One of our international correspondents, Nick van der Meulen, has a passion for Fiats. The latest is his Fiat Coupe.

I was born with petrol in my veins… probably Shell or Agip, as my early passion for cars and motorsport revolved around Italian machinery. My parents owned six Fiats throughout their married life and my Dad reckoned he had as many good ones as he did bad.

Fascination with the marque overflowed to me. My first car was a Fiat 124 Sport Coupé, a vehicle I have only recently parted with. I have owned four others, with my most recent acquisition being a 24-year-old Fiat Coupé.

Click here to read Nick’s views on Formula One testing.

A stunner

The Coupé is a beauty and it was the most striking vehicle to be released by the Fiat stable in 30 years. In my eyes, they haven’t produced anything like it since, which is a shame. Chris Bangle (he of BMW ‘flame-surfacing’ fame – Ed) penned this design, arguably his finest work.

While “Pininfarina” is emblazoned on the rear mudguard, they only designed the interior, which in itself is striking. The driver’s position is well conceived, with a sporty, yet comfortable, seat that will let you drive tirelessly for hours.

Plenty of options

Fiat introduced this model with a number of engines: the 1,8- and 2,0-litre 16v, 2,0-litre 16v Turbo and 2,0-litre 20v Turbo. The two I have driven, namely, the 2,0- and 2,0-litre 16v Turbo, have very different engine characteristics, but the handling and driving experience is similar.

The Turbo kicks you in the kidneys as you floor the accelerator in second gear. While powering through to fifth gear I heard maniacal laughter in the cockpit, only to realize it was my own. While the 2,0-litre normally aspirated machine is not as spectacular under acceleration, it is still a pleasurable experience with the engine growling its approval at being revved out.

A pleasure to steer

What makes this car such a joy, however, is its handling. The harder you try to throw it through a corner with wild abandon, the more it digs in and pulls one through with ease. Driving it over mountain passes, such as Gottardo Pass in Switzerland, is nothing short of an exhilarating experience.

Climbing out of this car after driving it, even after a short stint to work, leaves me content and at peace. It’s times like these that I cherish being a petrolhead…