A few days ago I was lucky enough to find an excellent example of one of my favourite cars — the Fiat X1/9 — parked in a street near the cafeteria where I usually go and have breakfast with my wife. Although it’s not such a rare car (more than 150,000 unit were produced), so far I have encountered only two of them. The first on a French motorway while I was relocating in 2005, and then this one. Good thing I always bring a camera with me. This is a humble personal tribute to a car whose design I always loved:
The following information is taken from the Wikipedia entry for the Fiat X1/9 and from what I know first-hand, it seems rather accurate:
The Fiat X1/9 is a two-seater mid-engined sports car designed by Bertone. It was built by Fiat from its introduction in 1972 and until 1982 when Bertone took over production. At Bertone the car remained in production until 1989. The first official right-hand drive variant arrived in 1976. The Fiat X1/9 was the first affordable mass produced mid-engined sports car to employ the use of a transverse engine and gearbox originally designed for a front wheel application in a mid-mounted RWD position (a solution later employed by other budget mid engined sports cars). The X1/9 was considered to have excellent handling, and was amongst the first cars to meet the abandoned late 60s U.S. safety regulations.
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 passenger cabin, directly in front of the rear axle with the manifolds on the rear face, giving a mid-engined layout. The fuel tank and spare wheel were mounted side by side ahead of the engine directly behind the seats, thus maximising the proportion of the car’s weight falling within the wheelbase. This package also left useable stowage areas both front and rear.
[…] 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). The removable hardtop is a model of simplicity to remove and replace. The hardtop stores in the front luggage compartment, snug below the front hood, only slightly reducing the space available for front stowage. There was an aftermarket top by Saratoga available, which was made of lightweight clear-smoked polycarbonate, which today is a coveted accessory.
An unusual name
Again, from the Wikipedia:
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, with 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.
You enter “Fiat X1/9” in Google and will find all sorts of links about this lovely-designed car. This site, for example, is a good starting point for other Fiat related links containing lots of photos and useful information. Enjoy.