By on November 21, 2014


Reading here on TTAC that a BMW executive declared the sports car dead was a sad day for me. Yes, I am one of those who bemoan the passing of beautiful, personal cars like those, whether or not sprinkled with the fairy dust of power. I’m not talking Ferrari here, I’m talking simpler things, like an Opel Tigra, or a Ford Puma, maybe even an old VW Karmann Ghia or a fiberglass, old Beetle motivated, Brazilian Puma GT. Cars like those allowed their everyday owners, with common pocketbooks, to dream of performance and a more enchanted life, in spite of sometime ordinary engines, as their designs were always something else.

Reflecting on the implications of the assertion I remembered that day. That day I had my favorite mainstream-make, exotic–inspired, common-hardware-bundled-up-in-a-an-affordable-package car all to myself. And thinking on that drive made me realize I’m partially responsible for this CUV-dominated, ignonimous state of affairs. You see, instead of living out my playboy fantasies, I decided to live out a fantasy of another kind, more country if you will, and bought a Ford Ranger. My 2-year experience with that ill-handling brute can best be resumed thus: So happy the day I bought it, happier still the day it was gone.

The year 2000, recently divorced, I decided that my new marital status deserved something more fun than the competent, but staid, Fiat Siena. I was no longer a family man, I didn’t need 5 seats, and neither a trunk. So I started looking into other things. It was a good time to buy cars like these. Due to the sudden freeing of importations in the early 90s, there was an abundance of different used cars available, things that up until then were uncommon here. Basically I started looking into jeeps and sports cars. I test drove a Daihatsu Feroza, a Suzuki Sidekick, found them all lacking. That off-road type vehicle search led me to pickups and I thought the Dodge Dakota would look fine in my garage, though eventually I chose the Ranger for better ride and more commodious cabin.

At the same time, I looked into two-seater cars. I test drove an Opel Calibra, a beast of a car, but an interior so pedestrian as to be off putting. Drove quite of few of the Japanese, too, but really, none inspired me except the Mazda Miata and MX3. However, the fact that all the small Japanese makes were getting their butts kicked in the market and falling like flies made me wary. Also, I was looking for something fun, but not desperate and oh-my-big-winged like a Mitsubishi Eclipse or a Hyundai Tiburon.

Finally, one day, I saw it. A Fiat Coupé. I was aware of it, of course, keenly aware as it drew my eyes like no other. But the thing was so expensive when it was brand new, it had slipped my radar. Now a 1996 model was going for the same price of a 1998 Ranger. Buyable indeed. Serendipity struck and I got a call from a friend.

He had decided to sell his green Coupé. It had very low mileage as it was basically his weekend car. Better yet, he was going off to Rio to work for the day and he would let me keep his car all day provided I took him to the airport at the crack of dawn and picked him up on his return at night. Of course!

There it was. Looking for all the world like a small Ferrari, the quality of the design oozed from every angle. The front was aggressive, but not overly so, and the head lights, encased in that plastic shroud, called all eyes. The high intensity projectors were something new here and at night you knew it was a Coupé coming just from the beam of light it projected. The hood was long as befits a sports car, the roof low, but no way claustrophobic, in fact sight lines were quite good for that kind of car, especially to the front and side. Backing up did require care and a prayer to be sure.

The wheel wells are the coolest I have ever seen. Cut like a knife, it as chiseled and suggested power. The wheels themselves made a nice composition with those lines. The back, of course, wow, those round lights! That and their positioning, immediately put me in mind of a Ferrari. Not only me of course, the car was known worldwide as Fiat’s mini-Ferrari. All the way, it was quite grownup, no hint of a wing or an extraneous line anywhere.

Inside, oh my gosh! Difficult to describe the beauty. The external color-coded-metallic-finished stripe on the dash immediately drew the eyes. Quite unusual and striking. The gauges lit up in a deep red, suggesting performance, and the idiot lights were aligned in a tastefully set up strip below the gauges. The steering wheel was the only deception inside. Common to other cars in the Fiat line, it only distinguished itself by being bound in leather. The seats were big and a perfect balance between comfort and support. As the name Coupé suggested, the car was a 2+2, and in the back, a couple of bags could be fit or two children. Not that I cared much, but the trunk held 310 liters, about the same as a Ford Focus hatch of today.

Of course, the famous Pininfarina logo emblazoned that dash. At the time I believed the car was his work, though later research showed that the famous Italian design house “only” did the interior. The exterior had been penned by Fiat’s in-house Centro de Stilo, that was at the time commanded by a talented American, none other than the famous Chris Bangle of BMW fame.

So, I dropped my friend off at the airport and hit the road. I decided to take the famously curvy BR-262 highway. Known as the road of death, there is a stretch further out into the country that has literally hundreds of curves in the less than 50 kilometers of road. I wouldn’t have time to venture out that far. Starting from Belo Horizonte, I decided to go to Itabira. In that stretch of road there is the famous Curva do Sabão (soap curve), near Caeté, a curve that was designed wrong and due to the inclination, tends to throw you car off into the wrong direction.

Getting there I explored the breadth of the engine. Though later Euro versions used more powerful and turbo equipped engines, the Brazilian version used the same 137 hp, 2.0, 16v of Fiat’s own Tipo Sedicivalvole. Putting out the same horsepower as in the Tipo, in the Coupé the engine was reworked as to noise. It was amazing, and no 4 cylinder engine has the right to sound so good. The noises made will be forever in my head. I remembered reading in Brazilian magazine at the time that the Coupé made the 0-62 mph dash in a hair over 10 seconds and got close to 205 km/h at top speed. Due to the heavy traffic and limits of the road, I couldn’t get near those limits.

However, I didn’t really care. I was enjoying too much the curves and trucks along the way. Powerful enough to provide strong bursts of speeds, getting around the trucks, buses and other slow moving cars was a simple as dropping a gear and stepping on it. The precise steering and handling guaranteed that it was a point it and it’ll get there affair. The suspension was a work of art. It soaked up the imperfections nicely and never got unsettled. Disc brakes all around guaranteed the necessary stepping power.

The car’s behavior was provided by an all independent suspension. McPherson struts were used up front and in the back there were longitudinally-mounted oscillating arms. The back never threatened to break out no matter how fast, at least on this road and in the hands of this driver. The Coupé made short work of the infamous curve mentioned previously and I went back on forth on this stretch of road maybe 20 times. It was clearly overkill the setup Fiat used. I can only imagine how the most powerful Coupé must have been. The figures were breathtaking and the top Euro turbo Coupé used a 2.0, 20v, 5 cylinder engine, good for 223 horses. Imagine greater indeed.

As I headed back into the city, crossing it, finding the car pliable enough for city driving as well, I pondered on what to do. The car tugged on me like no other. Beautifully designed, comfortable, it had an unmatchable and undeniable presence, especially in this country. However, only about 1,300 had been imported into Brazil, possibly making maintenance a problem (though that proved untrue as mechanically it was similar to the much more successful Tipo). Also, I had just asked to be transferred back from Brasília to Belo Horizonte and moving could be a problem in that car. If I bought a Ranger, I could do it myself as I would only be taking clothes, books and such…

Besides, this one was green. Had it been blue or red, or better yet, yellow (the most striking color for it in my evaluation) I would not have resisted, I think.

Thankfully such cars as the Mini Cooper, Fiat Cincuecento Abarth, Volkswagen Beetle R, BMW M3 still exist and serve and enthusiast well. However, they are the opposite of what a Coupé was. The modern cars take an extraordinary engine and drop it into a common car. The Coupé and others like it did the opposite, they took an ordinary engine and installed it into an unusual car. Works much better for me.

Alas, the world moves on and there seems to be no place for cars like that (being PSA with the Peugeot RCZ and Citroën DS3 and Mazda with the Miata, exceptions) anymore. They live on in the memories of guys like me who saw them there, in the flesh, and lusted for them. We can only hope they make a comeback.

Excuse me now as I have to go. Let me hop into my Renault Duster and go pick up my kid.


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73 Comments on “Dispatches do Brasil: How I Killed the Sports Car...”

  • avatar

    That Fiat coupe pictured above looks like a Ford Probe that got left in a toaster oven for too long.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s VERY 90s.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought it was a rebadge of the Geo Storm / Isuzu Stylus with some not-for-our-market sheetmetal.

    • 0 avatar

      Vertical door handles FTW!!!!

    • 0 avatar

      Well, the cars mentioned in this thread did not do for their designers what the Coupé did for Mr. Bangle. It was this one (among other very beautiful 90s cars he did for Fiat like Bravo, Brava, Punto) that consolidated his fame and served as a springboard to move onto greater things. Fiat was at the top of its game design-wise in the 90s and it is funny to think that an American designer was such an important part of that.

      • 0 avatar

        I consider the Fiat Coupe to be the car that killed BMW. Considering that BMW’s era of attractive cars was the direct result of the Chevrolet Corvair, I wouldn’t be so surprised that an American was important to automotive styling, just disappointed that he produced such hideous cars when given free reign.

        • 0 avatar

          That is true American design was instrumental up until the 60s when American design ruled the roost. As the 70s started though American design influence waned as American cars went off into their weird little world of opera windows, landau roofs and fake RR grilles. Lately American design has made a pretty strong comeback I think.

          The Corvair is true, I think that was one of the most influential designs ever.

          As to Bangle killing BMW, I don’t know. Comparing to their cars today we could see in the Bangle cars some pretty interesting ideas.

          • 0 avatar

            True, Bangle saved BMW. They had been improving the same basic design for some 30 years when he gave them a new direction, and the Japanese had already ‘stolen’ their design language, especially with the ’96 Mitsubishi Galant and the ’98 Lexus IS.
            The E60 5 series is easily one of the most beatiful BMW’s since the original 6 series, while the followint 5 series (f10?)is easily one of the most bland blobs made, just like the earlier E39…

          • 0 avatar

            Agreed Zykotec.

          • 0 avatar

            I actually have to say I’m a little sorry for comparing the F10 with the E39. The F10 is definitely growing a bit on me, although it is nowhere near as good looking as the E60 or the last generations of 3-series (not including the horrible 3-series GT)

          • 0 avatar

            Oh Zykotec, I don’t know enough BMW to know the code names, but in my head the general narrative of BMW is great starting from the 500 (new family, I think) until the 90s when they started having trouble. Then lots of trouble. Then Bangle took over and had some very interesting ideas, maybe half executed, then completely boring and inoffensive today. Even Mercedes has now a better design than BMW….

    • 0 avatar

      Actually the Probe probed a Saturn SC2, she got pregnant, and whoop there it is!

  • avatar

    Nice memories, we all have them about cars we once had, but get something new and make new memories. Just like a divorce and remarriage, life moves on

  • avatar

    The sports car isn’t dead, it has just grown more doors. It’s called a WRX now.

    • 0 avatar

      WRX, MazdaSpeed3, etc. But at least sports cars looked like sports cars before. The WRX et. al. look like family cars that have been passed down to the kids to add wings, scoops, ground-effects, and racy wheels. I know it saves money to build them as family sedans and use those bodies for the performance cars, but a sports car should not look like it could have a baby-on-board sticker and a Graco stroller stowed in the trunk!

      But, I’m just grouchy and hate four-door cars for practical reasons.

      • 0 avatar

        Exactly Occam and that is one of the points in my article.

        • 0 avatar

          I’m glad Durishin mentioned the WRX, just an Impreza with a better engine, never a sports car. Your point could be expanded, as the line of sports car bodies and suspensions with common, lower output engines goes back years.

          It would be an interesting exercise to pinpoint the period when automakers stopped making separate sports models and began dropping higher performance engines into economy/family cars. I suspect it was American automakers taking the easy way out who started the process, and Japanese and others noticing the profit margins involved.

          • 0 avatar

            Good point to look into indeed. Maybe the GTO was it. But later the Europeans took it and ran with the idea. Especially the makes that didn’t have sports cars like the French and VW. They collaborated to invent the pocket rocket, that probably have a lot to do with the demise of the mainstream make simple sports car.

            I may be wrong, but i think the Japanese just played catch up here.

  • avatar

    “Mazda with the Miata, exceptions”

    I was starting to thinkthe MX-5 Miata wasn’t long for this world. Mazda is putting its energy into crossovers and regular cars. It’s more cost effective for them to build a performance car using a four door family-style sedan with a turbo charger than a dedicated sports car. Meanwhile, the current generation is so old that both Pontiac AND Plymouth were around for its debut! US sales have dropped from almost 17,000 in 2006 to less than 6,000 in 2013.

    Alas, it seems they are cooking up another one. We’ll see if it succeeds.

  • avatar

    It’s a ’99-’02 Cougar with a TVR snout!!


  • avatar

    nice article, Marcelo. when the Fiat Coupe arrived in Brazil I thought it was fugly. later on, it grew on me but, after all, it’s just not my cup of coffee.

    three years ago, I grabbed my first chance to have a sports car, pulled the trigger and got my CLK – some U.S. folks may disagree about its sporty features but hey, this is Brazil, we were still making VW Beetles until a few years!

    my car had all the issues it could ever had but I got most of them sorted out, and I still love the Benz (in spite of checking Webmotors regularly to look at the Jag X-Types and W211 V8 Benzes). as Dean Martin said, “that’s amore”.

    great to see you around. and OT: passou no concurso? que prova é? estou tentando o IRBr e ficando louco por causa disso… abraço!

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks Palandi and great car! Yeah, cars like yours or even the Coupé in the past stir things up here in ways unimaginable to our more advanced friends up north. In a way it makes it even more fun to have cars like that here.

      Passei no INSS, mas não fui chamado. Daqui a pouco tem um do TRE, técnico, mas vou fazer. IRBr? Chique, e boa sorte! Abs.!

  • avatar

    Sounds like a thoroughly entertaining car in its day. Today the Fiat group would probably rely on the Alfa Romeo brand to make those pure sports cars, and at much higher price points if the 4C is any indication.

    So, you admit to single-handedly killing the Fiat Coupé?

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Thanks for another great story Marcelo. I had my first driving experience with a Fiat during a recent two week trip to Italy. It was much better than I anticipated despite the down sized 1.3 L diesel engine. Too bad they only import 500s to the US.

  • avatar

    You nailed it

    Sporty coupes are irrational decisions aimed at people being forced to be more and more rational by the day. For the person seeking status, the CUV is the soup du jour. For the dad looking for daily thrills, it’s the hot hatch. Most single women I know drive small sedans, like Corollas, instead of the 240SXs and Cougars of the 90s. People are just more practical in these economic times and sporty coupes don’t do that.

    Full blown sports cars are only affordable by FOGs, only to be sold off and driven to their last mile by young men like me. I was like you somewhat in my last car, but I took the red pill. A year and a half later, I’m car shopping again, fed up with the realities of sports car ownership I did not anticipate. Deafening road noise, bad gas mileage, questionable cold weather traction. When I am in a groove and the road is open and winding, it’s bliss. But that’s rare. I’m usually stuck behind a convoy of mainstreamers, or jockeying for position in bumper to bumper traffic. In that context, a comparatively cushy GTI or something sounds like heaven. Which is probably the move I will be making…………………………….

    While it had its moments, ultimately I don’t think I will miss it much, and I don’t think you missed much. You had the experience and the memories, with none of the annoyance and heartache. While something like a Panda 100 won’t make you weak in the knees at every sight, it will put a smile on your face when the road opens, and keep you from ripping your hair out when it closes. To me that’s a much better real world balance.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m struggling with a similar proposition. I’ve got a Miata for fun and an old Cherokee for poor weather. I realized that I enjoy both and even though there are some great, nearly traffic-free roads between home and work, there are still 10-15 miles of city traffic and with the cold, snowy winter weather arriving, zooming down the back roads is a less attractive proposition.

      I don’t mind driving the Cherokee, but I can’t help thinking that there is a better solution to owning both in the form of one car that’s a decent cruiser, fun on the back roads, and sure-footed on snowy/icy roads.

      I love driving the Miata, but I find myself reluctant to choose it in the morning due to the factors you’ve stated. Which is another way of saying that it’s a difficult car to drive daily.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s it. Do you buy a car that suits the kind of driving you do, or the kind of driving you’d like to do? For most of us, it’s better to get the practical car that has some sporting potential that we can use on occasion, than to get the sporting car that we can press into service as a daily driver.

      Leave me a hot hatch or sports sedan, I’m not going down the CUV road.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, I agree with all of you, sportyaccordy, 319…. and FormerFF. The sports car does have its limitations and forces some decisions on you, that of course, are better served by a hot hatch or a sporting sedan or wagon. Than being said, a real life sports car, even of “limited” capacity like a Miata or a Coupé are just too much fun to not stick around. In the real world, they have their limitations, but they do bring a smile that is rare for other kinds of cars to provide.

      • 0 avatar

        With good planning/budgeting you can have your cake and eat it too. Instead of one new (but) boring commuter car I chose to have two older vehicles that serve completely different purposes: a Dodge Dakota and a Nissan 350Z. Ironically the truck is the weekend “toy” for towing my boat, while my Z is the daily driver + track day vehicle. Affording two vehicles isn’t too hard if they are both paid off. I’ve had my truck for over 12 years and my Z is the same age. The truck was bought new, while the Z was purchased used and thus only 1/2 its original price making it (dare I say) easily affordable.

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah, it is doable, even here. But then, other places don’t afford homeowners so much space as American homes do. Unless you don’t mind parking on the street.

        • 0 avatar

          Thus is sort of my situation. Last winter, my Cherokee’s starter died and I ended up driving the miata for a few months thru snow and winter conditions. On Continental tires, the miata is a pretty capable machine, but of course I would rather drive it in fairer weather.

          Even though I drive the jeep more often then the mazda, the mazda never fails to put a smile on my face. I’m probably going thru some fall/winter blues. I’d rather have a scalpel and a sledgehammer than a trenching tool and I hope mazda makes the miata forever!

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Wonderful personal story and a great narrative.

    My father had a candy-red 1962 Karmann Ghia. With an aboslutely pedestrian 1200 cc VW engine, it was nevertheless fun to ride ( I was too young to drive)

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you schmitt. My father had a red Karmann Ghia too. He and my mom went on their honeymoon in it, in 1969. All the way from Belo Horizonte to Uruguay and back.

      Later, when I was born in 71, I was brought home from the hospital in a basket in the “backseat” of a Puma GT. Later he had a VW SP2, too. After that the family grew more and no more sports car for him! He became a wagon man.

  • avatar

    In my case, I’m trying to keep the sports car alive, and I’m not sure if I’m succeeding.

    I’ve got a perfectly nice ’06 Pontiac Solstice. I enjoy it. Not nearly as much as its predecessor, an ’88 Porsche 924S, but it does the job. When I bother to get it out of the garage, that is.

    Because I’m also a motorcycle person. Up until last week, I had two: My beloved ’95 Triumph Trident (117k and running fine), and my ’88 Harley FXR Superglide (I still ride with the 1% crowd, although less often than I used to).

    Until last week. Coming home Wednesday night, running about 60mph on the back road, I slam into a suicidal doe that had just burst out of the woods. Good-bye Trident. I’m sore (over the bars and rolling down the road about 35 feet into a ditch will do that to you) but nothing’s broken. Insurance settled up, not a lot, but more than I’d have expected for a twenty year old bike with over 100k on it.

    OK, I need a replacement motorcycle. One will never do. I haven’t had a garage of once since 1992. And I’m thinking of selling off the Solstice to partially replace the bike. Because, when push comes to shove, even though I’ve been a car guy for over 60 years now, I still enjoy a good motorcycle more than a good car. I’ve had my roadster, promise kept, but “four wheels good, two wheels better”.

    And, I have a feeling that another place for a sports car will go away.

    • 0 avatar

      Glad to hear you survived. Deer are so unpredictable, especially at this time of year.

      One of the things that is killing off the sports car is that the performance level of them is so high that they make you feel like you’re going slow even when you’re going fast. Motorcycles are more fun at more modest speeds.

      I had a Honda Hawk GT, was just about to roll through 50,000 miles on it, when someone turned left in front of me. That was the end of it, and finding out that daughter #1 was on the way a week later was the end of my motorcycling career. Maybe someday I’ll get another.

    • 0 avatar

      I wish you well and hope you heal quickly from the accident, A healthy dose of Vitamin C will help.

      Not plugging, but i just ordered more of this last night:

      L-Ascorbic Acid

    • 0 avatar

      Speedy recovery! That Pontiac is a great design.

    • 0 avatar

      Glad you came out ok. As we get older thats harder to do. Thought I hadn’t seen you lately but thought that was just because I was off the computer some.

      Good luck

  • avatar

    “Due to the sudden freeing of importations in the early 90s, there was an abundance of different used cars available…”

    This isn’t something Americans normally deal with, importation duties affecting car pricing. A friend of mine just ordered a Forester and was surprised that it was coming from Japan, not Indiana. No question about pricing; there was no difference.

    How much do cars cost in Brazil? Say, a new Focus or equivalent? And how much US$ difference, if any, does imported car tariff(s) have on car prices? Both imported and domestically manufactured.

    • 0 avatar

      A Focus is costing about 64 thousand reais. As the quotation is about USD1=R$2,45, you can do the math. The meat of the market nowadays is between 30 thousand reais and 40 thousand. A Nissan Versa for example starts in that range.

      There is a 35% import barrier for cars coming from markets who have no agreement with us. Plus there is an added tax based on displacement. If you produce locally and transfer technology, you can import your cars without paying the import tax inside certain quotas defined with each maker. As such the Mexican Fiat 500 reaches us with no tax added on. But a car like the Sonic sedan came from South Korea paid the 35%, but no extra as GM is a local producer.

      Cars here have high margins and high taxes, both of which contribute equally to high prices. According to what I understand, taxes here are equivalent to what exists in many European countries, roughly similar to France for example. It varies between 35 to 40% of the car’s price on average.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for the info. Although I haven’t been to Brazil in decades, back then they had interesting cars. Chevrolets, Opalas I think, were good looking cars.

        I guess the high import duties means the Brazilian automobile market is a very closed market, with no hope of importing to the big markets in the US or China under current high tariffs. I don’t know for sure, but I think tariffs on cars coming from Japan to the US is negligible, so it must be that Subaru is eating that cost when importing my friend’s Forester from Japan to the US. Too bad we can’t work out similar, advantageous trading schemes between our nearer neighbors to the south.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Hey Marcelo!
    That was a great read. I hope you bought your kid an ice cream on the way home.

    I not a big fan of the looks of this vehicle or sports cars, sorry. But I have not driven it so I really can’t make an educated comment regarding it’s dynamics.

    One thing I do believe in though, your story does remind me of my first vehicle. It was less powerful than the Fiat at 69hp in a Datsun mini truck.

    The small horse power vehicles do teach a person how to drive and rely on the vehicles dynamics and your driving skills to maximise and squeeze every once of potential out of a vehicle.

    I do believe the first couple of years a person is on any road they should only be allowed to drive the most underpowered vehicles available. Jumping straight into a V8 or high powered turbo doesn’t teach a person the basics very well. Like doing a maths exam and being allowed to use a calculator. You must first learn what and how you are doing.

    The “Road of Death” wow. Does it still exist and is the name an overkill? (funny!)

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Big Al!

      Thanks for reading! I agree with you. Driving less powerful cars do teach you to drive as to keep momentum, mistakes have to be minimal. So a person who drives an underpowered car can drive an overpowered one quite easily, while the opposite is not true. And yeah, tend to think v8s and kids don’t mesh well, but neither do kids and trucks.

      I know looks are subjective, but this was among the best if the best in design of those 90s sport cars. It is frequently seen in lists of the best looking cars and like it or not, it is a design that has been “blessed” by other designers.

      The road does exist. They mess with it from time to time, have enlarged it at certain points, but it is an old design, going through a mountainous region with lots and lots of traffic. THe accidents are caused by those curves, their narrowness, cars going too fast in relation to all the slow moving trucks and buses, in other words the big differences in speed. It is one of the major roads here and links Belo Horizonte to Espírito Santo state and its important port. It will continue killing until it undergoes a very major overhaul. The truth is they should build it again.

    • 0 avatar

      My early driving history progressed from three-speed to 10-speed bikes; a mini-bike (don’t ask) to a 50cc Italian pedal-less moped badged “Harley Davidson.” Back in Tennessee during the ’60s, you could get a license six months early for 50cc and under. Along with the 25cc worth of brakes on that bike, it served to teach me anticipation and humility, two wise lessons other drivers might take decades to learn.

  • avatar

    Hola, Marcelo! A great read on the Fiat Coupe! I’ve been a big fan of the Coupe although living in North America, I could never drive or own one, so I’m a little envious of you. I had no idea the engine options were so different in Brazil, but I guess that makes sense, as Brazilian conditions would be different compared to Europe.

    I, too, have not helped the sports car situation myself. Before children, I owned pony cars and muscle cars, but after descendants, minivans and SUVs. Now that my children have grown, I would like a sporty car of some kind, but I would have to purchase a vintage one, as there are very few new cars (in North America) that I would really like or afford.

    Thanks again for the post and the pic! I really like those 90’s Fiats!

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Geozinger, thanks fkr reading! As to engines, the Euro Coupé had the smaller engine too. They just got more options than we did. Later though I would get to try the turbo 5 cylinder in a “normal” car, the Marea. It was a beast I can tell you and killed lesser 3s and Cs and As. Fun times.

  • avatar

    ‘Sports cars are dead’. Pretty much the same for all IC cars, as they are ‘Dead Cars Walking’, and that will become more apparent, as the years go on.

  • avatar

    A friend of mine rode in my Focus hatchback and he was talking about his Capri he had circa 1976.

    It got me thinking that Ford should make a new Capri, and then realizing I’m basically driving one with five doors instead of three.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, point in the article. THe Coupé was based off the Tipo. Quite similar in fact. Except for the sheetmetal, better finishing in the Coupé and a better suspension. Kind of what the Capri must have been in relation to the car it was based on. So a Focus RS or STI or XR or whatever name Ford is using now is all kinds of awesome, but it is different from a true sports cars based off of a Focus skeleton would be. A true Ford Fcous based sports cars wouldn’t even need so much hardware as looks would be enough to sell.

      But I see what you are saying.

  • avatar

    BRZ/86, 3xx Z, M coupe, as well as the mentioned MX5. Otherwise I’m in complete agreement. A good if pedestrian driveline stuffed into something smaller, lower, lighter and sexier than the mainstream vehicles the driveline development costs were paid by. It’s a dwindling formula for affordable magic. The WRX/ST/R etc. are the opposite. Big money exclusive driveline in a grocery getter. Nothing wrong with it, there were more built up 350s in Novas than Corvettes. But I miss the idea.

  • avatar
    daniel g.

    Hi Marcelo, some questions:

    do you owned/buy the car finally? Or your friend let´s to use the car for free? (a great friend can do that)

    and the car, continue their life close to you or lost in the past?

    many cars like this vanish from the streets once the novelty pass but sometime come back and really make your day a litle more happy (hey, in argentina for my see a miata or supra is something rare, somebody owned but no enjoy the car)

    • 0 avatar

      Hey daniel!

      Thanks for reading. Like I said to Palandi above, only us that live in Brazil, or Argentina, know the stir this kind of car makes. Funner to have here than almost anywhere else.

      Now, I didn’t get it sadly. The day I win the lottery though, it is a sure thing among the 10 or 12 Brazilian/Argentinian cars I’ll have in my collection…

      The funny thing is that, my friend let me have it because he was trying to sell it. So it was a long test drive. As luck would have it, he only got a few other people inquiring into the car, his situation at work improved, and he ended up keeping the car another 5 or 6 years, being that, for the greater part of that last time in his hands, he used it as a daily driver (as he now had a garage at work, too). So he was the one that enjoyed it a lot. He kept the car for almost 10 yrs. And I can attest that the car got almost as many looks in its 10 th year as in its first.

      Served him well. Nothing major failed. I drove it more than a couple of times over that period. TO me too it seemed like it never missed a bit. When he sold it it had a bit over 120 thousand kilometers.another couple of time

  • avatar

    Beautifully written piece. Like the song says: “Faster horses, older whisky, younger women and more money”. I had a similar divorce crisis about 25 years before yours. My response was a slightly used Porsche 911.

    It was fantastic. 90 mph felt like 60 mph in a normal car. Top end was around 130 to 140 mph. I drove it like a bat out of hell all over the US and Mexico. Being a 911 it was tail heavy and gave little warning before losing it. No problem, just stay short of the limit.

    The sports car “issue” is that the roads 40 years later are not much different from back then. The modern sports cars handle better and top end around 200 mph. You just can’t use all that extra capability except at the track.

    Anyway, thanks for the memories.

  • avatar

    “none other than the famous Chris Bangle of BMW fame.”

    Marcelo-I think you misspelled “infamous” and “infamy”

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe I should have said the notorious Bangle of BMW fame. I think the jury is still out for him. I think he did great things at Fiat and had some great ideas at BMW that were either too far out there and we don’t understand yt, or were somehow unfinished. as if BMW didn’t let him do it all the way and it was not his entire vision. I always liked his 7…. His 3 was nothing to write home about either, but now, in retrospect, better than the current one. Anyway, he made a name for himself and will always be discussed. Almost an artist!

  • avatar

    A valuable point, Marcello, well expressed. Sports cars weren’t supposed to be race cars. That was a completely different category. Rather than being prepared for the sport of racing, sports cars satisfied needs for distinctiveness, style and luxury, plus an extra ration of performance for a car of its size. In the USA of the fifties and sixties, MGAs and TR4s stood out among the blinded behemoths of the era, but not because they were particularly fast. They felt fast, that was what counted.

    I’d learned that lesson in my teens, well before I faced a defining choice. On the one hand, my mother was offering me her three-year old Pontiac Firebird, with the 350 V8. Instead, I stuck with my boxy little NSU 1000 TT sedan and its one-liter engine. It probably had a quarter of the power under the Pontiac’s hood, but four cylinders in the trunk was just more fun, and almost enough, with half the weight to propel. Maybe this was a big sign that I might not be a redneck?

    If classic sports cars were delightful for their individuality, unique design, modest gas consumption and distinctive driving experience, maybe we have to look harder to see their modern descendants. Not with the Jaguars, Corvettes and Porsches– those are musclebound musclecars, passing under the old, authentic nameplates. No, maybe today’s real sports cars are the Smart cars and the hybrids. They have charisma, at least with certain types of people. They would seem to meet all the criteria above, except “fun to drive.” And I bet they’d prove just as fast as an old Brit roadster, too.

    Somebody should get wise and build some electric and hybrid roadsters, and bring both branches of the sports car family back together.

    • 0 avatar

      As to your first point, I completely agree. And wow, you are something else taking on an NSU in lieu of a V8. Which, I think, explains how you got to your second point. I mean you are in no way a “box thinker”.

      Your second point is hard to wrap one’s head around. Let me ponder on it a bit….

      Yeah, maybe, except the fun to drive part. Maybe if they did it to the new Smart/Twingo it could be so. That car is proving to be a modern sports cars to be sure, with very good sales, at least initially.

      But I do think you are on to something there. I do like how you think!

  • avatar

    It was somewhat a bold move for me. I’d never heard of the brand, except for a tenuous link with Audi. I’d never read a review or seen an ad, or seen another one on the road. NSUs were super-scarce here; I don’t think I spotted a dozen over the 10 years I drove one. Sometimes I half wondered if I’d made the whole thing up! But there it was, a little wonder box of imaginative engineering (OHC, air-cooled, all-alloy engine) and friskiness.

    I just had that kind of luck, I’d go out with $800 in my pocket and find some rare, hidden gem. My first car, in high schools, was a Fiat 1500 Cabriolet, styled after a Ferrari and also rare here.

    Both cars were modestly powered, 50-80 hp, which meant they could be driven hard without breaking speed limits too badly. The cars’ limits were right there, easily accessible. Drifting 80-series 13-inch Michelin Xs was a joy that kept on giving; drifting the 40-series tires on my current GTI is far beyond my pucker factor. So I had early proof of the “slow car, fast” theory.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Hola Marcelo,

    You didn’t kill anything. There are probably many reasons, of which $$$ and customer tastes have a bigger influence.

    Save for some exceptions, most of those cars were and are still built on more pedestrian bones. The Coupé was likely based on the Tipo or something of the sorts.

    I saw the Fiat Coupé in a motor show. We got the I5 NA version (which can make a Marea a fun car). It was stunning, yellow, but not everyone’s cup of tea. The interior was colourful, the steering wheel felt great in your hands (and much better than the local Fiat stuff)… and they didn’t sell many either.

    I “lived the dream”. I had not one, but 2 coupes. I brought the first one from the grave. One NA and the other turbo AWD. I loved them. Nearly 4 years after handing the keys to my compadre, I still miss that NA [email protected]#$%^&*ch. They handled like they were on rails and the turbo one…

    The hatch was handy, and thanks to my wife being a packaging wizard, we moved a house using in one of them, mountain bike included.

    But… you cannot raise a child in a coupe. My little boy spent his first 2 years of life riding on the back seat of one of them. It was a big PITA to put/retrieve him in his chair. We had to cover the huge back window with a sunshade to prevent him getting roasted by the sun. We could only use an umbrella stroller, a win in disguise as you then realise how awful those full-size behemoths are.

    Regarding the current crop of sporty and sports cars… don’t dismiss them because of their origins. I had the chance of driving a little hot hatch and the bloody thing was so much fun I am still smiling. That despite having driven cars with 2 or 3 times its power.

  • avatar

    Hola Athos! Oh man you lived the dream! So cool.

    As to the 5 cylinders, I was very familiar with them. The naturally aspirated one was a Marea wagon and the turbos a couple of friends had them, so…

    And be sure i do not dismiss hot hatches and sporty sedans. In an age where a Fiesta can put the heat on the Toybaru twins, we are well served. I just miss seeing real sport car shaped vehicles on the streets.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      The quoting marks weren’t for free Marcelo. But yeah, it was cool. Specially the reaction of the kids on the street when the head lamp covers popped up. The engine on the NA one revved to almost 8K RPM and it just sang up there. Ah the memories…

      Although the options have reduced considerably, I see sports cars almost everyday here. The 86 has sold well and same goes for the 3/4 series coupes. On the sporty side… there are GTIs everywhere.

      I also drove the 5 banger on a Marea wagon. We did not get the turbo version of that engine on any car.

  • avatar

    awesome article!

    My friend bought a Fiat Coupe back when it came out, it was a turbo 16V and looked exactly like the one on your picture. Huge turbo laaaaag, but once boost was there, it went like a little devil. Golf III VR6 couldn’t keep up.

    The good old times of sporty coupes without silly high pedestian-safety hoods (yes Z4 and SLK, I’m looking at both of you).

    And how do I miss the S2000 that I had to leave behind. It would be a great companion in the sinuous mountain roads of the Sierra Gaucha. Silly Brazilian import regulations…

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