Fancy two-seater open-top classic motoring but crave a touch if Italian brio and style? Then take a look at the mid-engined Fiat X1/9, one of the most innovative sportsters of the ’Seventies and adopter of the wedge-style trend of the time. On sale in Italy from 1972 (and in the UK from 1976), the X1/9 went on to enjoy a long career and now offers one of the most tempting ways to ‘go Italian’ for under £10,000.
Not only did the X1/9 look fantastic upon its launch (with sharp, crisp styling that was ultra-modern at the time), this was also the first affordable sports car to take a transverse engine and gearbox from a front-wheel drive saloon and employ it in a mid-engined, rear-drive set-up. That donor vehicle was the Fiat 128, its 1290cc overhead-cam engine being ideal for a lightweight sportster. Inevitably though, fans of the X1/9 demanded more oomph, which is why – by the early ’Eighties – it was boasting 1498cc power, boosting output from 75bhp to 85bhp.
If that doesn’t sound like an exciting horsepower total, we suggest you try an X1/9 for yourself, as that’s the only way to appreciate the high-revving nature of its powerplant. With maximum output achieved at 6000rpm, it’s a fun car to drive hard; and because it’s smaller and lighter than rivals like the TR7, the X1/9 1500’s top speed of 111mph and 0-60mph time of just over ten seconds are both highly competitive. Oh, and when you really put an X1/9 through its paces on a winding B-road, its mid-engined lay-out helps to provide sharp, flat handling and impressive levels of grip.
There are a few downsides to X1/9 ownership, including the fact it’s no stranger to rust when neglected. If you’re fairly big in build, you might find the car’s lack of headroom and close-set pedal arrangements a little awkward. And anyone intent on doing their own servicing and maintenance will no doubt curse the mid-mounted engine’s lack of access at some point. But hey, nothing’s perfect.
• Even late-model X1/9s can rust badly when not looked after, with all outer panels (wings, wheelarches, doors, etc.) being vulnerable.
• Structurally the cars can also suffer, so check the door pillars, inner and outer sills, scuttle, suspension turrets and the entire underside for problems.
• The engine compartment is made up of triple-skinned steel, making any work here an engine-out job; restoring an X1/9 can be complicated!
• Rot in the rear luggage area can be easily hidden, so make sure you unscrew the floor base and remove the insulation to check.
• Electrical problems aren’t unusual with any Fiat of this era, and the X1/9 is no exception; ensure that everything works as it should.
• The 1.3- and 1.5-litre engines are robust, but an oily engine compartment might suggest worn pistons, rings and bores.
Fiat X1/9 1300 (early) – from £1500 (condition 3) to £11,000 (condition 1)
Fiat X1/9 1500 – from £1000 (condition 3) to £7500 (condition 1)
Fiat X1/9 Gran Finale – from £1200 (condition 3) to £10,000 (condition 1)