Iconic Fiat X1/9: The Mid-Engine Marvel That Defied Convention

The Fiat X1/9 arrived in 1972 to be one of the first affordable mid-engine sports cars. Fiat and Bertone attempted to make this car a success on two continents.

When Fiat saw Porsche gain success and more sales volume with the 914, which debuted in 1970 as an affordable mid-engine sports car, they wanted a piece of the pie. This piece would go to the X1/9, which was a replacement for the rear-engine 850 Spider. This new Fiat sports car made its way to America in 1974 to be one of the most intriguing cars to drive during the 1970s.

Let’s learn a little more about this historic sports car.

What did this little Fiat offer?

The X1/9 used an improved version of the MacPherson strut suspension from the fiat 128. The engine was small, measuring only 1.3-liters, and it only produced 67 horsepower. That wasn’t a problem in the mid-1970s when many vehicles were underpowered. In fact, the small size and lightweight build of this little Fiat made it possible for this car to maximize use of the available power.

The X1/9 had a wedge-like style, similar to the Lamborghini Miura. This makes sense since the Fiat was designed by Marcello Gandini at Bertone, who also designed the Miura. Fiat also gave this little sports car four-wheel disc brakes (a truly advanced feature of the time), a four-speed manual transmission, and two trunks for cargo storage. The front trunk was big enough to house the removable Targa-style roof panel, which made this little car even more attractive to many drivers.

Forget fast, but enjoy the fun

In today’s world, you can find the cheapest and slowest car in the market and beat the 1974 Fiat X1/9 to 60 mph. This little sports car took nearly 15 seconds to complete the task. That said, once this car was up to speed, it was a lot of fun to drive. The X1/9 had excellent handling and driving dynamics, making it one of the most fun cars to drive on a canyon run.

A few updates through the years

The X1/9 lasted until 1982 in the US market, but during that time, it went through a few different evolutions and updates to give it more of what drivers desired. Some of these changes were:

1975 Model

One year after arriving in the United States, this little Fiat sports car received a slight restyling. This restyling gave the car larger and heavier twin-bar, 5-mph impact bumpers. This change remained through the 1978 model, giving this car some time to be loved by drivers without seeing differences every year.

1979 Model

The Fiat X1/9 received more updates in styling for the 1979 model year. This version received single-bar bumpers, a redesigned interior, and a slight power bump. The engine grew to be a 1.5-liter model that was shared with the Fiat Strada sedan, and a new five-speed manual transmission became part of the equipment for this little sports car.

1980 Model

Another change occurred for the 1980 version of the X1/9. This change swapped the Weber carburetor to Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection. This allowed the car to meet increasingly strict emissions regulations and gave the car more of the power lost in the process.

A different car emerged after 1982

You might think that when the Fiat X1/9 left the American market that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t. Instead, this car was imported in 1983 under the Bertone name as the Bertone X1/9. The change in badging, wheels, and other minor elements made the car a Bertone vehicle, which brought a challenge to sales figures for this car.

Under the Fiat brand name, the X1/9 was priced at less than $5,000 in 1975, but only a decade later, with a new name, it cost many owners three times that amount. This was a problem for the new name, but there was another challenge in the American automotive market.

Two new sports cars pushed the X1/9 out for good

The middle of the 1980s saw the beginning of the Pontiac Fiero and Toyota MR2. Both of these cars brought modern mid-engine designs and much lower prices than what the Bertone X1/9 called for. Bertone attempted to sell this sports car with some interesting features, including a tacked-on rear wing, restyled gauges, and fresh wheels, but that didn’t work. In 1988, Bertone ended production, but many were still sitting on lots unsold, which meant drivers could find a new X1/9 even two years later.

The Fiat X1/9 was an interesting car with a short history. Still, it was one of the earliest affordable mid-engine sports cars to be sold in Europe and America. Some older models are still available as classic cars today, giving owners a great story to tell.

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