Rare Rides: A 1994 Fiat Coupe, as Legal Immigrant

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an imported two-door Fiat on these pages which required some paperwork to get into the country. But it is the first time it’s all been done above board.

Let’s check out this 25-year-old Italian.

Fiat’s Coupé entered production in 1993 and was the first time the company offered a coupe since 1979. The new model took a very different approach to the most excellent 130 coupes of the 1970s and opted for front-drive and sporty handling over rear-drive and opulence.

The thoroughly Italian two-door was designed by native Ohioan Chris Bangle, a few short years before he went to work at BMW. There was a little Coupé competition between Fiat’s own design team and Pininfarina, and both presented exterior designs to Fiat brass for the new car. Fiat chose the Bangle option, but still gave the interior design nod to Pininfarina. Pininfarina’s exterior design didn’t go to waste though: in 1996 it debuted as the Peugeot 406 Coupe. Fiat’s Coupé came into existence thanks in small part to General Motors. When Cadillac Allanté production was canceled, the factory at Pininfarina suddenly had available capacity. Fiat was ready to fill the space with a car of their own.

Though it was an all-new body, the Type Two platform underneath the Coupé dated to the late Eighties. It was used for many Fiat and Alfa Romeo vehicles, as well as the Lancia Delta. All Coupes used Fiat family engines which ranged in size from 1.8 to 2.0 liters. Cylinder arrangements were of inline-four or inline-five varieties. Top tier engines were the twin cam 2.0-liter I4 and the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-five. All Coupés were equipped with manuals of either five or six speeds.

Over the years, Fiat made some trim and performance improvements to the Coupé, and eventually updated the interior to look darker and more serious than early run examples. The car hit its peak sales early, with 17,619 in 1994. Sales fell off afterward, and by 1999 it sold just over 6,000 copies a year. 2000 was the Coupé’s last year, and it was cancelled without replacement.

Today’s Rare Ride was listed recently in San Francisco for $13,000, but the listing recently expired. This one in particular has a bit of an identity crisis, with a Pininfarina badge in its grille that doesn’t belong and an Abarth badge on its rear it doesn’t deserve.

[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.

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3 of 17 comments
  • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Jan 05, 2021

    I’m no great fan of Bangle styled cars but I find this attractive. The oblong wheel arches look like the ones on the Qvale Mangusta and a couple of Maserati models. The blunted rear end reminds me of a Bradley GT. I don’t think parts are an issue since they are available via mail order.

  • ThomasSchiffer ThomasSchiffer on Jan 06, 2021

    Don’t even bother. Even in Europe your local Fiat dealership is at a loss when it comes to obtaining spare parts for their cars from this era. And you want to drive this in... North America? A friend of mine has a Fiat Barchetta convertible and some of the most basic spare parts are unavailable because Fiat did not take the time to produce spare parts for the future. The club and eBay scene is the only way he can find parts to keep it running.