How far would you travel to view another Barchetta?

How far does your interest take you to view a Barchetta with the possibility of buying a second car? My journey started with a planned Polish holiday to visit the family and grandchildren with Hanna my wife asking, “Do you consider buying another Fiat 126” with my assurance that there was no thoughts of buying another car. Honestly, my only intention was to search out and buy Barchetta parts.

Buying Barchetta spares has turned into a compulsive holiday adventure. I follow all internet sites of companies, breakers and private breakers/sales and I’m of th older generation so I miss climbing over cars in a UK breakers yard. (Pre H&S) if they are within an hour by bus or train I’m going there. No trip goes by without spares returning with me in a suitcase on a Wizz or Ryanair flight. One of my three wishes to the fairies would be that airlines accept doors and body panels in place of sports equipment!

On Monday 12th September before my flight on the Thursday, an advert appeared on the Polish Barchetta owners Facebook site with a 1995 Red Barchetta for sale. Unbelievably the Barchetta was for sale, privately, in the same small satellite town near Warsaw where my son lives and also where I bought my Fiat 126. While still in the UK, Facebook messenger was used to make contact with the owner and ifthe Barchetta was not sold Hanna, (admit it, we all need permission!) and I would like to view it at the weekend. Confirmation came on the Friday, by telephone,that it was still available. I made arrangements to view on the Saturday.

Brian’s grandson helping with the Barchetta inspection

Armed with a list of questions and notes on what to look for and already having ownership of a Barchetta for ten years, I was hopefully prepared. The Advert pictures showed a car that had two standout issues that the lady owner had clearly and honestly shown.

1, The roof had a 4cm split where it folds and the bottom two corners of the roof were coming away from the frame, both not unusual for older cars.

2, The boot lid top coat lacquer/paint was really discoloured.

Chatting with the owner and her husband, both spoke English, the history of the car was explored. Imported from Italy in 2007 (no previous history) with them being the third owners in Poland. The average Polish car owner does not seem to keep a history file of work and maintenance, something I personally like to see.

I never expected to see a show car. My first visual impression of the Barchetta was that I could, and probably would, walk away from it.The car had passed a Polish technical test that morning and the only advisory was that all the tyres were on the limit of safe use. The testers seemed to have missed two obvious items, one wiper blade ripped and one sidelight bulb not working. I do not believe the Polish test is as strict as our MOT.

I don’t think the car had ever been kept in a garage. The paint work was dull and unpolished. Seemingly no effort had been put into cleaning the car in preparation for a sale. Underneath it showed no signs of rust or rot in the rear arches and under the front sills only surface rust was visible. Looking at the VIN number on the passenger floor it was like new and poking around the underlay it felt damp but not soaked. The underside condition gave the impression that the car had only been used sparingly on nice days and not an everyday car driven in all weathers.

The roof will need replacing at some time (I changed one myself in the past), if the sun is shining and the roof is down who sees it anyway? Internally the leather seats were in very good condition and will restore well. Just one very small tear/hole on the inside of the driver’s seat bolster needed attention.

It was fitted with a modern radio with no plastic surround that I found a little off putting. Both internal door handles worked. The hand brake had a long travel, probably stretched though leaving on whilst parked up for too long. All electric switches worked. Only the temperature gauge showed signs of not working properly.

Two common Barchetta problems I did forget to ask about or checkwere, “Was the heater matrix leaking?” (It wasn’t) and “Was there a smell of petrol in the cabin when full of fuel?” The engine bay was untidy and in need of a good clean but I was pleased to notethat all fluids were at correct levels and clean oil was showing on the dipstick.I could not detect the engine “diesel sound” from a failing variator and the clutch and gear selection felt fine.

A test drive went well, the engine was responsive. It stopped without any snatching or pulling to one side. Pedal travel was a little softer and longer than on my Barchetta. Up and down the gear box and use of the clutch pedal action showed no concern.

So I had to consider buying and taking on the Barchetta with its obvious faults. What was attracting me was that it presented as a car that the owners had certainly lost interest in. It was also the wrong time of year for them to sell a convertible. I get as much enjoyment working on my Barchetta as I do driving it and this Barchetta seemingly only required work that I was capable of undertaking.

The price had to be negotiated down well below the asking price. A price that initially had attracted me or I would have walked away. Also my wife Hanna was with me to prevent me getting carried away! .

The Barchetta was far from being a spares or repair, seemingly just very neglected by its owners. All the improvements needed were within my basic abilities and I would have the enthusiasm to carry out the basic work/maintenance required.

Brian with the cars previous owners

So a deal was done and the equivalent of the V5 transfer of ownership filled in and signed. I have 30 days to visit the vehicle taxation office in Warsaw to pay any taxes and collect the official new ownership papers. There’s a possibility that the car will be out of Poland by then anyway. Interestingly in Poland the car itself is insured (anyone can drive it even with a bad driving record) unlike the UK where the owner himself is insured. This allowed me to transfer the remaining insurance document (visit to an office) into my name and drive it until April next year including in the UK.

A couple of days later I booked the Barchetta in for some new tyres. While on the ramps I took the opportunity to have a better look underneath the car and also check the condition/wear of the brake discs and pads which all looked like new. No oil leaks on the shock absorbers or around the engine and the rubber boots on the drive shaft looked OK. A weekend day drive proved that the radiator cooling system was working.

Tyres being changed in Poland

So ownership of a second Barchetta begins. Time will tell if I made the sensible decision!

Brian Poole