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Italian Wedge: The Fiat X1/9

November 12, 2012 by Matt

Fiat X1/9 X19 X1-9 Red Black Profile Side

The 1974-1982 Fiat X1/9 carries the distinction of being one of the few (only?) cars with a slash as part of its name. Not only that, it was the last Fiat sold in the US until the brand’s reintroduction to our shores last year, and to this day remains the only production mid-engined Fiat.

Think of it as a Porsche 914 without the pedigree angst. Or a Toyota MR2 without the bizarre interior. Interestingly, the X1/9 was conceived in the same way as the later MR2: By taking an economy car FWD engine, powertrain and front suspension (in this case the Fiat 128’s) and “flipping” it 180°, positioning it immediately behind the seats to create a mid-engined sports car.

Fiat X1/9 X19 X1-9 Black Back Rear Tail

Additional features include a lift-off targa roof panel that stowed in the front luggage compartment, bumpers designed to minimize the visual impact (pun intended) of stultifying 1970s crashworthiness regulations, and a fuel tank and spare tire mounted between the passenger compartment and the engine, as close to the car’s CG as possible. This detail, together with the engine’s location and the car’s featherlight ~2,000 lb curb weight made for go-cart-like handling rivaled only by certain Lotuses. Indeed, the X1/9 is still a force to be reckoned with in certain autocross classes, a testament to Fiat’s formula.

Fiat X1/9 X19 X1-9 Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

The interior is sensibly laid out and quite stylish for the late ’70s, a well-resolved demonstration of the de rigeur angular themes of the day. The engine wasn’t much to write home about, but with only a ton of car to motivate its task wasn’t arduous. Initially a 1.2l SOHC 4-cylinder developing 63 hp in US trim, a 1.5l, fuel-injected 75 hp version of the engine was rolled out for 1979, marginally improving performance; 60 mph came up from a standstill in around 11 seconds.

On another note, it’s interesting to consider the difference between Fiat’s abandonment of the US market in the early ’80s and their return in the 2010s. The X1/9 was unmistakably a niche car, something of a halo vehicle designed to bolster the Italian automaker’s dashing, somewhat romantic (in an straight-edged ’70s kind of way) appeal in the US. Perhaps having decided that approach was a failure, Fiat decided to reintroduce themselves to an American clientele with a much more mass-market car, the far more conventional supermini 500. As good a car as the 500 is, and as much as I appreciate Fiat’s shift in market strategy, I do hope there remains a bolder voice in the organization, one that would encourage the powers-that-be to gamble a bit by releasing something as quirky as the X1/9 on our shores. Perhaps once the automaker establishes more of a financial beachhead over here they’ll consider it; who knows.

Filed under: Fiat


  1. Ryan says:

    Only in the late 70’s to early 80’s could a manufacturer be excited about an “upgraded” motor getting their vehicle to 60 mph in 11 seeeeecccccooooonnnndddddssss. I know this isn’t the purpose of the car or your post, it’s just what captures my numbers-oriented engineering attention as well as my admittedly very American ideology that more HP and faster is always better! :)

    • Matt says:

      Haha it’s true. I remember coming across glossy brochures for my old ’85 12A-powered RX-7 that proudly touted its 9+ second 0-60 time. :) Times have changed…

  2. Ryan says:

    Yes they have. One of the advertising tag lines for my Jeep is/was “0-60 in less than five seconds… wet or dry!” Love it! :)

  3. Ryan says:

    Jeeps have never really done much for me but I’ve gotta say ever since I drove a buddies of mine’s SRT8 Grand Cherokee back in ’06 I was hooked. They finally came down in price enough to where I could afford a used one and I have no regrets about selling my DD (Mazda6) and my Mustang to buy it. I love this thing! I am kind of yearning for a “project car” though, lol. All in good time. :)

  4. Tony says:

    This X 1/9 toy is worth just to be bought because of its unique design. Well, it´s to small for 6-feet-men and equipped with a 75 HP s**tbox (the same Fiat “engine” had to tow the Iveco Daily van!)- but nobody stops you to mount a 911 unit – when your love is strong enough ;)

  5. Tony says:

    And I really would like to see the 5-seconds-Jeep, been so foolish to have euro-fueled a 67 Camaro RS and 6-cyl-BMWs until I calmed myself down to a small 318i.
    The fastest thing ever driven (for the drunken owner) was a 10 cyl Audi RS 6 avant breadvan which did the 40 sunday-morning country road miles Munich-East to Chiemsee within 20 minutes, yes, Angst (concg. Polizei), but nothing compaired to the feelings of the next-door mechanician with his limiter-freed 240-mph-Hayabusa…

  6. Max says:

    My Mom had a 1976 Fiat X1/9 when I was growing up, and I actually got to drive it after she had it repaired for the 100th time (Yes, FIAT = Fix It Again, Tony). It was really fun to drive, had a wonderful 4-speed gearbox, and it handled great. I’m 6’1″ and it wasn’t too uncomfortable, but I have longer legs as opposed to torso. If it could only have had more power (it was the 63hp, 1290cc engine). I’m not your typical American car buyer that wants the car with the most horsepower and biggest engine, but maybe 90-100 hp would have been great! I wonder if you could fit a turbocharger on the 1.5L engine.. I may have to get one, if I can find one in good condition. I have great memories of driving that car in High School!

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