sporting fiats club Friday, May 24, 2024


Barchetta History


Buying Guide


Special Editions

New Owner Guide

SFC Gallery

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Register Interest


Open Topped Sailing
Introducing the Barchetta

It has poise agility and character – just like the best of its ancestors. It rewards attention to detail in driving and in looking… those clever little details and the subtle, blending curves. Providing you can cope with the left hand drive it offers tremendous value for money and lots of fun.
‘Barchetta’ echoes those cute little two seater racing cars of the fifties in name and spirit (Barchetta means little boat) and it will offer you just the right sort of exhaust note and speed to go with the extra sun tan and open air sensations. It’s got a great personality and gives a taught ride – like the best of the little Fiats.

Barchetta History
The Barchetta has been with us for over nine years now. It made its debut at the 1995 Geneva Motor Show. Several manufactures had noticed the growing sales of the Mazda MX5 and rightly concluded the market for soft tops was back in – including Fiat. Speculation had been rife about the basis for the Fiat soft top car after production of the X1/9 ceased. A cut down Coupe perhaps or a revised Uno? In the end they chose the more obvious route with a small and light chassis based on the Punto floor pan.
Early cars were often European imports as there was a price differential in the mid-nineties. The UK spec. cars tend to have more options included as standard - in particular the ABS, and power steering are useful. To date there has been only one basic model with a range of limited editions.
The basic UK spec also has an optional Comfort Pack which provides central locking, leather trim front fog lights, electric aerial and door mirrors.
The Special Editions were; from 1995 to ’98 the Limited Edition, followed by the Riviera to 2000, which was superceded by the Milano in 2001.
Technically the engine is a new development. It’s a 1747cc 16 valve 4 cylinder. The first production Fiat with variable valve timing (vvt). The power peaks at 130bhp (6300 rpm) and top speed is 125mph with 0-60 in 8.6 secs.

The vvt contributes to a smoother power delivery as well as a considerably flatter torque curve - 90% of peak torque is produced at 2000 rpm. It also helps to provide good economy (34 mpg). But the design has not been without some problems - as carbon build up on the variator of the variable valve system causes them to seize up. This affected cars up to March 1999 the most. Barchettas also have fully independent suspension with disc brakes all round.

Barchetta Spec

Engine: 4 cylinder transverse, iron block alloy head.

Head: DOHC 4 valves per cylinder, variable valve timing

Bore/Stroke: 82mm x 82.7mm

Capacity: 1747cc

Fueling: Multipoint injection, Hitachi system

Max Power: 130bhp @6300rpm

Max torque: 121lbs/ft @4300rpm

Transmission: Front wheel drive, 5 speed +reverse,

final drive ratio 3.563:1

Suspension: front: Macpherson strut, lower wishbones, coil springs, anti roll bar

rear: Independent beam with trailing arms, offset coils, anti roll bar

Brakes: front: Ventilated disc, rear: Solid disc

Weight: 1060kg

Top speed: 125mph, 0-60 8.6 secs

Driving Barchettas
The car’s well balanced with a taught sporty drive. Forward visibility is good and the mirrors, driving position and controls are ok for the small and tall amongst us. Rear visibility is hindered a little by the large gap between the rear hood transparency and the door window.
The new high compression engine is brilliant. It combines relaxed cruising and a good top speed (124mph) with excellent pick up from the torquey vvt 1800. The ride is firm with little body roll at normal cornering speeds, although I preferred the ‘B’ I drove with variable rate shockers and slightly lowered springs. Gear change is positive with a quick rack (2.5 turns lock to lock) and overall cornering is accurate. Press on in the corner and the car will politely understeer to the point where side-slip takes over. More speed after this and real understeer kicks in, hesitate on the throttle slightly here, and the short wheel base will flick the car into oversteer – more than a Punto would do - it feels as if the anti-roll bar is unwinding. It’s not progressive and betrays that it wasn't a design priority to anticipate me removing oodles of tyre tread in this fashion. It’s a flickable nippy sports car – not meant for the track day of course. Love it for sunny days and the long cross country weekends, its fun personality and those gentle curves.
For looks I like the leather interior – although that has its own noises. Part of the noise was induced by scuttle shake over bumps, the ‘B’ is a wee bit over-twitchy across its diagonals for my liking, but then it’s a very light car too. I think the hard top looks great – especially on the dark coloured cars like the second 'B' I had a good go in. The only problem is that I like the top down thing too. How difficult is hard top removal?
Comparisons – more fun than an MGF certainly more agile. Definitely a better drive. Perhaps lacks some all round sophistication in comparison with the MX5.  What about comparing with the old guard? Well the X1/9 always convinced me it was under powered because the grip and cornering potential was so much greater– it was over engineered if you like - another 80 plus bhp and we’d be in business. The Barchetta I wouldn’t want to change like that. Some spring rate and damping adjustment would do fine. As a package it’s all here, and very much together and very much ready for the (outdoor) party life. See you at the beach barbie!

Buying a Barchetta
General Notes

Check that imports have their V5 documentation in order (should be less of a problem now). Prices are starting at £3500 for good early examples of the less popular colours.
Variator problems did not cause Fiat to recall the car, but they did offer a free replacement on documented proof of regular servicing. As time passes extracting the free replacement becomes much more difficult (try pulling teeth it’s easier). The first variator modifications didn’t work as well as the second – the fact that there are two says it all. Buying a used Barchetta means being confident that the oil changes were made every 6000 miles
Check the service record for variator upgrades. It must have them!
Body Notes
Primary colours are currently less popular (and cheeper), most popular are silver, black and dark blue.
The bodywork is fully galvanised, and hand built to high standards so the panel gaps are good in the original cars.

But accident damage may involve less knowledgeable UK fitters – and poorly fitting replacements...
Check carefully around the headlights, look for even trim and no rust.
Check front and rear bumper/ valances for even gaps.
Check bonnet gaps and door to A post gaps.
Hood tends to go at rear window first (cracking and yellow discolouring) - and only last 4 years
Check for water staining around hood leaks – adjustment on fitting is important and skilled (half day task) get replacements fitted by someone with experience.
Plastic on the rear window also degrades quicker folded if left in contact with the hood. Use cloth to keep window plastic off hood material. Mohair replacement hoods are also available
Engine & Mechanicals Notes
Check service history for oil change points and cam belt /cam tensioner changes.
Check cam box for signs of brown oil deposits on cam and cap. Good examples will be clean.
Variators - As carbon builds up on the variator they tend to seize up. This affected cars up to March 1999 the most. (Because of closer tolerances in the variators.) Check bills for last replacements. Inspect cams and cam box for deposits and budget £300 for a new variator.
Tyre wear heavy on front – check carefully, and check for geometry alignment wear across the treads.
Check front brake discs and calipers – heavy wear point.
Other drive train items are similar to Fiat in general and Punto components in particular.

Exhaust system - check for fatigue cracking in the middle between mounts and at tail pipe - consider lighter stainless steel alternatives.
Electrical Notes
Suspect all electrical motors after 8 years and check ease of operation.
Check for slow electric window winders and aerial due to water ingress.

Options Notes
Option packages include a wind stop - up to head rest height - (part 5908059) and hard top (part 5908186) with cover (part 5909111) as well as boot mounted ski and luggage racks and alloy wheels. I think the colour coordinated hard top – matching the body colour looks best and the wind stop helps (just about) to keep the toupee on. If you’re doing a lot of city driving there is an air conditioning option too.

Can I find a right hand drive or could I have one converted? The right hand drive conversions will cost about £4k in parts and labour. The problem is that under bonnet and dash layouts were never designed for rhd, and consequently there is a lot of interference between components… and therefore many potential bodge points. Should you find an rhd, have it checked out carefully for details to loom, instrumentation panel (and access), brake system, clutch, pedal box and power steering solutions. Furthermore re-sale values will not be greatly increased by rhd conversion. Unless you can find conversions from a reputable known source, we recommend avoiding them.
How long can I expect a hood to last? The rear plastic window splits – especially if it’s folded down in the cold! They last about four or five years. Budget £350 - £500 for Fiat – after market quality examples are available too. We’ve had no reports from club members about frame problems yet. But hood fitting takes time by a skilled fitter if you want to be sure of avoiding leaks. No wind noise should be present around the windows.
Is the new engine design reliable? The most important area to examine is the head – and in particular the variator providing the variable valve timing. Up to 1999 the variators were seizing with carbon fouling from the engine’s oil. Most would fail before 50000 miles. After 1999 tolerances on the variators were relaxed by Fiat so they don’t seize as quickly. Use high quality semi-synthetic oils (that create less deposits), change the oil every 6000 miles, or 12 months maximum, change the cam belt when you first buy the car and EVERY time it is removed for head maintenance. Variators cost about £300. Don’t skimp on oil changes, or cam belts – check for bills to make sure previous owners have done the same. The rest of the engine is basically bomb proof.
What models of Barchetta are there to choose from? Just the one model of Barchetta… the special editions available are summarised below:


Special Edition
Edition Details
Entry Level (UK) ABS , Immobiliser, Electric windows, Airbags P&D, Power steering
plus the Comfort Pack comprising Central locking, Leather trim, Electric door mirrors, Electric aerial, Front fog lights

Limited Edition

(1995 – 98)

Silver with red hood & leather, Green with biscuit hood/ leather
15in alloys, fogs, Titanium colour dash detailing, Electric door mirrors, Electric aerial, Central locking, Wind stop
(1998 – 2000)

Black with red hood & leather, Red with black hood & leather. Then from 2000 in any of the 5 Barchetta colours.

Options as Limited Edition.


(from 2001)

As Riviera with new Fiat badges, plus the Comfort Pack; Central locking, Leather trim, Electric door mirrors, Electric aerial, Front fog lights


(from 2002)

ABS , Airbags P&D, Front & Rear spoilers, Alloys, Fogs, Windstop, Metallic paint

Can I fit a hard top? Hard tops make the Barchetta look like a very cool little coupe. Hard tops are a worth while option to have probably adding about £500 to the resale value of a used car. But remember the cars are hand built. Hard tops may need adjustment on the car in particular to window gaps. If you buy a new hard top have the adjustment checked by an experienced fitter first time. At least check for wind noises on first fitment as an indication you need help to adjust it.

New Owner Guide

Our thanks to the efforts from our friends in Luxemburg for compiling this evaluation. The original site is well worth a look on Ivo's Luxemburg Barchettas.

1.Diesel sound – yes it’s the variator, talk to your dealer if worried
2. Dented hood/trunk lids – light panels and heavy use (or sitting on the wrong bit) will dent it. Also drop the bonnet or boot holding from the middle to close it, don’t push down on it.
3. Interior/dashboard noises – not on all but common and tricky to trace. Can be caused by scuttle shake on rough ground. Decide if it’s annoying and act accordingly but this is a sports car so it will be noisier. Leather interior has its own noises!
4. Squealing brakes – yes common to Fiat design. May only occur on warm up. If it persists across all temperatures and driving applications have it corrected. But they will be noisier than typical Japanese or UK alternatives.
5. Water infiltration – tends to be from poor alignment of the replacement hoods. The door glass gap doesn’t get adjusted properly. Have it done properly!
6. Moisture in the front/rear lights – depends which ones, headlights are more serious. Can be from condensation as much as water ingress though. Have it checked.
7. Rattling doors – poor re assembly is the most likely cause – leaving pressure pads and retaining clips in non-original places. Have them do it again!
8. Torn soft top compartment joints – Yes with lots of use or rough treatment
9. Sticking hand brake at freezing temperatures - Yes below about -10 degrees C. Try and warm her up a bit! Check the rear calipers are clean and lubricated with copper grease. Especially around the handbrake cable cams.
10. Fold in the rear window – renew hood at expected interval – try to keep it warm and keep the plastic away from the hood material when stored. Avoid hood up/down changes at low temperatures
11. Slow side windows at low temperatures – Yes below freezing the motor and winder mechanism can be affected by frozen water ingress into the mechanism. It was designed for Mediterranean winters?
12. Inexact fuel indicator- The float and damping arrangement in the fuel tank sender unit is a design common to all Fiats and needs to be on level ground to register more accurately. Don’t worry the warning light should come on at ¼ tank to empty – and typically doesn’t register a full tank (getting progressively more inaccurate towards full). What the needle shouldn’t do is stick.

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Ivo's Luxemburg Barchettas