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?
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…