RE: Fiat Coupe 20v Turbo: PH Heroes

RE: Fiat Coupe 20v Turbo: PH Heroes

Sunday 28th May 2017

Fiat Coupe 20v Turbo: PH Heroes

The market is starting to appreciate the Coupe's significance - time to see what the fuss is about



As only the second ever Fiat to be inducted into the PH Heroes Hall of Fame (don't forget the X1/9 too), the turbocharged 20-valve Fiat Coupe Turbo is pretty significant: it boasts some mad Bangle styling, potent performance from its readily tuneable five-cylinder engine and sharp handling with a standard limited-slip diff. And despite having never been replaced by Fiat, the Coupe remains an affordable route into classic Italian motoring.


The front-wheel drive Fiat Coupe was launched in 1993 at the Brussels motor show and despite possessing a humble badge it turned heads everywhere it went - thanks mainly to Chris Bangle's innovative but controversial sharp-edged design. Incorporating numerous special touches, including those arresting side panels, deep-set quad tail-lights, unique slashed alloys and bulging headlamp clusters, it really was like nothing else. And it's the 20v Turbo model seen here that will be gracing most collectors' climate-controlled garages in ten years' time.

Pininfarina's interior design was one of the best and included striking body-coloured dash trim, while the unique turbocharged 1998cc in-line five-cylinder powerplant delivered a healthy 220hp and 229lb ft of torque. A Viscodrive limited-slip differential helped traction while the reinforced bodyshell, independent suspension and anti-roll bars front and rear ensured that the Coupe handled sweetly.

Surprisingly, at the moment a good Turbo will set you back just £4,000, making Fiat's unique two-door one of the best value performance cars you can buy. And values of the best-kept examples are rising, making Fiat's Coupe Turbo 20v a shoo-in as our latest PH Hero.

True blue
Launched in 1996 to replace the original four-cylinder Turbo, the 20-valve five-cylinder model boasted a Garret turbocharger enabling the five-speed manual Coupe to reach 60mph in just 6.3 seconds and top out at 149mph. That made it the fastest front-wheel drive production car for a while, and the last true performance car Fiat has produced.


The most desirable Sprint Blue colour (as seen on this car) was initially only available on the Turbo version, which quickly became the most successful model of the range in the UK. In the rest of Europe however punitive taxes made it a rare sight, with the normally-aspirated version a much bigger seller.

A new six-speed manual gearbox arrived in 1998, along with a few other tweaks including a satin gloss starter button, body-coloured sills and new eight-spoke alloys, whilst the car's top speed was elevated to 155mph. This six-speed transmission was first fitted to Fiat's LE (Limited Edition) model which featured front Brembo brake calipers, a distinctive bodykit, a strut brace and a pair of front Recaros with red leather inserts. A badge located by the rear-view mirror showed each car's unique number. Approximately 300 Limited Editions were originally planned, but the final production figure was much higher - with some estimating that as many as 1,400 may have been made. Fiat also released a Turbo Plus version that came with virtually the same equipment the LE.

Recaro seats with side airbags were introduced in early 2000 as part of a number of other minor revisions, before Fiat Coupe production finally came to an end in September of that year. By then UK buyers had snapped up over 3,500 examples of the 20-valve Turbo, and around 800 of those are still registered today.


Light the blue touch paper
Despite its age the Fiat's set-up is actually pretty contemporary, with that sharp-edged design backed up by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine driving the front wheels via a limited-slip diff. Fire up the 20v Turbo and - as with more modern cars - the engine note is initially rather muted. In fact, off-boost the Coupe delivers a surprisingly benign drive. Get on the throttle however, wait for the turbo to kick in and the Coupe really comes alive, with urgent in-gear thrust and an unmistakable five-cylinder sound that acquires an angry rasp at high revs.

If you're not expecting it, the surge can momentarily take your breath away - a feeling that old-school Impreza drivers will find reassuringly familiar. You'll need to take a little more care when the heavens open though, as the front-wheel Coupe struggles to maintain traction. The diff does its best of course, but torque steer makes the Fiat a little boisterous. With decent rubber the grip levels are quite high though.

On corners the Coupe feels nimble and agile, with light but responsive steering - and body roll is minimal, with a comfortable ride too. Braking too is good, although track day enthusiasts will soon feel the need for something a little stronger, and in tight spaces you'll need to watch that rear end - the Coupe's turning circle is quite large and not always easy to judge. Slick gear changes are possible, in spite of the longish gear lever, and practically-minded PHers will be pleased with the two rear seats - which can accommodate younger children.

The 20v Turbo also provides a good platform for further tuning, with tuners like FC Performance able to provide anything from a simple Stage 1 remap (which can provide around 240hp) right up to a 400hp-plus Stage 5 rebuild. Most buyers at the moment, however, will be seeking a car as close to standard as possible.


Blue for you
Scour the classifieds and you'll find cars advertised for less than £3,000 - but these will require varying degrees of TLC. We reckon at least four grand is a more sensible starting point. "But this can rise to as much as £10,000 for an excellent condition example," explains Rob Donaldson at Glass's. "The more sought-after LE models start at £6,000 and can go for as much as £13,000," he adds. The well-equipped Plus version sits somewhere between the two. Coupes with a long list of modifications tend not to sell too easily and the higher prices are always for near-standard, well cared-for cars.

Galvanised bodies have meant that visible rust is not been much of an issue, but potential buyers must check the wheel arches, around the rear wing badges, the boot seams, sills and floorpan for any signs of corrosion. Aside from this the key issues to watch out for are missing red master keys, incomplete service histories, cracked exhaust manifolds, failing Lambda sensors, worn turbo seals, warped brake discs, perished suspension bushes and worn wheel bearings. "The engines are strong though," claims Leighton Wilson at Coupe experts FC Performance. "Just keep an eye out for a good maintenance record, and stay away from poorly tuned examples."

Service intervals are every 12,000 miles but some owners change their oil every 6,000, and the key cambelt change is due every 72,000 miles, or every six years. Prudent owners get this done more frequently but it can cost around £600 at a specialist - Fiat dealers charge more than £1,000 as they claim it's an engine out job. A few OE parts are now becoming harder to source and you should budget for new front tyres every 8-10K miles.


When it comes to investment potential almost any mint example with a full service history and few modifications is likely to rise in value, as the number of viable examples on the road is diminishing almost daily. So which models will prove the most desirable future classics? Well low-mileage late-plate LE models are the most likely candidates, but don't ignore a mint Plus model either: "The LE could prove a little too conspicuous for a more discerning owner," Leighton Wilson points out.

One thing's for sure: the Fiat Coupe certainly splits opinion, even in this, the most powerful 20-valve turbocharged guise. It's a classic marmite car and, although a rare sight, it's still one of the most recognisable shapes on UK roads. And certainly one of the more affordable PH Heroes too - what are you waiting for?


FIAT COUPE 20V TURBO
Engine:
 1,998cc turbocharged inline-five
Transmission: 5-speed manual/6-speed manual, front-wheel drive (1999-on)
Power (hp): 220@ 5,750rpm
Torque (lb ft): 229@ 2,500rpm
0-60mph: 6.3sec
Top speed: 149/155mph
Weight: 1,310kg (claimed)
On sale: 1996-2000
Price new (1998): £24,224
Price now: £3,000-£13,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Many thanks to the Fiat Coupe Club UK, the Fiat Forum, FC Performance, Glass's Guide and PHer David Flanighan for letting us shoot his car. Photos by Chris Teagles]

Author
Discussion

helix402

Original Poster:

3,832 posts

115 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
The 20vt shouldn't torque steer. If it does something is worn out. Great cars, just a little annoying to work on. Fundamentally the engine is too big for the engine bay.

grumpy52

3,525 posts

99 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
Those that know how can change the belt without removing the engine . It requires tilting and a medium to small mechanic .
Engine mounts need checking as well as bottom arms and bushes .

Mr2Mike

19,770 posts

188 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
helix402 said:
The 20vt shouldn't torque steer.
They suffered some torque steer the day they rolled out of the factory. Obviously worn suspension bushes make things much worse, and front wishbones are pretty much a service item (esp. cheap and nasty pattern ones).

You need to look out for cars that have been messed with as well. The previous owner of mine decided to mess around with a manual boost controller and managed to melt a piston, which i why I picked it up cheap.



You can do lots of work with the engine still in the car


Watch out for cracked exhaust manifolds, they are very common


Repaired with a MIG using stainless wire and big blow lamp to pre-heat the manifold. Still working fine when I sold it 40k later


Edited by Mr2Mike on Sunday 28th May 13:39

helix402

Original Poster:

3,832 posts

115 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
When I owned one I left the engine in situ, was still a pain. But I'm not a medium/small mechanic! Mine never torque steered.

Mr2Mike

19,770 posts

188 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
helix402 said:
When I owned one I left the engine in situ, was still a pain. But I'm not a medium/small mechanic! Mine never torque steered.
Mine didn't torque steer on smooth roads (with new wishbones), but put it on a B road with worn/uneven surface and it would. Biggest pain I had was just getting the timing belt cover off intact, the rest of the job wasn't too bad.

One thing I do remember, it had by far the worst headlights of any car I have owned in the last 20 years.
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goldywaggon

25 posts

101 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
Great cars, I bought one for £800 around 7 years ago with a great service history but just poor bodywork(fading peeling lacquer) a Zender/LE bodykit later and a full re-spray and was the best value for money car I have ever owned. Finished of course in Rosso Corsa red.

I would have another one. Car was reliable as only really needed a clutch in the 18 months I had it. Traded it for my 1st Skyline GTS-t and regretted it.

spookly

2,007 posts

28 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
Mr2Mike said:
helix402 said:
When I owned one I left the engine in situ, was still a pain. But I'm not a medium/small mechanic! Mine never torque steered.
Mine didn't torque steer on smooth roads (with new wishbones), but put it on a B road with worn/uneven surface and it would. Biggest pain I had was just getting the timing belt cover off intact, the rest of the job wasn't too bad.

One thing I do remember, it had by far the worst headlights of any car I have owned in the last 20 years.
I've had 4 of them over the years. And I would agree that the worst thing about them was the headlights.

PartOfTheProblem

1,745 posts

104 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
I'd completely forgotten about these, intact I hadn't ever really known much about them!

What's the real world mpg like? Would 30 be achievable?

pallison

60 posts

179 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
Bought one new in 2000 and ran for nearly 12 years - average was about 25mpg in mixed driving and 35mpg if you drove like a saint on the motorway. This was with a 20V Turbo with the 6 speed gearbox. Great car and would buy one again but only as a weekend car, as they're too old now for daily use.

andyps

7,762 posts

215 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
I love mine, I've had it 14 years. It is important to recognise the stories about Fiat reliability though - the engine went on it last year after only 198600 miles, and all gentle miles, the failure occurred on a timed run at a Hillclimb event.

That is true, but more seriously it has been very reliable, was my daily driver for 9 years and 160k miles during which it averaged 27mog and could easily return 30 on a motorway run. I had very few problems with it and it didn't need much above expected service items.

Whilst the engine was being changed I did get some rust sorted but nothing much and the first it had ever had. I've never garaged it, the only problem currently is lacquer peel on the roof so one of these days I'll get a respray but for the moment I just enjoy using it competitively at Harewood Hillclimb.

Corbmi

1 posts

91 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
My car has been in the family since new (1997 20v Turbo), and, as mentioned above, torque steered from day one. But I agree about the rubbish headlights; it's the only thing I've changed on an otherwise totally standard car (LES bulb upgrade really helps).

DanTheManc

82 posts

24 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
The 20VT was the first turbocharged car I ever bought. Since then I've own loads of Turbo charged cars including a VXR, 335i, M135i and currently a Cupra 290. The only car I was genuinely heart broken to sell was my moon grey Fiat Coupe 20VT. It's a car i lusted after since the day one flew past me and I thought "what's that!" I loved the noise, speed and styling and bought one when I was 23yr old. I had to sell it to fund a house move.

If I had the space I'd buy another and keep it forever.

Here's mine


macky17

1,839 posts

122 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
Ive owned three and adore them. Id have another for sure despite having deeper pockets these days.

Rear seats accommodate 'smaller children'? Put it this way, I'm 6-4 and am not too squashed back there. Loads of room.

REDCARISMINE

39 posts

24 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
No 23 Of 200 le 20v turbo was mine
S134 djw - is it still about ???

helix402

Original Poster:

3,832 posts

115 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
It's dead, never existed or the wrong reg no.

Blaster72

6,575 posts

130 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
Mine lunched its crank bearings costing me far too many ££££ but to be fair the boost had been turned up a smidge and it had suffered the oil cooler pipe leak issue so probably ran a bit low on oil at some point. Here, probably 15 or so years later I still look back as it being one of the best cars I've ever owned. I had a 16v non turbo before that and even that was pretty special.

This place was my second home for a number of years and I managed to meet up with a fair few owners at dyno days here and there

http://fiatcoupe.net/

God knows what they're like now though, some parts (like exhaust manifolds) were hard to get hold of even all those years ago. Must be tough to find them now. It's nice to see there are still around 1000 20v varients left on the road though smile

https://www.howmanyleft.co.uk/?utf8=%E2%9C%93&...

p.s. If anyone comes across the workshop manual for sale online it may well be a distant relative of the one I created. I spent hours and hours on my home PC with a flatbed scanner scanning the paper Fiat workshop manual in and initial sold on the manual on CD to people from the forums. Once I'd made enough back to pay for the then expensive paper manual I started sending out the discs for the price of a stamped envelope. Must have had too much time on my hands in those days.



Edited by Blaster72 on Sunday 28th May 22:18

Speed 3

2,174 posts

52 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
I had one for a couple of years and I always describe it as a flawed diamond. I'm not a fan of old school turbo lag and that combined with the mechanical traction control made it near-lethal at trying to make quick getaways at junctions and roundabouts. Other than that it is an utterly sublime piece of design and was quicker than the 1st gen Boxster that replaced it. I hated Bangles BMW work, but this is just a perfect execution of packaging with an outrageous but stylish inside/outside and 5-pots are always magical.

When you see the mental prices crap Fords of the era go for, its got to be the future classic bargain of the century, even at upper end LE/Plus money. I'd love to have the space to (re-) add one to the collection.

CAPP0

13,818 posts

136 months

Sunday 28th May 2017
quotequote all
pallison said:
they're too old now for daily use.
We have two in the Cappo household, both 2000MY final-model 20VT Pluses. Mine, I confess, is a garage queen, having been the subject of a post-accident 12 month bare metal rebuild some years ago, with about 80k on the clock. MrsC's, however, has over 160k on the clock and it's been 100% reliable over the 4 or so years we've had it. It gets used and abused daily and has only a couple of minor niggles (e.g. front wipers don't self-park).

Futse

118 posts

118 months

Monday 29th May 2017
quotequote all
andyps said:
I love mine, I've had it 14 years. It is important to recognise the stories about Fiat reliability though - the engine went on it last year after only 198600 miles, and all gentle miles, the failure occurred on a timed run at a Hillclimb event.
'only' 198600' miles? that's some serious miles though. And all gentle miles? Except the last timed run at a Hillclimb event? Or did you take that gentle too? ;-) And you bought it new?

Nigel_O

1,450 posts

152 months

Monday 29th May 2017
quotequote all
In one respect, I wish I'd kept my current Moon Grey 20VT Plus completely standard - I bought it in 2010 with just 24,000 miles on it and it drove very nicely. It would certainly be appreciating nicely now, but that's not really the point. Yes, they are rebounding out of banger territory, but they are still not precious enough to be stored away in climate-controlled garages - they need to be driven and enjoyed.

Mine was purchased because my previous highly-modified Coupe was starting to go rusty after 'only' 246,000 miles. I had all of the modified parts transferred into the Plus and have been running with it ever since.

They can be extremely reliable when properly looked after, but they are not a car you can forget about between services. They absolutely demand that the owner knows how to open the bonnet (assuming the cable hasn't snapped...) and check the vital fluids on a regular basis. There are many Coupes on the excellent Fiat Coupe Club forum with well over 200,000 miles on them - a few close to 300,000.

The modifications for the Coupe have been largely home-grown - they have never enjoyed the same benefits of a strong home-market aftermarket tuning industry like some JDM cars. I can clearly remember people being seriously impressed at a dyno day (Powerstation in Cheltenham - anyone remember that?) where one Coupe made 280bhp. 400bhp is now commonplace and relatively easy to achieve. There are several Coupes over 500bhp, one over 600 bhp and a Coupe engine (in a Marea!!) in Brazil is well north of 700bhp. Mine is 450-480 bhp and until three years ago, was in daily use, adding 25,000 miles a year.

BTW - the comment earlier about torque-steer is correct. A properly set up Coupe has little or no torque-steer, regardless of the power output. Mine can take full throttle in the dry in any gear other than first and still drive in a straight line. Things are a bit more lively in the wet.....

The mechanicals are pretty simple and fairly robust. However, no matter how the car looks, you should remember that we're talking about a car built 20-ish years ago from Italian steel. Rust is now claiming more Coupes than blown engines. If you can find one with no rust in the sills, arches, boot floor and floorpans, you should grab it and put it in a climate controlled garage. Ah, hang on......