Styled by the House of Ghia, the fast, sporty and luxurious four seater was Fiat's entry into the Pber classy "GT" high performance market. First shown in prototype form at the 1960 Turin Motor show everyone who saw it said "Fiat must make this". And so they did and by the time it reached dealer showrooms in 1962 it was twice as expensive as the new E Type Jaguar.
John Slater has a 1964 example, and it is one of about 20 coupes still believed to be on the road in Australia. "Fiat made approximately 7000 between 1962 and 1968, and only about 200 were factory right hand drive. It is estimated about 70 went to the UK and maybe only 40 to 50 came to Australia. No one really knows for sure because the coupe was never separately identified within Fiat production numbers", John says. That means his 2300s is a seriously rare automobile.
Built on the same frame as the Fiat 2300 sedan, the coupe was penned by Sergio Sartorelli, who was the styling chief at Ghia at the time. Tom Tjaarda and Virgil Exner Jnr, whose fathers were car design legends in the USA, also contributed to the shape. The distinctive reverse-sloped c-pillars and large wraparound fastback rear window was crisply executed and provided ample interior space for four plus luggage.
"It just drives wonderfully", says John. "The six cylinder motor was designed by ex- Ferrari engineer Aurelio Lampredi and the Arbath people warmed it up to 136 BHP by strapping on an extra Weber carburettor and using special pistons and a modified camshaft. It has a four speed gear box and four wheel disc brakes so it stops very quickly".
The Fiat attracts attention when ever John takes it out for a cruise. "So few were imported here and so few now exist worldwide means that many people have never seen one before," he says. So why is it that so few now exist? John explains: "Fiat's capabilities in the 60's did not include rust protection so most of the cars in Europe have succumbed to rust."
As you would expect parts for the Fiat are hard to find, however the driving dynamics of the 2300s far outweigh the difficulty in keeping it on the road. "It is such a great touring car ", he says.
David Burrell is the editor of www.retroautos.com.au