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Fiat X1/9

Fiat X1/9 Published: 15th May 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fiat X1/9
Fiat X1/9
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£1600-£9000+ - Mid-engined mini supercar - Good value for money - Should be cheap to run

It’s a baby Ferrari in all but name – and at prices you can’t buy a decent MG Midget for! Fiat’s X1/9 is arguably the most overlooked compact sports car around and bristles with supercar design thinking even though it’s loosely based upon a humble Fiat 128 (an Italian Escort to you). They rot like mad naturally – but a good one offers Prancing Horse thrills for Ford money.

Driving

Compared to the likes of a Midget, MGB and Spitfire the Italian was in another league. Fast forward 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 not quick but the pleasure is derived from exploiting that sensitive mid-engined handling safely. True, on skinny 165/70s, grip levels aren’t of the superglue class but the Fiat’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 1500 model is the best all rounder and that extra cog certainly helps touring even though 70mph still has the engine spinning at a frantic 4000rpm.

The ride is quite supple and 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.

Best models

Purist love the unsullied shape of the 1300 versions but the later 1500 did gain more power and a five-speed transmission. In 1981 it handed over production to Bertone, leading to the car 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).

Values

The very best of the 1050 left (744 SORN) are nudging the ten grand barrier so don’t delay. Average-to-good cars hover around £4-£5000 with the 1500 models holding an advantage in the region of £1000. One dealer is advertising the best one left – at a whopping £18,000!

Buying advice

It’s Italian, so expect dodgy electrics such as a lazy horn push, failing pop up headlamps and electric windows that don’t anymore, that sort of thing.

New body parts dried up years ago meaning that you may have to make do with used panels or have them made up. X1/9a rust virtually everywhere and very few of the cars that remain have never seen a welder’s torch in their life. Chief areas of concern are the floor pan, inner sills, suspension strut top mounts (front and rear), front inner wing bottoms, front under tray, rear compartment wells, the front windscreen surround, rear wheel arches, door bottoms and the rear bulkhead (remove spare wheel behind driver’s seat to check here).

Mechanically, you have a lot less to fret over but overheating is the biggest fear. The radiator is front mounted and can become clogged plus if the car 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. The clutch is hydraulic and is a real pig to bleed properly (a Uno Turbo clutch is good upgrade). Some X1/9s are modded and it’s not unknown to find a Uno Turbo engine fitted – fast but some specialists reckon it’s too much and spoils that deft balance.

Alternative MX-5?

Barchetta is a novel Punto-based roadster that’s refreshingly different to a Mazda and as much fun owing to its unique 1.7-litre engine with variable valve timing for real zest. Left-hand only, but prices are already on the up with decent ones going for £5000. Specialist DTR rebuilds them to order



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