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Fiat XI/9

Fiat XI/9 Published: 19th Feb 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fiat XI/9
Fiat XI/9
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Why should I buy one?

The delightful if dainty X1/9 has the spirit of a Ferrari about it. A world away from archaic MG it was the blueprint for the MR2 and the MGF. Today, they make cheap classics although most are very rusty and tatty so buy with care. However, a good one is deep joy and prices have risen by some 40 per cent in the last year alone.

WHat can I get?

There’s only two models, the original (that débuted in 1972) and the late 70’s 1500 which among other things sported 1.5-litre power (as opposed to the Fiat 128 1300 Rally engine) and a five-speed transmission. It also came with a better trim but the US Federal bumpers are a matter of taste – purists love the unsullied shape of the original. There’s a handful of special editions such as the Lido. In 1981 Fiat handed over production to Bertone, leading to the X1/9 now being so badged as well as a VS model for the UK market boasting leather trim and electric windows. Further titivation included revises in 1984 and ’86 with the Gran Finale version introduced in 1989, identified by its special wheels and trim (and an ungainly rear spoiler). That said condition counts above all else.

What are they like to drive?

Compared to the likes of the Midget, MGB and Spitfire, the Italian was in another league. Fast forward over three decades and the Fiat is one of the few classics that, unmodified, can still cut it on modern roads. Weighing over 2400kg, it’s hardly quick but the pleasure is derived from exploiting that sensitive mid-engined handling to the full and in safety, although shod with skinny 165/70s, grip levels aren’t of the superglue class but the X1/9’s precision and agility ably compensates. The brakes are discs all round and good although watch for front-end lock up in the wet. The livelier 1500 model is also the best all rounder as that extra cog certainly helps touring even though 70mph still has the engine spinning at a frantic 4000rpm.

The ride is streets ahead of the MG being almost Lotus Elan supple, the cockpit is roomier and more civilised than a Midget while luggage space is more than adequate thanks to those two square compartments. The targa top is simplicity itself to use although promotes noise.

What are they like to live with?

Much harder than the MG not unexpectedly. New body parts dried up years ago meaning that you may have to make do with used panels or have them made up. X1/9s rust everywhere and very few of the cars that remain have never seen a welder’s torch. The trim lacks stamina and those typical Italian electrics… Mechanically, you have less to fret over as the car is mainly 128 and later Strada based. Overheating is the biggest fear plus if the engine does boil over it will cause the head gasket to fail, often taking the cylinder head with it. Lack of use can cause the clutch actuating arm to seize up, which can mean the gearbox needs to come out to free it up. Countering this, club support is good and there are specialists around. The very best are nudging the ten grand barrier; average-to-good £4000-£5000 – the 1500 dearer by around £1000. There’s some 350 on the roads but incredibly over 750 on SORN!

We reckon

A baby Ferrari in all but name and a good Fiat X1/9 offers Prancing Horse thrills for less than MG Midget MX-5 and Triumph Spitfire money.

As values are on the march the time to buy is this year. Still want that common MX-5?

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