My experience with the b:    last update 29 October 2007
 
Please note, that all of the following are my own experiences, feelings and recommendations, or whatsoever...  :-) 
You will find a lot of useful information, in the Frequently Asked Questions

The story behind Giallo
Since the barchetta came out in 1995, I was enthusiastic about its design, and I knew, that sometimes I would call one my own. 

At that time my beloved dog Lady, a belgian shepherd, was still alive, so a station wagon, (Ford Mondeo Clipper Diesel) was the appropriate car for me.  Unfortunately,  Lady passed away, which was a very sad experience.  Anybody owning a dog understands what I mean.

Meanwhile, our second car became an Escort Cabrio.  I thought it was reasonable to have one station wagon and one convertible car in a family. The Mondeo was very good, practical and reliable, but it always reminded me, that with this car I drove Lady to the veterinary, and came back without her. That was the reason, that I couldn't stand it anymore.

I sold the Mondeo, and went for a yellow b.  Usually, when I buy a second-hand car, I inspect it thoroughly, sleep one night over before deciding to buy it or not. 

Not so with the barchetta... during the inspection and the test drive, this car was "talking" to me... I had to have it... NOW.  I signed the contract, and two days later Giallo was mine. 

Emotion on wheels
..."Giallo" ... I usually don't give my cars names, but the b. is different... it's not a simple transportation vehicle.  It's an emotion on wheels, and the nickname came automatically.

Waving, greeting
I suppose for the same reason, b. owners greet each other when passing on the street, similar as motor bikers do.

In love with a car?
What a car... now I own Giallo since May 99, and still I can't wait to drive it.  Sometimes I go down to the garage, to simply watch him standing there. The same at the office where he's parked behind the building, or I turn back to have a glance at him when parked in the street.  Never had such feelings with another car (well maybe during the first couple weeks, but then?...).  Do you think I'm crazy?  I don't care.  I love this car, and  despite my "charms list" I don't regret one single moment that I bought it.

Is there a barchetta virus?
One might ask that question....    I'm sure that it is, and I am definitively infected.  Funny to see, how many different people independently talk  about that virus.  Isn't that a proof for its existence?

Information via Internet
There is a lot, and I'm happy, that I had no internet access before I bought a b.    Reading all those "ups and downs" and  "FAQ's" could give you the impression, that it's not THAT good.  Fortunately, I read all that after having bought Giallo... so, no problem there. 

Meetings
If you think of car meetings, there may be pictures showing up, as seen on TV:  Lower, faster, louder.   A barchetta meeting is completely different.  Once you have attended one, you can't wait for the next.

Inconveniences?
Not really dramatic...  mostly "cosmetic" type.  See my statistics table for details. (well... except maybe the variator... see below)

Color?
Yellow... what else?   ;-)

Windstop?
A good question, and a subject for lots of discussions.  I decided not to buy one.  A jacket with a high collar does a good job too.  Depending on the outside temperature I use a scarf, and of course an appropriate cap.  If you leave the windows down, the air current from the rear is kept at a minimum.   At very low temperatures, the only unpleasant things are cold fingers and knees.

Hardtop?
Another discussion point.  My initial intention was, to get me one.  After the first winter, I decided not to do so.  The b. has an excellent heating, which heats the cabin in no time, the soft top gives you the flexibility of driving  top down even in winter time, and not to forget the costs for a hardtop. 

On the other hand, if I had one available, I would surely use it.  The cabin does not cool down as quickly, and there is a larger and  heated rear window, and not to forget: less noises. 
 
 

And from here on, things will get somewhat technical:

Variator (the famous "diesel sound" thing)
Much has been said and written about this part.   If it's defective, you hear a diesel sound,  which suddenly disappears above 2600 RPM.  It will do no harm to your engine, but higher fuel consumption and lower performance are reported.   Fact is, that almost 50% of barchetta owners had this problem, some of them more than once. 

When I bought Giallo, the diesel sound has already started (but I thought that it was normal, having heard other b's with such a sound).  At the time of cam belt replacement, my variator has been replaced too.

The parts costs  around EUR 110,-.  The more unpleasant and costly items are the labor (4 to 5 man-hours), and  the fact, that it is preferable to install a new cam belt.  (you shouldn't reinstall a used one anymore)

At 121000 km I decided again to replace the variator (together with the cam belt and tensionner).

Cam belt (distribution belt) and tensioner  (Zahnriemen und Spannrolle / courroie de distribution et le galet tendeur)
The book says, to change both every 105000 km.  However, failures at lower rates are reported.  It's also reported, that the cam belt may suffer from standing, for example when your vehicle is of the road for the winter period.  And... you should always change together both, cam belt and tensionner .
One thing is certain: If any one of them fails, it will definitely damage your engine!!

My local garage recommends a change at 75 to 80000km.  Many other car makers say to replace them at 60000. 

In order to feel more comfortable, I decided to change them at 60000,  and while the mechanic was at it, I let him replace my variator too. 
Oh yeah...  apparently there are two colors of tensioners:  black (old model-bad) and white (new model-good).  The old model may fall apart even at low mileage, resulting in a damage to the engine. (such as this one, that I found on the UK-Club web site)

Rear shock absorbers.
Had to be changed at 95000km.  A big difference of vehicle behavior, with new chocks.  You don't realize how bad the old ones were, before you have changed them.

Front shock absorbers. 
After having driven another b. which had just 70000 km down, I realized that my front shock absorbers were overdue.  No wonder, after 121000 km.  Again, a real big difference of vehicle behavior. 

Rear wheel bearings
If you realize a strange sound from the wheels, it could  be the bearings.  But not necessarily both of them.  I had to change one rear bearing at 96000.   The second was going strong for 9000 more kilometers, and has been changed at 105000.  However, it is probably a good idea, to change both sides together.

A wheel bearing can last a car's life, but it can be also due at 30000km.  It simply depends on your luck.  Definitely not the fault of the barchetta ;-) 

A bad bearing noise is a kind of "oscillating" sound (kind of "wooowoooowooo" ...sorry, but I know exactly what I mean ;-)  You can find out as follows:  If you drive on the road, and put some load on the wheel, by making a turn to the left or right, the noise will be louder for a moment.  Not much, but you'll notice it.  (e.g. a left turn will put the load on the right wheel.)

If you are not sure, ask a fellow mechanic,  ...or leave it as it is for some time.  If it is the bearing, the noise will become louder and louder within a few weeks.  But don't wait too long.  A bad bearing can get pretty hot and eventually start a fire (not necessarily, but it CAN happen)

When mine started going bad, it was the same time, when I put on my new tires, so I thought it was the tires.  Usually you don't hear the tires at higher speeds.   But within 4 or 5 weeks the sound was very loud, and doing the above test, I found out it WAS the bearing.

Changing a rear wheel bearing is pretty easy.  I have documented everything, and you can see the complete procedure Ian's barchetta online tech manual

Brakes
All brake discs and pads replaced at 105000 km

Exhaust system
The original having been over 5 years old, and with 100000km down, it was bad enough to be changed.  Now I have a "REMUS" installed.  Good looking, great sound when warm (not too noisy though) and a slight increase in performance, especially at low RPM.  The price in Luxembourg was EUR 505,- including installation. (about one hour work)

Rear soft top window crack
If you like to drive top-down at freezing temperatures, same as I do, be careful when opening the roof.  The rear window can be so stiff, that the window will crack. 

If that already happened to you, I would like to tell you how to possibly avoid the crack to continue:  The crack being quite short at the moment, I stop-drilled it with a 1.5mm drill, and filled the hole with instant glue.  I know the procedure of stop-drilling from my time as aircraft mechanic.  Before welding a crack, a hole is drilled on the end(s) of the crack, so it will stop there. 

At least it looks, that it worked fine for me.  That means... the crack did not become longer, but unfortunately, the window started separating from the roof (the zipper however remained intact) 

You will possibly avoid a crack, in warming up the window before opening the roof.  Drive the car for some time with the heating directed to the window, or you open it before departure from a warm garage, or you can heat the window in some other way (some do this with a hair dryer, or hot water... I never tried those) 

Soft top
After the car  having been driven in summer and winter, top-down and top-up at all seasons for over than 5 years, the roof suffered a bit, and started to have holes, in the areas where it touches the linkage.  Now, the rear window being "due" too, I decided to change the entire roof. 

FIAT seemed to be quite expensive, so I went to a local saddler (named Santana ....but not Carlos ;-), who did a great job, installing an after market roof.  The window is sewed in, and it is tinted green, which, in my opinion, looks much better.  The price was EUR 862.25

Direct air filter 
One day, I decided that I absolutely had to have this beautiful air aspiration sound (you know... this fantastic "Alfa" sound :-) 

After a not so good experience with the quite expensive direct air filter kit from the barchetta-shop,  I opted for a solution, which is easy to realize, cheap and effective:  I simply procured an open "cone type" air filter with a flange of 84 mm.  Then I removed the entire air intake system up to the original air filter housing, and fitted the "cone" directly to the "air volume meter" (is that the right expression?)  Result: Great sound, and a slight improvement in the performance.  At least I have the impression, that the engine responds better to the accelerator. 

But I was afraid, that the filter being so close to the road now, could get easily dirty or wet.   And not to forget the aspiration of hot air from the engine compartment, which leads to lower performance.  Well... to avoid all of that, my solution is simple: (though, not very elegant, I admit ;-)   I fitted a 125 mm flex tube as seen on this picture    But later, when I removed the filter element for cleaning, I realized, that the flex tube was broken and had holes in it all around.   Since then, I drove without it, and had no problems whatsoever. 

07 October 2005: 150000km.   What can I say...   no major problems with the car so far.  In fact, no problems at all, except for three situations, when the "anti-theft-security-thing" did not let me start the engine (in 2002), a bad contact of the air mass sensor connector (in 2003) and once, when the gears refused to get in (in 2004)  The only corrective action on those was some contact spray on the connector. 

21 May 2007:  160000 km

12 October 2007:  With  165063km in the clock, Giallo goes over to my daughter. 

Conclusion:
The b. is a fantastic car.  In my eyes, it still is one of the most beautiful cars ever made.  
You may now ask, why I gave it away...  well because I got me  this one :-)