B U Y E R S   G U I D E

What to look for when purchasing a barchetta (new or used)

  • Thin sheetmetal
    Used early cars exhibit dents in the trunk and bonnet. Some showroom models too. This occures by pushing on the lid shut. Either press at the near end of the lid, or slam it. A spoiler or luggagerack might help too.
    Cars manufactured after December 1995 (#15000) should have this somewhat fixed, but still be careful.
    When closing the bonnet, let it fall for 40 cms, as it might pop open while driving. There is a safety to prevent it from fully opening, but seeing and hearing your bonnet clapping at 160 km/h is very scary indeed.
    Just be careful, other parts are also easily dented (doors, fenders).
    We have asked at Ilcas (the chassis factory) what they have done about this problem. They said this: "The skin of regular cars is made of 0.7 mm thick sheet metal. Usually this is sufficient, but not on the lid of the barchetta. The thickness of this part has been increased to 0.8 mm, to no avail. Now it's 0.9 mm thick, and there are no more problems anymore."

  • Paint defects
    Stone chippings can create little black and white spots on the bonnet. But also the doorhandles might suffer from missing paint near the grooves. Easy to fix with colored paint sticks.
    The paint used on the barchetta is an environmentally friendly one, unfortunately it's not as strong as old lead paints used to be.

  • Weak radio reception
    The Grundig made radio itself is a fine piece of electronics, but is hindered by a poor aerial cable. This will confuse the RDS which will start scanning for stronger stations and momentarily looses reception. Also crackling and hissing can be heard.
    Another radio can be installed. Fiat part number 46 228 873 can be used to fill the gaps at both sides of the radio (11,60 DM excl. VAT). Japanese barchetta's are equiped with a Sony radio.
    Cars manufactured after June 1996 (#21700) should have a new aerial cable.

  • Tearing of the softtop
    As reported by many, the softtop has a design flaw. The metal construction cuts into the fabric of the softtop, when not folded properly! This can become visible when the roof is closed: in the middle above the side windows and in the lower rear corners above the tonneau cover. Above the windows the softtop will be punctured, while in the rear corner it will show white smears.
    Cars manufactured after May 1996 (#20170) should have this fixed. Talk to your dealer for a fix as Fiat is aware of this fact. Look at this page how to prevent further tearing.

  • Leakage
    The rubber seals of the roof and the trunk have been given much grief to some. Those of the trunk tear too easily. Roof rubbers are hard to replace, but adjusting the windows might help.
    In the Maggiora factory, hot-air blowers are used to make the rubbers fit. This blower is also used to smoothen the plastic rear window.
    Cars manufactured after May 1996 (#20200) have slightly stiffer trunk seal rubbers. Also the rubber seal of the softtop has been modified to prevent black stripes from appearing on the softtop-coverlid.
    Another watery problem are the tail lights. Usually the two inner lamps will get fogged up. Cars manufactured after June 1996 (#21700) have a new housing to prevent water from entering.

  • Hardtop
    The first hardtops weren't made out of metal, but of plastic (for another supplier than the current one). Major problem is water running in from the trunklid, when the car is on a slope pointing down. The best fitting hardtops are those that came factory-installed with your car.

  • Minor problems, fixed at the first inspection
    The wiper washing tank (will leak), rearbrake switch and seatbelt tensioner will be replaced immediately as these can be hazardous to your safety.

  • Other-things to look for
  • Best buy?
    It's been said that the barchetta engine of the first year of production (until May 1996) is more powerful than declared by Fiat.
    Their tests show a minimum of 135 bhp to a maximum of 140 bhp. The best cars can reach 220 km/h. Moreover the cars produced in the first year are faster in accelaration and top speed: the later models have 2 bhp less. Also the gearbox ratio has been made longer, both to limit fuel consumption and noise.

    Since June 1998 (chassis number 37640), the Step A engine is fitted, which is claimed to be rated 135 bhp (again). This was done by tweaking the electronics, in order to get lower emission levels and lower fuel consumption. Peak torque of 121lb ft is now developed at 3800rpm, 500rpm lower, all making the barchetta a bit more responsive and marginally quicker in the gears.

    ...yet 70% of all current owners would buy another barchetta — 3% wouldn't


    Some modification dates taken from 'Auto Motor & Sport'.
    Mentioned chassisnumbers are based on a list of 40 numbers and their production dates I have in my possession, but some chassisnumbers might have been jumbled around a bit...
    Send comments to me.