AN INTERCONTINENTAL BARCHETTA!
From time to time I discover that one or other of our members has an interesting story to tell. Here is the account of member David Broadley telling of life with his RHD Barchetta, one of three owned by our members.
Below David’s story is an article and photos taken from the RMS Motoring website regarding the same car when located in Northern Ireland.
Thank you David for your story.
Although I joined the club in 2018 I have not been able to attend any of the events as I’m based overseas. I have resided in Singapore and Malaysia since the late 1970s, I went there as a young lad after completing a course at Manchester University in Interior Design. In the 80’s I formed my own company in Singapore and for the next 40 years specialised in Hotel design. I married a Singapore girl in the in the 90’s and we have two children a boy and a girl who are grown up and work in Singapore & Malaysia. We used to spend much of our time between the Far East and UK until the Covid pandemic.
It was in the summer of 2002, whilst on holiday with my wife in Milan, that I first spotted a Fiat Barchetta parked outside a trendy Bistro, I was really taken with the car, but after my research revealed that the car was only made in LHD, which for me has always been a big No No, I did not pursue it further.
A good friend of mine in the UK owned a Barchetta (LHD) which I took for a spin and I was very impressed by the way it handled and its performance, I also think it is a very pretty car, the coachwork design was by Andreas Zapatinas while at Fiat Centro Style, he later worked for Alfa Romeo, my taste buds were aroused again.
Then in 2018 I came across an advert for a RHD Barchetta, it was being auctioned and was offered with some nice Fiat accessories, I discovered that Fiat had a few LHD cars converted to RHD under licence to explore whether it would be viable to launch the car for the UK market, however the conversion proved to be expensive so these plans were aborted.
I won the auction but on reflection think I bid a little over the odds for the car, it may have had an added premium due to being in RHD, plus it was in good condition and had genuine Fiat extras, maybe I was a little too enthusiastic, but it was mine.
I understand that the previous owner was a member of the club and the car was then well known, apparently he resided in Northern Ireland and according to the V5 he was the first owner, but I have been unable to verify this. The car was originally registered in the UK as R997 SKH on the 05/06/1998 & had a plate change to 7434 NL on 11/08/2006. I assume it was changed back to R997 SKH when I purchased the car. I seldom used the car during our visits to UK as we always went there as a family. Most of the time it remained in my car store in Odell, Bedfordshire, I think I’ve done less than 500 miles during my time in UK.
From an early age I have always been interested in classic cars and have owned a variety of Marques over the years. I started my own restoration business which was a hobby at first that later turned into a business. Although this was based in both the UK & Malaysia I decided to close the UK operation in 2020 due to Covid, at that time I decided to import the Barchetta into Malaysia.
The car arrived at Port Klang Malaysia in December 2020 and is now registered as KFA 9991; I believe it is the only one in existence here, so no chance of starting a Barchetta Club! The car, mechanically, is in great shape. On arrival a detailed inspection was undertaken as it had been unused for over 18 months. Everything checked out OK so just a full service rendered the car to be in “TIP TOP” condition. The underside was thoroughly cleaned and repainted so is as new.
The exterior paint work was in good condition, there were some minor stone chips here and there, but the main problem was that some of the front panels had been repainted, again, I think due to stone chips as there is no evidence of any accident damage. The panels were a very bad paint match to the rest of the car. My regular painter could not guarantee that even if he re-sprayed the panels he could achieve a good match so in the end I decided to go with a full re-spray. The good news is that paintwork in Malaysia is not as expensive as in the UK; it cost around £600 pounds including removal of lights, badges, bright work, trims etc. prep & paint. I believe that the shade Broom yellow is a very hard colour to match as it fades over time. The interior was cleaned so is as new; all in all it is now a very presentable car.
We are now (as of 1st June 2021) in a full lockdown in Malaysia due to Covid and are restricted to travelling within a maximum of 10 KM radius from our home base, this is constantly monitored by police road blocks at 10 km intervals, so any long trips are not possible,. My intention, eventually, is to drive the car to Langkawi Island which is about 300 KM north of Kuala Lumpur, the drive is very scenic, after Kuala Lumpur you pass through areas of old rubber plantations and oil Palms, then through a mountain range around the area of Ipoh and rice paddies after Penang island, eventually arriving at the seaside town of Kuala Kedah were we would take the ferry to Langkawi. The main island of Langkawi is about the same area as Singapore. Langkawi was awarded UNESCO Global Geopark status, the first Global Geopark in Southeast Asia; it is one of only 147 worldwide to date. It is an archipelago made up of 99 islands on Malaysia’s west coast. Surrounded by turquoise sea, the interior of the main island is a mixture of picturesque paddy fields and jungle-clad hills. Even though it is a popular tourist destination the island is not overdeveloped and is unspoilt, I worked on the island between 2002 to 2006.
We have a sea front residence there which eventually will be the new home for the Barchetta, an ideal environment to enjoy the car, it will join my Citroen 2CV. I will document this journey when travel restrictions are lifted and send you the details.
Barchetta – An undiscovered modern classic?
An Article from RMS Motoring BY CHRIS ANDREWS ON MARCH 31, 2017. Photos by Graham Curry. The original article can be viewed on the RMS Motoring website by clicking here and is published here with kind permission of RMS.
Fiat is an automotive monolith and Italian industrial giant. Despite manufacturing cars for over 100 years, in all shapes and forms, its image and reputation has been dogged by the legacy a range of unimaginative and wholly unreliable cars which it churned out throughout the 1980s. Every model was dull eurobox, with cheap and nasty components. A world removed from the zesty Fiats of the 60s and 70s. If you wanted a fun family car, with a raucous twin cam engine, first stop was Fiat. If you wanted a sharp handling hatchback, there was a Fiat for you. Low cost coupes or sports cars? Obviously Fiat.
Yet somehow Fiat lost its way. We got Regattas, Tempras and Cromas. Instantly forgettable scrapheap fodder. The little Barchetta, launched in 1995, was an attempt by the Turin giant to awaken its lost sports car credentials. The design brief was simple – create a open top, lightweight, two-seater sports car, in the classic Italian style. Fiat didn’t disappoint. The new Barchetta took the best parts of modern motoring, which applying design cues from former models like the Fiat 124.
The Barchetta was offered for sale in the UK and Ireland, but was only available in left hand drive and it was relatively expensive. As a result, sales never really took off, despite a ten year production run. With only around 500 on the roads, the car remains a rare and head turning sight. So I was delighted, when stalwart RMS snapper, Graham Curry, said he knew where a rare right hand drive model lived.
I’ve a soft spot for the Fiat Barchetta. Maybe it’s the curiosity value that appeals to me. Or maybe it’s because, despite the fix it again reputation, it’s a very solid and well engineered car. A 16- valve, twin overhead camshaft 1.8-litre VVT engine, is the heartbeat, kicking out 130bhp. Not impressive by current standards, but enough for 0-60 in 8.6 secs and a top speed north of 124 mph. But then again, the whole point of this car is tops off, point and squirt motoring. Find a twisty stretch of tarmac, get the roof down and let the raspy Italian four pot provide the soundtrack.
This particular Fiat Barchetta is one of only six right hand drive cars. This car was brought into the UK in 1998 along with the others and handed over to DTR Sportscars, a specialist based in Surrey. It cost £4,000 per car to stick the steering wheel on the other side, so the costs didn’t stack up for such a low volume car. As for the fate of the original six RHD Barchettas, two were exported, one found itself in the hands of Top Gear and the remaining three were sold to the UK public. This Giallo Ginestra (or broom yellow) example has spent most of its life safe in the hands of the Fiat Barchetta owners club. It rolled out of the showroom with a raft of high-end extras and has only covered 59,000 miles. The cars have a niche but loyal following and have the hallmarks of a future classic.