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Coupé: Dare To Be Different

In our last ‘Throwback Thursday’ feature article of 2019 (and the decade!) We take a look at a 90’s classic…

The Fiat Coupè was the last car designed by the great Chris Bangle before he went on revolutionizing car design at BMW. Fiat as a company certainly wasn’t known as a design vanguard, so many jaws dropped when the Coupé was unveiled in 1994. 25 years on, its visual impact hasn’t diminished. Few know the Coupè may have never happened, had the Cadillac Allantè been a success.

Pininfarina built an entire factory in San Giorgio Canavese to build the Allantè bodies… But the wannabe-SL rival tanked, and Pininfarina pitched Fiat a coupé based on the Tipo platform they would design and build for them.

But the Pininfarina guys hadn’t counted with Fiat’s design director Ermanno Cressoni and the American designer Chris Bangle.

Fiat’s in-house design proposals at the time tended to lose against those from the celebrated Carrozzieri… But Cressoni and Bangle this time weren’t gonna go down without a fight. The Tipo platform wasn’t a great base to start with: high strut towers and scuttle, long front overhang because of the front-wheel-drive configuration…
And the Coupè had to take four people still. Great designers embrace such challenges, and Bangle went all out.

He proposed a radical wedge-shaped car with strong accents on the wheel arches, taking inspiration from the 1970s Gandini designs for Bertone.
On the production car, those slashes on the arches give the Coupé a unique presence, so much so that some Fiat managers thought to name the car “Graffio,” which is the Italian for slash, or scrape.
The Coupè isn’t out to please everyone, it doesn’t suffer fools,
It grabs your eyeballs and demands your attention, whether you like it or not.
But it isn’t just a pretty face. The Coupé had the speed to match its looks. Firepower was provided by the 2 Liters Turbo four-cylinder from the world-beating Delta Integrale. In 1998 that engine was superseded by an inline-five that made up for its lack of racing pedigree with brute force, propelling the Coupé Turbo Plus to 250 Km/h.

That engine responded very well to tuning, and soon there were Coupès putting out over 300hp on the road… Briefly!
Despite what the Fast&Furious movie showed, ham-fisted driving and boost do not mix well, leading to a considerable decrease in the number of Fiat Coupès still on the road today, a quarter of a century on.

Thankfully, now the surviving cars are cherished modern classics, treated and valued as such. If you’re into Italian exotica, but your wallet is more Margherita than Maranello, the stunning Fiat Coupé is well worth checking out.

Coupé: Dare To Be Different

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