- © Stellantis – FCA Italy

The quirky Fiat X 1/23: the road to electrification was hideously sharp-cornered

Forget about the Multipla, this is one of the unsightliest prototypes ever made in Turin

1w ago

It's the 1970s, and metropolitan traffic is barely starting to become an issue, whilst environmental awareness hasn't significantly risen yet. Nonetheless, due to the oil crisis, automakers began to investigate alternative technologies and fuels. Fiat, for example, plunged into the development of an electric prototype that would anticipate the concept of city microcar by almost forty years, the X 1/23. And, spoiler alert, it proved to be a little too ahead of its time, to the point where it ingloriously ended up deserted in the brand’s warehouses.

However, the Fiat X 1/23 was a car that, before impressing with its compactness and fuelling system, caught the eye for a different reason: its look. Sadly, not in a good way.

© Stellantis – FCA Italy

© Stellantis – FCA Italy

No matter the efforts made at smoothing their edges, the X 1/23’s so-called “futuristic lines” sketched by Gian Paolo Boano at the Centro Stile Fiat remain startlingly wedgy, and the design is nowadays dubbed “audacious” by the same Fiat. The strenuous attempts at containing the size of the car generated something close to a hatchback that had been longitudinally squeezed, and if it doesn’t look like something that survived a multicar pile-up, it’s just because its – albeit minimal – wheelbase makes some sense. The minuscule wheels and the wide, colour-contrasting rubber bumpers add up to the overall cartoony appearance, so its oddity may ultimately bring a feeble, mostly compassionate smile to your face.

© Stellantis – FCA Italy

© Stellantis – FCA Italy

But, fortunately, the ultimate purpose of the Fiat designers was not to create a fashionable car.

Despite its unappealing design, the compact two-seater was a ground-breaking prototype specifically thought for an urban-only use and equipped with a fully electric power train. The name X 1/23 betrays the kinship with the more fortunate X 1/9, as both models were conceptualized by the research and development department of the Turin-based brand.

Compactness was mandatory, hence the borderline eyesoring design. In just 2.64 meters, though, the X 1/23 offered enough space for two people and a spare wheel, which, due to the extreme optimization of space, ended up being tucked right behind the passenger seat.

© Stellantis – FCA Italy

© Stellantis – FCA Italy

Underneath the starkly prismatic body there was an electric motor that powered the front axle and whose weight was counterbalanced by the batteries positioned at the rear. The X 1/23 was equipped with - at the time - innovative nickel-zinc batteries delivering 70-90 Wh/kg, which was about twice as much as lead-acid batteries could do. This choice allowed for an autonomy range of 70 kilometres.

The onboard equipment surprisingly included air conditioning: whilst presented as a prestigious feature, it was actually required since the front windows were fixed and the swivelling quarter glasses couldn’t provide enough ventilation to defog the wide windshield.

The Fiat X 1/23 made its debut at the Turin Motor Show in 1974. Currently, the one-off prototype is part of the Fiat historic car collection; it is preserved at Heritage HUB, the brand’s exhibition space in Turin, and occasionally showcased at classic car shows.

The Fiat X 1/23 on show at AME'21 - © Stellantis – FCA Italy

The Fiat X 1/23 on show at AME'21 - © Stellantis – FCA Italy

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Comments (16)

  • A great little story about a hideous little car.

      10 days ago
  • Some would argue that the road still is…

      11 days ago
  • Interesting idea if a little before it's time - was that strip on the bumper an early pedestrian safety feature? Also, the rear end looks a bit like the Austin Allegro - at least the door handles survived to make it to the Ritmo...

      13 days ago
    • Many of the safety features on the X 1/23 (impressively, there was enough space for them too) were developed in earlier experimental vehicles, so you’re likely right about that bumper.

      A little too pioneering overall, with a rather...

      Read more
        13 days ago
    • Interestingly, if you square off the edges a bit, this is not too dissimilar to the Innocenti Mini - are they related in any way?

        13 days ago
  • I think it looks good

      13 days ago
  • Its beautiful

      8 days ago