gasket, a weak spot on the 20valve engine. Once diagnosed, it was a relief that it was a simple and cheap job. Well, when I say simple, the 20valve engine fits into the engine bay with literally millimetres to spare. An Allen key had to be cut down to re-tension the auxiliary drive belt for example. The delectable Italian had gone wrong immediately, but thankfully an enthusiastic owners club was there for moral support.

Aside from that initial drama, the car proved to be remarkably well built and civilised. Hand built by Pininfarinia, the car used tried and tested Fiat parts (not least the very reliable and well developed Tipo chassis). It was an excellent GT, and enthusiastic back-road handler and a nimble smooth riding town car. It was a car greater than the sum of its parts and a better long-term bet than the equivalent Alfa GT.

I ran the car for almost 20months during which time it never failed to start, it never used any oil or water, passed two MoTs without fail or advisory. Further more it remained astonishingly attractive, both inside and out. I frequently opened the garage door just to peep at it. Its huge clamshell bonnet was such a stylistic and practical success, Bangle insisted Stephenson incorporate the feature for the 2001 MINI.

So there we are Ladies and Gentleman, AROnline’s CotY 2012. A car which is as good to look at as it is to own & drive and available for peanuts in the Classifieds.

PS., you should see the shocker I’ve got lined-up for Geneva 2013…

Fiat Coupe (1)

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)

28 Comments

  1. I think this may well be a worthy winner- this would be the only FIAT to grace my ‘fantasy garage’, and I am glad that yours has brought so much pleasure. It is a highly idiosyncratic design- not remotely beautiful yet incredibly charming, without a dull angle. Wonderful interior styling too- and that engine! There is a rather derelict silver and primer 5-pot coupe on this estate that warbles its way around these streets (with two dodgy looking geezers inside who don’t appear to like the attention it generates)- sounding unlike almost any other car.

    They can be a nightmare to maintain however- deep pockets necessary if the previous owner hasn’t kept it well.

  2. Forgive me, but I am struggling to see how a Fiat, designed and built in Italy, fits in with the “Made In Britain” strap line of this website?

  3. Nice!

    Though I’m a bit biased and prefer the Paninfarina lines of the GTV (Which I think you meant in the sentence ‘It was a car greater than the sum of its parts and a better long-term bet than the equivalent Alfa GT.’ – the GT was a different proposition, a 156-based 2 door coupe).

    The Tipo platform was surprisingly nimble, and not as unreliable as nay-sayers would have you believe. My only gripe about the platform was with the suspension bushes (though Poly bushes may have lasted a bit longer)

  4. A worthy winner! Cracking cars, the Coupe FIATs. Especially when they work. Mind you, I could just park one outside and sit and look at it all day. A design classic.

  5. Could quite happily sit and stare at a 90s GTV, too. When you see coupes like the Coupe FIAT and Alfa GTV from fifteen years ago that still look fresh today, the likes of the new Scirocco and Volvo C30 don’t really cut it, do they?

  6. @Steve Bailey

    Exactly!

    My gripe about the likes of the Scirocco and the Veloster is that they look like squashed hatchbacks. A coupe should have – well – coupe lines! 🙂

  7. @5. I fully appreaciate where you are coming from, but MG-R stopped building cars in 2005. In addition to that, I’ve personally done all of the ARG>MG-R products to death.

  8. New Owner here!

    I certainly am over the moon with it, a lovely machine and happy with my 50 mile daily commute, with weekly washing and polishing getting 33-36 mpg on that route and got 39mpg on my last motorway run, not bad for a 5 cylinder 2.0 car!

    Like Steven I too have owned a lot of the Rover and MG models over the years and it is nice to try something else for a change.

  9. Always fancied one of these. As has been said a few times, don’t believe the hype that FIAT motors will fall apart – the modern stuff is pretty well screwed together (on the whole). And you get character and style that other marques struggle to supply.

  10. I’ve sold Stilos, Puntos, Cinquentos, Bravos, all sorts of FIATs over the years and they’ve all been fine. Still, their poor reputation makes them all the more affordable.

  11. I nearly bought a Stilo before this came along. 05 plate 49k on the clock FSH £1850. That has got to be half the price of a so called ‘premium’ Golf and I know which one will still be here in 10 years time.

  12. @13, Lord Sward,

    Unfortunately I was taken in by the ‘FIATs are really not as bad as their reputation suggests’ when I bought a Tipo 1.8i.e GranTurismo. It cost me dearly in maintainance, and after one breakdown too many (HGF) I sold it and bought an Audi A4 (oh dear).

    My Tipo didn’t handle nearly as well as it ought (given it’s ‘warm/hot hatch apellation), but I sorely missed it’s get-up-and-go. With it’s very willing free-revving engine and excellent traction, it was capable of entertaining, even if it was unsure of itself whenever a bend in the road needed tackling.

    Regardless, I’d still go for a decent 5 pot Coupe.

  13. @16, Brian Gunn,

    Well it was almost as much grief, but vastly lacking in any sort of talent or any redeeming qualities that I missed that car, despite its foibles.

  14. Funny, I was at Reims this summer with my Coupe 20VT, following 24 nice examples of the Ferrari 250GTO’s… Somehow no-one denied a Fiat Coupe in a row of superexpensives, that felt alright.
    Could not make it to the straight as the GTO’s all lined up there for a very audiable Le-Mans-start.

  15. Nothing whatsover wrong with Italian tin. I’ve owned 3 – Mk1 Punto, Alfa 145, Alfa 156, and driven many more – Tipo 1.8 GT, Fiat Coupe Turbo LE, Alfa 166, Alfa 146, Panda. I’ve yet to drive an Integrale, or any Lancia for that matter, but I will at some point by an Alfa 6-pot coupe. As for the Tipo chassis, the cars I’ve driven on that platform have all been tremendous fun, with pin-sharp steering, albeit with a tendency to torque-steer when a little power is introduced. Having said that, the Fiat Coupe Turbo was still the most exhilarating car I’ve drive, to date. Reliability? Upper wishbones on the 156, HGF on the Punto (my fault – I drove it like a lunatic), cam-variator on the 145, and as it came to the end of it’s 7 year stay with me, the electrical gadgets started to gradually die.

  16. @20, Simon_H,

    You had a Tipo 1.8GT? You are the first person aside from myself that I’ve come across thats ever had one. They must have been pretty rare.

  17. @21 – I didn’t own one, Veloces in Potters Bar loaned me one for a week while they had my 145 in for a bodywork repair – I really enjoyed driving it – the 1.8 engine was easily as eager as the 1.6 T-Spark, and apart from it being a bigger car, it drove pretty similarly, IIRC, the indicator stalks were illuminated, which considering that the 145 had the same items, it was disappointing that the Alfa didn’t have the same feature.

  18. @14,My previous ’99 Golfdrives past me every morning sweet as a nut,over 200k on the clock,a similar year Bravo? i can tell a blocked spraybar on its cam from 100 yards away,not many to see really,and the stilo? Fiat kissed its medium car market share goodbye with that one and never recovered it with the present Bravo-sorry 1.5 ton Punto.
    Only the polish built 500 keeps Fiat on the radar which is a shame,i was always a fan of the Tipo,owning a Sedicivalvole and Mirafioris,132’s 127/8’s and the rust with them,Fiat have offered nothing of interest at all lately,instead of jumping into bed with Chrysler why not re-introduce Lancia instead of badging them up.
    VAG shite? hmmm i’d think about that one.

  19. @23, I agree, FIAT, apart from the bonkers 500 Abarth, and the 100HP Panda haven’t served up anything worth a second look for years. I did like the Grande Punto at launch, but it’s gone one facelift too far now. even my beloved Alfa Romeo struggles to illicit any reaction from me these days – I sat in the Giulietta not long after it was launched, and commented ‘this doesn’t feel like an Alfa’. There’s still no sign of a 159, GT or Brera replacement, and I fear that soon, anything Italian will share a Chrysler platform…….very saddening for anyone who loves Italian cars…..

  20. @24,Its a shame,there is a massive place in my heart for Fiats,Alfas and especially Lancias-i would sell my soul and children for an 037 or Delta S4.I love all these cars when they had an autonomy about them,not since the Barchetta,or coupe Fiat has there been anything served up that would blow your mind,the GTV came close only because of that glorious V6 that goose pimples me thinking about it,time to bring Lancia back in from the cold i think.

  21. I keep seeing a red & black Chry-cia thing, and it really does look awful with that daft gurning grille. Poor Lancia. The trouble though, Lancia died a very long and drawn out death here in the UK, with the very moribund Dedra, and the name has been nailled onto some really god awful cars in europe over the last few years as well. Oh for another car like the Integrale.

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