Since I have been membership secretary I have endeavoured to complete the club register with details that were missing. In particular the chassis or VIN number seems an interesting fact to hold on record. This enabled the recent articles of newest and earliest cars which included an account by Matt Jackson about his 1995 car ZFA-18300000001305.
Another member that I have nagged away to supply his VIN is Gerry Mann who lives in Glasgow but keeps his car in France. Gerry was finally able to supply his chassis number of ZFA-18300000001137 making it a tad older than Matt’s car. So a good reason to have another article from a member who obviously loves his car. Thank you Gerry for this contribution.
by Gerry Mann
Some considerable time ago, Martin Garrad emailed me to enquire about my vehicle’s chassis number. As my Barchetta was in France, along with all its papers, and I was in Glasgow, I was unable to reply. This applied to subsequent requests as for over a year I was unable to travel. Last month, when I returned to France, I looked out the information and sent it on. You can imagine how thrilled I was when Martin replied advising me that my Barchetta was the oldest registered listing within the club. (Prior to my submission, Matt Jackson was listed as owning the oldest vehicle in the Club - sorry Matt).
I consider my Barchetta to be a truly European car. Manufactured in Italy, it was first registered in Germany. Some years later a buyer brought it to England and subsequently it was sold to an enthusiast in Scotland. I purchased her some six years ago from a man in Fife and brought her back to Glasgow before taking her across to my home in French Catalonia.
I’ve now been driving for close on forty years but until recently I wouldn’t consider myself to have been a car enthusiast. I did buy and maintain a Triumph Herald for some time about fifteen years ago but that aside, I’ve always considered driving a chore and cars merely a tool.
In 2011, I decided to buy an inexpensive left hand drive car to take out and use in France. My original thinking was a plain run-a-round, maybe a Twingo or the like.
I scanned local advertisements and Gumtree and that’s when I came across the ad for my Barchetta. At that time I hadn’t previously come across the model and I was curious. I called my brother-in-law (who is a life-long car enthusiast) and he came with me to Fife to check out the car. It was love at first sight and I had to have it.
This was the first time I’d driven a left hand drive on British roads so I was somewhat precarious in bringing her back to Glasgow. On arrival, my wife was a little stunned to find I’d purchased a roadster instead of a Twingo. Although there were a lot of mutterings about ‘boys and toys’ and ‘mid life crisis’ I know that she was secretly quite delighted.
Within less than a week, we had it serviced, MOT’d and checked over, booked the Eurotunnel and were ready to embark on the marathon journey. In hindsight, it was probably much more foolhardy than brave to take on a 1250 mile journey in such a recently acquired vehicle, with me as the only driver. We did however take the precaution of purchasing temporary AA euro breakdown insurance.
Day one started badly when our car wouldn’t start and we thought the whole trip may have to be aborted. It was only after we’d wasted an hour that we discovered that one key on each set hadn’t been chipped to deactivate the immobiliser.
Not uncommonly for Scotland, the conditions were inclement requiring the roof up. Undeterred, if slightly late, we set off and made steady progress, arriving in Folkestone by early evening. We’d been pleasantly surprised at the fuel economy, achieving almost double of what we get in our Hyundai Tucson.
The following morning we rose early and made our way to take up our Chunnel booking. Once in France, the weather cleared and for the first time we had the pleasure of driving with the top down. Although we stopped regularly to check temperature and oil, we again made steady progress, other than the long delays manoeuvring our way round the Paris ring road. Late afternoon and mid way through France, I noticed the petrol gauge reading about a quarter full but by my reckoning I thought we ought to be running lower. I decided to pull in at the next services but before I was able to do so we ground to a halt. My calculations hadn’t allowed for the significant drop in fuel economy while we were circling Paris.
We made use of our yellow jackets and triangle and we tried calling the AA only to be told they were not permitted to attend breakdowns on the French motorway and we should instead call the police who would arrange for service. Over the coming hours, the police attended and then sent a breakdown vehicle which supplied us with ten litres of fuel. We restarted without a problem and refuelled properly at the next station (less than ten kilometres from where we’d stopped). We cut off at the next town seeking an overnight stay but we were already too late for most hotels to accept admissions. I sat in the car while my wife checked out our third attempt. They were about to reject our request when the owner spotted the Barchetta. She quickly arranged for her husband to open their courtyard wanting the car (if not us) to be safe and enclosed overnight.
The rest of the journey progressed without incident and we arrived the following day. This part of the world is ideal terrain for our Barchetta. It really feels at home darting about the narrow mountain and coastal roads and, as the area has its own micro-climate, it’s very rare that we require to use the soft-top.
Our next challenge was to have the car matriculated into the French system. This was when we discovered the significance of ‘bureaucracy’ being a French word. Every time we thought we had the paperwork sorted out, something else was asked for. However with a lot of perseverance, accompanied by, amongst other things, the UK registration document, insurance documentation, European certificate of conformity, tax declaration., Control Technique certificate (MOT equivalent) and registration fee, we got there and were issued with a Carte Grise making our Barchetta a French car.
To be able to legally drive in France, we had fitted headlamp beam benders, however a condition of the Control Technique was that within a reasonable period we needed to have the headlamps adjusted to suit driving on the right. To our horror we discovered that replacements would cost upwards of one thousand euros plus a fitting charge. After a lot of research online, my wife discovered a French website with instructions on how to adjust the lights. (It advised how to open the lights and cut a small piece of plastic but included a warning about how fragile it was and the exorbitant cost to replace it if we got it wrong). In due course we had a local garage carry out this work, as well as changing some fuel hoses at a combined cost which gave us change from two hundred euros. Our favourable treatment might well have been influenced as the engineer had a particular liking for the car and we witnessed his apprentice tenderly stroke the wing every time he walked past it.
One final piece of information we discovered was that French garages are not normally prepared to step beyond their normal sources of supply. We became aware of a problem with fumes escaping the exhaust and remedying the problem required a replacement part. Our garage said they would acquire it and come back to us. After chasing them several times, we discovered they were unable to find a supplier. This whole procedure was repeated at a second garage. We checked ourselves online and quickly found an English supplier who agreed to post the part to our French garage and at a quarter of the cost the French garage had estimated the part would cost - had they been able to get it.
We’ve found that driving our Barchetta in France has been great fun but as you’ll have noted from the above, it can be a bit quirky.
It is beginning to look as though Yorkshire is the centre of the world for Barchetta Spares & Repairs! We seem to have a wealth of Barchetta friendly garages and spare parts suppliers in that neck of the wood. I am prompted to say that after our member Iain Menneer wrote to me about his experience with sourcing a new exhaust manifold for his red 1995 car. Iain explained that his manifold had developed a hole and that his garage had difficulty sourcing a replacement. An original equipment one was not available and Iain had doubts about paying £500 for a replacement from an unknown source. He finally decided to “bite the bullet” and have a bespoke manifold made by Len Sheene of Pipe Tech, Hunmanby, North Yorkshire http://www.pipetech1.co.uk/
Tel 07927 385368
You will see by the picture that a very high quality product was supplied. Forgive me for saying but I’m sure it will outlast most of the rest of the car!
Iain said,”It took a while to make as this was a first for Pipe Tech. They did a fantastic job and there was no problem fitting it. I was sent very clear instructions for my garage to fit and run-in the new manifold. It is made entirely from Stainless Steel whereas the original was a mix of stainless and mild steel. I would definitely recommend Len.”
Len Sheene said.”It was a time consuming job but I am delighted with the end result and very pleased that Iain is happy. Should I be asked to make another the price would be in the region of £750.”
So should anyone find themselves with a similar issue here is an account of how one member found a solution with which he is very happy.
I am pleased to be able to tell you that interest in joining our club continues. We have three new members that have joined us so far this month, bringing our membership total to 133 members.
Here is an article from our first new member of the year, Julian Strutt of Ipswich. Here he describes his trials and tribulations of Barchetta ownership over the last decade. Thank you Julian for sharing your experiences and hope we meet you soon. That reminds me that anyone wishing to join the 2017 meeting in The West Country should speak up ASAP. Ten confirmed cars so far with others almost ready to confirm their attendance!!
All good wishes for now
In truth I didn’t intend to buy a Barchetta (but I am glad that I did!) – I had owned an Alfa Romeo 146 and went to a garage near Stansted airport in April 2006 to buy an Alfa Spider – however I took one out for a road test and hated it. Luckily in the back of the garage was this car – they couldn’t move it as it was stuck in the corner so I went back with my wife the following week, test drove it and loved – even more so as it was unique– It was a one previous owner car, first registered in July 2003 and just over 25,000 miles when we bought it.
As it was still within its 3 year warranty, I took it to my local Fiat Main Dealer and it had a load of warranty work done including a new variator, new clock (!), amongst other things. Just to put things in perspective I was at my local Fiat Main Dealer a few weeks ago (my daughter has just taken delivery of a Fiat 500) and they didn’t know what my car was!
So what have I done to the car over the last 10+ years? Not a huge amount and it has been a daily driver throughout that period for both me and my wife yet we have only just passed 60,000 miles.
Within a year of having the car I did take it to DTR (their old premises in East Sheen) for a service and I had a strut brace fitted. Hoever as that is a long trip I discovered Avanti Autos in Ipswich and they have looked after the car ever since (Mario). I have only ever seen one other Barchetta in their garage at the same time as mine which I believe was owned by a former member of staff.
I very rarely see other B’s in this part of the world – again back in the early days of ownership I did meet up with some other B owners (arranged through Facebook) and I have been to an Italian car event at Brooklands but these have been one off events.
The car has been out in all weathers – only in the past 4 years has it been garaged. I have been involved in a couple of non fault claims – a neighbour reversed into my driver's door (I still need to sort out the door card fixings as they have never been right since it was repaired) and a neighbour's fence blew onto it when parked – luckily his insurance paid for nearly a whole body respray and some new headlights!
Recently I have had to replace the softop roof as the plastic window cracked and tore (age). I picked up a complete roof on ebay for £100 – when I collected it, I was pleased to find that it was a mohair roof so I was able to have a straight swap with the exisiting roof – bargain!
I have also bought a few bits and pieces from Henk at barchettaparts.com – the small door speakers, rear view mirror. I do want to replace the rubber seals on the softop at some point but the cost!!!!
The most recent purchase was my hardtop – I have been after one for a while and finally have got a Wiesmann – apparently only 270 were originally made. I had to drive to the Netherlands to get it but it was well worth the trip (It is currently on the car – see photo). The fit is excellent plus it is made of fibreglass. I did have to use Avanti to get the heated screen to work but it works fine now.
My wife and I both love driving the car and we often take it up to the top of Norfolk or to the coast – it is a car that we will always keep as it is unique and fun to drive.
I do have a passion for other Italian vehicles – this is my daily ‘driver’ to the station – I have had this from new (1986) and recently had a bare metal restoration to keep it going for another 20 years plus!
There are a few things I do need to sort on the car – front bumper needs a repair or replacement, the drivers door card needs some new fixings and I think a replacement variator / major service is due in the next few months!
Hope to see some more B’s on the road soon!
There's been a great response to the request circulated last month to club members for recommendations of their trusted garages (see article below 'UK Recommended Garages Database'). The new database can be viewed on the link below and this is updated whenever new information is received from members.
We'd love to add to the list so if you have a trusted local garage please send details to Martin Garrad, membership secretary, email@example.com.
Club members David and Kim Davies (Hertfordshire) have recently returned from a real adventure in La Belle France. During his trip David suffered a worrying hiccup with his Barchetta. This was overcome and he and Kim obviously enjoyed a fabulous trip to a classic rally. David and his wife Kim found friendly and enthusiastic French Barchetta owners and his account calls out for a future visit. Thank you David and Kim for this contribution.
I think everyone will agree about the importance of building a good relationship with a local garage, especially when you own a car now approaching some rarity. I have been prompted to consider this subject following requests from two new members seeking a garage to entrust their much loved cars to.
Our website does, if you dig deep enough, contain an out of date list going back to the late 1990’s. It is of very little use now. How sensible then to compile a list of garages we can recommend to other club members. Many of us do travel away from our local areas in our Barchettas so how comforting to carry a handy list of garages recommended by other members.
Please let us know if you have a trusting relationship with a garage that services your Barchetta and we’ll get that list on our web pages for the benefit of us all. Please include the garage name, address, contact details, and any brief comments you feel relevant.
I am pleased to tell you that our club membership has now crept up to 105. Four new members have signed up so far in 2016. The first new member of the year was John Capon from Feniton in Devon. Surprisingly John is our one and only member living in Devon or Cornwall.
John has kindly put a few words together to tell us about his cars and why he has joined our club. I hope some of us will meet him in Buckinghamshire at our annual meeting in June. Judging by the vast selection of cars that John has loved and owned he is well qualified to judge the qualities of the Barchetta.
John writes: “Since my childhood I have loved Italian cars. When I was 11 one of my Dad’s friends bought a brand new 1976 Lancia Beta Coupe. It looked so beautiful and so different to everything else. I was in love! A few years later, once I learnt to drive, my first car was a Mk. 1 Escort. It was yellow and as I remember it was a 1300 base model. However, it had enough accessories on it to make it look like it was about to enter the world rally champion competition.....Then one day, I spotted a Fiat 127 cheap in the local paper. It was a 1973 hatchback in orange, the original 903cc version. At first it was as slow as a slug, but only because the points had closed up. Following a home DIY service it went like a rocket! I never looked back, it was Italian cars for me! It was only little but loved to rev and made all the right noises. It lived and breathed.
Since then I have owned a Fiat 127, 128, 131, 126, Strada, Croma, (both shapes) Punto, Brava, Marea and Barchetta. I have also owned several Lancias, Delta, Prisma, Beta (sedan, HPE, Coupe, Spider & Trevi.) Gamma, Dedra, Thema & Kappa. Oddly enough I have not owned Alfa Romeos. The modern car I drive is a Citroen but I do also now have my lovely Barchetta, of course.
I had one when they were nearly new and missed it since I sold it 12 years ago. I always said that if I saw one in really nice condition in yellow with black leather I would buy it. Well two years ago that is exactly what happened.
The Barchetta is a great car. It is as pretty as can be imagined, cheap enough to own and run and of course it cannot depreciate. Mine is kept garaged and is much cherished. Once I discovered that there is a club especially for these cars I could not join quickly enough and look forward to meeting like minded owners together with all the little Barchettas parked together.”
PARTS FOR YOUR BARCHETTA
If you are looking for spare parts for your Barchetta you may like to try shop4parts. I have dealt with this company and have found them to be both efficient and competitive. They can supply many spares including cambelts, cambelt kits, variators, steering and suspension components many of which are original equipment.
I have, on your behalf negotiated a 10% discount exclusively for club members. You can obtain this discount by contacting me by telephone (01444 235292) or email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will provide a code that will give you your discount. It is certainly worth checking prices as a comparison.
Martin Garrad (Membership Secretary)
THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXTRACT FROM shop4 parts website:
Shop4parts is a family run business, the owner and members of staff have been involved with Fiat's and Alfa Romeo's since the early 1970's. We pride ourselves in being totally independent, meaning we are able to buy our parts from the cheapest sources in Europe!
Our aim is to give you very competitive prices together with a speedy 24/48Hr door to door delivery service. We hope like most of our customers, you enjoy the ease of purchasing your parts online along with our excellent customer service.
UK barchetta Owners Club
11 Bramble Gardens
West Sussex RH15 8UQ
Find barchetta parts at barchetta parts.com visit website for full range of available parts. 10% discount on orders over 100 Euro to UK Club members
Our official club merchandise supplier. BMC Leisure have the club logo digitised for print or embroidery onto a wide range of products from their catalogue
Tough Technology Products
Tough Technology Products provide leading edge, high technology workshop repair, car maintenance and car repair products.
Parts for Alfa-Romeo and Fiat cars with a 10% discount for club members. Contact Martin Garrad for more information