Car Mechanics (UK)

Coupé de grâce

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The re­cent fea­ture on the Fiat Coupé

(CM, July 2019) brought back some in­ter­est­ing mem­o­ries. I bought one of those – a five-pot non-turbo ex­am­ple – some years ago from the road­side. Yes, I know... It had been owned by a squad­die for a few months of its life, be­fore be­ing sold to a lady owner who’d cher­ished it since. The car was fin­ished in Fer­rari Red, stood out­side of a rea­son­able ad­dress and was parked on the grass. That’s a cru­cial bit to the story. It was for sale out­side of the owner’s par­ent’s house. That’s the other cru­cial point.

It was an ex­cep­tional ex­am­ple, with ev­ery stamp in the book and new tim­ing belts. I was hooked by the looks and sound of the car. I bought the Coupé pretty much on the spot, sign­ing the docs kneel­ing at the kitchen ta­ble in a poor man’s trib­ute to that fancy Fer­rari deal­er­ship that makes you kneel to buy. I drove it back to the garage where I was work­ing at the time and left it there for the week­end.

When I re­turned on Mon­day to col­lect it, there was a substantia­l pool of oil un­der it. I tried to get my money back to no avail. It was a pri­vate sale and, there­fore, sold as seen. Besides, they would only let me test-drive it with proof of in­sur­ance and I’d used trade in­sur­ance. I was on my own.

Open­ing that mas­sive clamshell bon­net (which paved the way for the 2001 MINI bon­net), I set about with en­gine de­greaser and brake cleaner to trace the source of the leak. I had to cut off aux­il­iary belts (a seized ad­juster) to get to the root of the is­sue: the rocker cover gas­ket. A new one was or­dered along with a tube of RTV.

We took no chances on get­ting a per­fect seal, using the RTV to seat the gas­ket, as it was no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult to get oil-tight, as I dis­cov­ered dur­ing a thor­ough read of all the re­ceipts and in­voices.

It did seal per­fectly and I went on to use the car ex­ten­sively for high days and hol­i­days with­out a sin­gle is­sue

‘I bought the Coupé pretty much on the spot, sign­ing the doc­u­ments kneel­ing at the kitchen ta­ble’

there­after. It took me and some chums to the Paris Salon, then to the Geneva Salon in heavy snow, and later to Silverston­e. It was smooth, com­fort­able, fast and eco­nom­i­cal. It wasn’t a sports car, but it was a pass­able GT.

After 18 months, I sold it to a CM reader and got my pur­chase price back. Said reader then used it as a daily driver for a year be­fore sell­ing it and get­ting his money back. The moral of this story is two-fold: when it comes to used cars, you re­ally can’t trust any­body, and while it might not be prof­itable, buy­ing and run­ning in­ter­est­ing old cars need not cost a for­tune.

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