The word from management was clear: If Fiat was to become profitable, it had to ditch its economy car image and move slightly upmarket by renewing its ties with the world of motorsports. This didn’t necessarily mean competing in racing events, but offering a leisure car or two wouldn’t hurt. The Centro Stile fired in 1994 with the Coupé and again in 1995 with the Barchetta.
Designed by Chris Bangle, an American designer whose name became infamously associated with the rear end of a BMW, the Coupé mixed retro-inspired lines like round tail lamps and a stainless steel gas cap with the latest 90s design cues such as sharp lines that slashed through the top of the wheel arches.
In order to save money on research and development, Fiat underpinned the Coupé with the Tipo 2 platform that was also used by the Alfa 155, the Fiat Bravo and the second-gen Lancia Delta. The Alfa Romeo Spider (916-Series) used a modified version of the platform.
Throughout its six-year long production run, the Coupé was offered with a wide selection of transversally-mounted four- and, interestingly, five-cylinder engines ranging from 130 to 220 horsepower. Power was sent to the front wheels via either a five- or a six-speed manual.
The most potent Coupé earned the honor of being the fastest front-wheel drive car Fiat had ever produced. It reached 62 mph (100 km/h) from a stop in just 6.3 seconds and its top speed was electronically limited at 155 mph (250 km/h).
If history repeats itself, the Coupé is ill-fated on the collector car market. Its predecessor in spirit, the Fiat 124 Fiat Coupé, is still seen as a car for folks who can’t afford a Lancia Fulvia or an Alfa GTV and is not particularly sought after, though the trend is starting to change ever so slowly.
A look in the classifieds reveals Coupé prices vary from €1,000 for an example in need of major mechanical work to about €5,500 for a clean, one-owner example with low miles. The classifieds also show an disproportionate amount of Coupé have been ravaged by the tuning crowd, so bone-stock examples might take a little bit of patience to find.
With the oldest examples preparing to celebrate their 20th birthday, will the Fiat Coupé become sought after by collectors or will it follow the path blazed by the 124 Fiat coupe?