Here is a brief glance of past X1/9′s I have owned.
The X1/9 started life in 1969 as a show concept car called the Autobianchi A112 Runabout, with styling by Bertone under chief designer Marcello Gandini. It was designed around the all-new 128 SOHC engine and gearbox (transmission) from the front wheel drive Fiat 128, but used these parts in a radical way, moving the entire transverse drive train and suspension assembly from the front of the 128 to the rear of the Autobianchi Runabout, giving a mid-engined layout.
Autobianchi A112 Runabout (X1/9 prototype)The prototype car featured a distinctive wedge shape and took many styling cues from contemporary power-boat design. Though the more extreme features of the Runabout such as the C pillar mounted headlights and the small wind-deflector windscreen were lost for the production car many aesthetic features of the Autobianchi Runabout are readily identifiable on the X1/9. The long flat bonnet (hood) with central indentation, the large front overhang, the wedge shape with prominent C pillar roll-over hoop and the car-length indented plimsoll-line all made the successful transition to the X1/9 giving it a highly distinctive appearance.Once developed for production, the two-seater featured sharp-edged styling with a wedge shape, pop-up headlights and a removable hard top roof panel (targa top) which could be stowed in the front boot. Stylistically, the car looked somewhat like a miniature version of its later stablemate, the Lancia Monte Carlo, which was originally called the Fiat X1/8, then later the X1/20 at the design stage.
Name The X1/9 name stands out amongst the contemporary FIAT automobile names for not conforming to the standard (at the time) numerical designations. FIATs of the time were named using a basic numerical system (127, 128, 124, 131 etc) denoting their relative position in the current model line-up, the X1/9 being the lone exception to this rule.
The name stems from the codenames employed by FIAT for their new development projects during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The ‘X’ projects were subcategorised as X0 (for engines), X1 (for passenger vehicles) and X2 (for commercial vehicles). The first passenger-vehicle developed with this code (X1/1) was released as the FIAT 128 in 1969; other known vehicle-codes are shown in the table below. Though originally envisioned as the ’128 Spider’, the X1/9 uniquely retained its prototype code through to production.
FIAT Codenames Project Code Production Vehicle
X1/1 FIAT 128
X1/2 Autobianchi A112
X1/3 FIAT 130
X1/4 FIAT 127
X1/8 Redeveloped as X1/20
X1/9X1/20 Lancia Montecarlo
X1/38 FIAT Ritmo
After high level of interest was shown in the Runabout concept, the car was rapidly modified for production and scheduled for release in 1972 to replace the ageing 850 Spider by Bertone. It was not intended as a replacement for the 124 Sport Spider and production of the 124 Spider and X1/9 continued in parallel for much of the X1/9′s life. The car’s monocoque body was produced at the Bertone factory in Torino (Turin) and then transported across town to the FIAT’s famous Lingotto factory for the installation of the engine and final assembly. In 1982, shortly after the introduction of the 1500 model, complete production of the car was devolved to Bertone and all cars produced from that point were badged as the Bertone X1/9.
1978 1300 cc X19The first models featured a free-revving 75 bhp (56 kW) 1300 cc single overhead cam engine with an aluminum head. In this form, the car had less than dramatic performance, hampered somewhat by the surprisingly heavy body shell. The weight largely stems from the immense strength of the body shell, built to give the car the same crash resistance in US crash tests as a sedan. Ironically while the X1/9 passed these tests, many standard US models of the day failed them, and eventually the test criteria were relaxed. However the design was complete by then and so the body shell stiffness is considerable for a car of its type, and it also allows power plants of much greater power to be added without the need to beef up the standard shell. For the U.S. market, additional emission control equipment and large safety bumpers were added, which sapped performance even more — an increase of engine capacity to 1500 cc with 85 bhp (63 kW) partially dealt with this. While the engine itself was widely regarded as a fine design, the fact was that the car was rather heavy for its power (though light by modern standards at about 2250 lb.), despite its small size and sports car aspirations. Fiat considered making the X1/9 the basis for their efforts in rallying, but instead opted for the Lancia Stratos, a similar design also designed by Bertone and Gandini.
The last production models were named the Gran Finale and sold over the 1989/1990 period. They were a dealer modification of the Special Edition (commonly abbreviated to SE) of 1988/1989, with the addition of a rear spoiler and Gran Finale badges.