While advanced in design, Fiat's X1/9 was ephemeral in its execution, and few have stood the test of time. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe '78 however has not only passed time's test, it went back for some alloy-rim extra credit.
It turns out big willie style was a page of the Karma Sutra that 95% of you couldn't turn fast enough. That meant yesterday's beat with a douche stick ‘98 Chevy Suburban will forever be Lambo-ing its doors in Crack Pipe city. Of course, that's not the best part of town and it will soon be stripped of its Scumbag Steve wares to be left, ostrich-less, sitting on blocks - which in the long run should improve its looks immensely.
So far this week we've had a couple of cars modified beyond the boundaries of both their original designer's intentions and societal standards of good taste. Today's contender could be considered equally dramatic in its presentation as either of those cars, although unlike them, it is 100% factory original. Based upon the Autobianchi (oh-to-be-on-key!) 112 Runabout concept, which debuted at the 1969 Turin Motor Show, the X1/9 was Fiat's first mid-engine production car. Designed by Bertone, the production car lost many of the more extreme styling elements of the Gandini-penned show car - like B-pillar mounted headlights - but kept its allegedly motor-boat inspired wedge shape. The X1/9 was named for being the ninth product of project category X1- which was passenger cars, X0 being engines, and X2 comprising commercial vehicles. Interestingly, the Lancia Beta Monte Carlo was originally intended as replacement for the Fiat 124 Spider, with the Fiat honorific of X1/20.
The X1/9 was intended as a replacement for the 850 Spider, and unlike that rear-enginer, it leveraged the transverse four and end-on transmission with unequal-length half-shafts of the 128, which was the world's first production car to use this layout.The X1/9's mid-engine packaging around that small four was a masterpiece of engineering. The tiny, 150-inch long car contains both front and rear trunks, as well as room between the engine and the cabin for both the fuel tank and the spare time. Fiat expected that U.S. safety standards would make convertibles unmarketable there, so the car employs a 914-style targa roof instead.
Underneath all that is a McPherson/Chapman strut suspension set up to neutralize the 41/59 weight distribution, while quick steering and four-wheel disc brakes round out the handling and stopping accouterments. Over the years, the X1/9 has gained kudos for its adroit handling and mini super car styling. Unfortunately, it also built a reputation for being impermanent. Now, all owners of Italian cars are no strangers to rust and material durability issues, however the X1/9 seemed even more egregiously afflicted - its upholstery stitching flying apart like the sweater in that eponymous Weezer song; dashboard plastic warping like a scoliotic gollum; and steel succumbing to decrepitude like a vampire on a tanning bed. These days, most X1/9s look like cast members from Darabont's The Walking Dead - the title characters I mean, not the cardboard protagonists that serve as their food- and making them whole again would be a challenge as parts are no longer all that common.
That is what makes the condition of this 1978 X1/9 so remarkable. It's not only in fantastic shape, but it's all original, down to the sticker appliques and gold-member factory paint. The interior is amazingly complete, and even the flipper door handles and window cranks have yet to snap into the Italian mosaic of shards typical of these pieces as they age. Befitting a car of the ‘70s, the interior is resplendent in shades of brown which compliments the metallic gold exterior nicely. On what is perhaps a downside, there is no radio to compete with the 1,498-cc SOHC engine's exhaust note. That motor puts out a smog control strangled 55-bhp here, making performance more theoretical than actual, and making windshield-impacting bugs a potential impediment to forward progress.
The seller says that the car has but 15K on its odo, the actual functioning of which is almost as jaw-dropping as that lightness of miles. He claims it to be a ‘time capsule car' although its presentation is more nearly-new than pristine. A nice accompaniment is a handsome set of BWA four spoke alloys that will look awesome on the car, but for which - along with new tires - he is asking an additional $600. Shunning those extra rims means you are resigned to the factory steel wheels, which still look okay, and carry what are said to be Michelins with only 5K on them.
Should you agree that $600 is too much for a clean set of alloys with tires already mounted then you probably need to get your head examined, but we don't have time for that now. Let's say we just consider the car alone at first however, and sans-extra rims it has an asking price of $5,990. Also, let's discount the $7,900 price on Hemmings, as that's just plain batshit crazypants. As such, we'll go with the lower Craigslist price, and keep in mind that this X1/9 is not a museum piece, but is still one of the nicest and most original ones you are bound to find without jumping in a time machine and getting your ‘70s on.
So, for someone who might have missed the X1/9's heyday, but has the jones for one, do you think that's a good price? Or, for that much, is this one timeless Fiat that should have been left in the time capsule?
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