Car Mechanics (UK)
Coupé de grâce
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.