The 1988 Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act, commonly called the 25-year rule, has opened the door to the importation of lots of interesting older cars. One such car is today’s Nice Price or No Dice Fiat Coupe. Let’s see how interested you are in paying its asking price.
Last Friday I asked you to consider a Toyota Corolla that might actually spark an emotion other than ennui. In support of this seemingly daunting mental exercise, we looked at a 1992 Toyota Corolla All-Trac wagon that, dare I say, was all kinds of interesting.
Oh, sure it was also quite old and rode on aftermarket wheels that were of questionable taste. Despite those flaws, it was undeniably a Corolla of consequence. Unfortunately, its $5,950 asking price resulted in consequences, not at all in the Corolla’s favor. That resulted in a narrow but decisive 56 percent No Dice loss.
It seems remarkable in this day and age that back in the 1990s Toyota was foisting multiple models of Corolla on the American market. It’s a bit easier to conceive that, during the same time period, Fiat sold exactly zero new cars here.
That was the result of the Italian automaker’s pulling out of the American market completely in 1983. Fiat subsidiary Alfa Romeo soldiered on in the U.S. market for a decade longer before it, too, departed. Both companies are back today, although with sales at each brand merely sputtering along it’s questionable how much longer either one will continue here.
So, what did we Americans miss during Fiat’s long, dark absence from our market? Well, there were cars like the little two-seat Barchetta roadster. That was pretty cool. And then there was the slightly larger and even cooler Fiat Coupe.
Featuring avant-garde styling and what was actually an appropriate use of the body type’s name, the Fiat Coupe debuted in 1994 as a rival to the likes of the VW Corrado and the Vauxhall Calibra. A contest was held to determine the car’s shape, with the winning design coming from Fiat’s in-house Centro Stile team, led by none other than Chris Bangle. Yes, “BMW Bangle Butt” Chris Bangle.
If you look closely at this 1994 Fiat Coupe you’ll notice seemingly incongruous Pininfarina badges decorating both exterior and interior. That’s actually not false advertising, as that design house did draw the Coupe’s interior and handled the car’s construction. Considering that storied pedigree, it does seem a shame that we’ve had to wait 25 years for the opportunity to legally get our hands on one.
This particular Coupe is claimed to have been imported from Germany and sports a mere 83,000 kilometers on the odometer. That works out to about 52k for all you mile markers. The Bangle bodywork looks fresh and just as cool today as it did a quarter-century ago.
The main feature here is a clamshell hood that wraps fully over to each front wheel arch. There it meets a diagonal slash that carries into the doors. A complementing slash tops each rear arch and is mirrored in its angle by the back bumper line.
The paint and bodywork look to be without major flaw in the ad pictures. There are a couple of holes in the front bumper where a license plate bracket was mounted, but those seem to be the only noticeable blemishes. An Abarth badge on the boot lid is also a notably odd addition.
The interior presents equally well. It carries a swath of body-color trim circling the cabin and running down the center console. This was a bit of retro design on Pininfarina’s part, echoing an age when more parsimonious interiors had exposed metal. There’s nothing chintzy in here, however. The car has leather upholstery on its heavily padded seats and features power mirrors, locks and windows. Everything looks to be in ready-to-go shape.
Power for the Coupe comes from Fiat’s long-lived DOHC 2-liter four. That’s the same engine that, in more aggressive form, powered Lancia’s Delta Integrale. Here it pumps out 140 horsepower and is backed by a five-speed manual gearbox that sends those ponies to the front wheels.
The ad makes no claim of any mechanical issues with either the engine or the gearbox. The seller notes in a separate ad page that the car passed German inspection in September of this year. The only downside here seems to be an issue with an intermittent failure of the sunroof. The seller suggests that’s likely an issue with the fuse, but it’s more likely that it’s the switch or the wiring in between.
The car is offered in the San Francisco Bay Area, however it’s actually licensed in Texas. California — among other states — plays by separate rules and won’t allow registration of anything newer than 1975 that doesn’t meet the state’s stringent emissions standards.
That limits the car’s audience, but that’s OK — there are still plenty of folks out there who can take advantage of the federal government’s 25-year rule. For those folks, we now need to consider this Fiat’s $13,000 asking price.
What’s your take on this gray-market Fiat and that $13,000 price? Does that seem like a deal to get caught up on what Fiat was doing when it wasn’t officially in the U.S.? Or, does that price tag make you think this Coupe is attempting a coup?
H/T to SirLurkalot for the hookup!
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