Find of the Week: 1997 Fiat Barchetta

My uncle has a country place, that no-one knows about. He says it used to be a farm, before the Motor Law. Okay, maybe that's enough Rush. And maybe this Barchetta isn't red. But it's still a rather pleasing teal. Plus it's spring. When a young (or old) driver's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of convertible. Like this one. The autoTRADER.ca Find of the Week: a lovely 1997 Fiat Barchetta.

Italian automaker Fiat has a long history of building small open-top cars. Starting with 1955's 1100 Trasformabile. It took Fiat's 1100 coupe and, yup, trasformabiled it into a tiny two-seat convertible. From there it's a series of classics like the Pininfarina Cabriolet, and the 124 Sport Spider. Ok, maybe it's mainly those two. But the 124 Spider was made for nearly 20 years, so that takes up much of the timeline.

In the 1990s, Fiat found themselves without a convertible. It was a hot time for open roofs, with sales of Mazda's MX-5 growing, and in Europe, the MG F mid-engine was also popular. BMW's Z3 was on the way too.

So Fiat decided it would work on a new convertible too. The project was called the Tipo B Spider 176, or Type B Spider 176, during development. While many of Fiat's most iconic designs were styled by outside firms, this one was handled in-house, at the Centro Stile Fiat.

The Barchetta was based on another Fiat company chassis. Underneath, the Barchetta is strongly related to the first-generation Fiat Punto. The Punto, launched in 1993, won European Car of the Year in 1995, so it was certainly no bad place to start.

Strangely, the Punto itself had a convertible version, built from 1994 to 1999. But the Punto Convertible was definitely not an attractively styled car. If you wanted something that traded a tiny back seat for a whole lot of style, Fiat offered you the Barchetta.

Though those supermini bones mean that this car might break one of the cardinal rules of the roadster. Yes, it is front-wheel drive.

In a car this size, though, that means that there's actually a chance at usable interior space. Which is far more important than the handling perks of rear-wheel drive. Or at least Fiat thought so.

The engine is a 1.8L DOHC four-cylinder. It's the first time that Fiat used variable camshaft timing in a production car. Power output is 129 hp and there's 121 lb-ft of torque to go with it.

A tiny front-drive platform means tiny weight. The Barchetta was just over the tonne at 1,056 kg. That gave the small car zippy performance: 0-100 km/h in just under nine seconds.

Of course, forget about performance. Small and affordable roasters are as much about style as they are about handling. Not that this is a bad handler. After all it's very light and based on a car that handled well for a supermini.

But it's style where this car really shines. That character line running down the side, the pert rear corners with quad taillamps, and the sleek nose. The only real question mark on this one are those driving lights. So take them off if you don't like them.

This particular car is for sale in Toronto. It's a 1997, and the seller says it has just under 55,000 km on the odometer. It's finally starting to warm up, we hope, and this little teal Barchetta could be just what you're looking for to help welcome in the spring.

 

Open top Italian 3/27/2019 10:05:06 AM