If you enjoy Ferrari tastes in your classics but a real-world budget then there are two routes you usually end up taking: Alfa Spider or Fiat X1/9.
The latter offers a slice of mid-engined fun with fizzy Italian character from an era long before anyone at Longbridge had the idea of bolting together some back-to-front Metro bits or Porsche decided that having the engine hanging out of the back was really a bit old-hat.
Launched in 1972, the X1/9 was based on a Bertone-styled concept for Autobianchi called the A112 Runabout and borrowed the Fiat 128 Coupe’s engine, installing it transversely behind the driver.
At a stroke, Fiat had created an affordable exotic in the shape of a mid-engined sports car which was priced way lower than its nearest competitor, the VW-Porsche 914.
UK right-hand drive sales began in 1979 shortly after the original 1290cc motor was upgunned to a 1498cc, 85 bhp unit and the wedgy Fiat made contemporaries like the Midget or Spitfire look mighty staid.
Unfortunately though, Fiat Group cars had already gained a reputation for dissolving in our climate, which was one reason why the cars didn’t sell in bigger numbers.
Another was the price which although much more attainable than the Porsche, was still ambitious at £5533 when the bigger MGB was £5164 and the future in the shape of the Golf GTI was £5444.
This was something of a shame, since in many ways the X1/9’s formula predated cars like the MX-5 and certainly the Toyota MR2 by many years. Today they’re as rare a sight on UK roads as you might expect, but there are still a surporising number of the feisty little mid-engined Fiats out there and an active owners’ club.
And even though prices for the nicer examples have climbed in recent years it’s still the most affordable way to get into a mid-engined Italian sports car.