It is easy to talk about Porsche, Aston Martin and Lamborghini, but it is not for everyone to write an article on the Fiat X1/9, the Ferrari of the "I would like it but I can't afford it" of the 70s.
The X1/9 descends from a concept car from 1969, the Autobianchi A112 Bertone Runabout, a "barchetta" with taut lines and equipped with a showy roll bar, made by Bertone, which received considerable consensus.
Bertone derived a more commercial license plate prototype, which however seemed destined to end up in the archives: in the first moments FIAT decided not to develop this car, choosing the A112, cheaper and more suitable to face the competition (Innocenti Mini Cooper above all). In 1971, Gianni Agnelli's visit to the Grugliasco plant, where the prototype was stored, was decisive: he considered it the most suitable car to replace the old 850 Spider.
Fiat 850 Spider
After having amazed with the small Spider and Sport Spider 850, almost a reduced-size dream-car transformed into standard cars and with good commercial success in Italy and in particular abroad, Fiat returned to the topic in 1972, with even greater non-conformism , deriving from the 128 the X1 / 9, a two-seater coupe with a removable hardtop intended to be discussed.
Always complicate Bertone, which proposes a design with nothing short of original solutions inspired by the Runabout prototype on A112 mechanics by Marcello Gandini, the new Fiat also stands out clearly for the rear-central arrangement of the engine. A technically refined solution, then reserved almost exclusively for racing cars and very high performance touring coaches.
Wedge lines, retractable headlights, rear roll-bar uprights and a configuration similar to that, like the "Targa" of the Volkswagen-Porsche 914, make the newborn Fiat more flashy, especially considering the category it belongs to, and immediately divides admirers and detractors. Among other things, it goes alongside a car with a completely different setting and classic elegance, such as the 124 Sport Spider by Pininfarina, which is placed in the upper market segment.
The main feature of the car was the removable roof, which could be inserted in the front hood. The car was conceived immediately with the idea of positioning the engine centrally. This proved to be an important advantage in terms of dynamics, as any cantilever masses that can prevent an effective grounding of the tires are eliminated. The engine of this Fiat X1 / 9 is a 1.5 naturally aspirated 4-cylinder in-line capable of delivering 85 hp. This engine turns out to be an evolution, thanks to the installation of a 5-speed gearbox and an increase in engine capacity, previously this car was equipped with 1.3 of 75 HP.
However, the particularities do not end there. By observing it, in fact, you can immediately notice the adoption of massive absorption aluminum bumpers, typically found in cars born in Europe but also marketed in the United States. Another interesting aspect of the Fiat X1 / 9 was the chassis, inspired by the Lancia Stratos. This important feature has allowed her to be present in the world of competitions. An example of cars derived from the Fiat X1 / 9 was the Dallara Icsunonove, a Group 5 Silhouette designed by Giampaolo Dallara between 1973 and 1978, which initially fitted a 192 HP 1.3 and then moved on to a 1.6 with over 200 HP.
The X1 / 9 does not have one of the best features in comfort but, as regards road behavior, the engine layout and settings make it sporty in the true sense of the word. More than the maximum speed, around 170 kilometers per hour, are acceleration, from 0 to 100 in about 11 seconds, and easy handling to give the car a satisfying temperament in driving.
The internal layout
The internal layout of the X1 / 9 is no less than the exterior in terms of nonconformity, but the quality and finishes - which are affected by the utilitarian descendants - leave something to be desired, while the space is sufficient for the two passengers and the double compartment luggage offers discreet loading possibilities (in the front you can place the roof to discover the passenger compartment).
Produced in synergy with Bertone and sold at a price of less than two million lire, the small coupe / spider will not get overwhelming consensus at home, however, like the previous 850, it will have luck abroad, baptized in the USA by numerous fans even "Little Ferrari". For a five-year period, the X1 / 9 will not undergo major changes, before the arrival of a second series in 1979, with a model called Five Speed, due to the presence of the five-speed gearbox combined with a 1,500 85 horsepower engine derived from Ritmo .
On this occasion, bodywork updates (in evidence of the massive bumpers in compliance with US standards) and equipment are added, as well as some appropriate improvements in the construction quality and the preparation of special versions. From 1982 the small sports car will be sold under the Bertone brand, while continuing to be marketed through the Fiat network, and will come out of the lists in 1989 without leaving heirs, crowned by a long-lived career and over 170 thousand units built, most of them sold in the States, where it was called "the small Ferrari".