Rare Rides: A 'Clean Florida Title' Fiat Barchetta From 1997

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

There was one prior case where a too hot to title European car appeared on these pages, and it was a boring Citroën hatchback. Today’s forbidden, ahem, “legal” fruit is a bit more zesty. Presenting an underage Fiat Barchetta from 1997.

Of course, this car at age 23 would be legal in the Northern Arctic Canadian States. But down in The America, the government says a foreign-market car must be 25 years or older before it can have a green card. And foreign this roadster is, as in 1997 Fiat had zero presence in the North American market (a state to which the brand will likely return soon).

On to Barchetta.

North America did receive the fabulous and well-made predecessor to the Barchetta, the Gandini-designed X1/9. The mid-engine, rear-drive roadster entered production in 1972, and was still made when Fiat declared it was finished selling cars in the US.

Entrepreneur Malcom Bricklin saw a continued future for the X1/9, securing the rights via his company, International Automobile Importers. The X1/9 remained in production (by Bertone) through 1989, and on sale domestically til the end.

Fiat started work on the X1/9’s successor in 1990. Related to the Punto generation that went on sale in 1993, Fiat was not ready with its new front-drive roadster until 1995. This time the design was handled in-house. Fiat’s engineers even prepared a new engine for the Barchetta: a 1.8-liter mill which used variable camshaft timing (a first for Fiat). The engine produced 129 horsepower, and all examples utilized a five-speed manual. Performance was reasonable for a Nineties roadster, as 60 miles per hour arrived in seven seconds.

The Barchetta was not built alongside its brother, the Punto. Instead, it was welded together at the ILCAS metal works in Sparone Cavanese, then shipped to Chivasso for completion at Maggiora’s coachworks. Though Fiat sold its convertible in two right-hand drive markets, all examples had left-hand drive.

Notably in the Barchetta’s timeline, a significant production issue occurred in 2002: Maggiora declared bankruptcy. Fiat needed a new production location, and chose its Mirafiori factory. But tooling up took a while. To take moderate advantage of a two-year production halt, the Barchetta was revised and refreshed, and went back on sale for the 2004 model year. Changes included revised front and rear bumpers, and some minor alterations to the interior.

By then, Fiat was about finished with the Barchetta. Its unique production requirements, age, and the waning roadster market made it a losing proposition. In June 2005 Barchetta production came to an end. In fact, Barchetta became the last Fiat roadster, unless you count today’s 124 Fiamazda MX-5pider. I don’t.

Today’s totally legal Barchetta is in Florida, where a seller has obtained it from an enterprising collector. In excellent shape, it asks $16,500.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

More by Corey Lewis

Join the conversation
2 of 26 comments
  • Mrb00st Mrb00st on May 11, 2020

    I think these are incredibly cool looking, even if they're probably underwhelming to drive. that 1.8 twin cam looks positively enormous under that hood, though, doesn't it?

  • PsedonAl PsedonAl on Sep 10, 2020

    I have a 2005 Barchetta and i have to say it's super fun to drive. a little stiffer than the NB miata and the engine has reasonable torque

  • Lou_BC Question of the day: Anyone actually care to own an old TVR?
  • Bd2 First, this was totally predictable. 2nd, Genesis already does have hybrids in the form of a 48V mild hybrid, but more performance oriented (supercharged and turbocharged), so not really helping with regard to fuel consumption. 3rd, Hyundai's hybrid systems don't really help as there currently isn't one that would be suitable power-wise and the upcoming 2.5T hybrid system would have to be heavily reworked to accommodate a RWD/longitudinal layout. 4th, it seems that Genesis is opting to go the EREV route with the GV70 the first get the new powertrain.
  • Bd2 Jaguar's problem was chasing the Germans into the mid size and then entry-level/compact segments for volume, and cheapening their interiors while at it.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Aja8888 I expected that issue with my F150 starting at 52,000mi. luckily I had an extended warranty and it saved me almost $8,000. No more Fords for me, only Toyota.
  • Lou_BC I saw a news article on this got a different read on it. Ford wants to increase production of HD trucks AND develop hybrid and EV variants of the SuperDuty. They aren't scaling back EV production. Just building more HD's and EV variants of HD's .