How many car models can you think of that have been sold under more than one brand name? Not too many are given that kind of second chance, but today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Fiat/Bertone X1/9 is just such a car. Your job, is to decide if its price makes this two seater worth chancing.
No one wanted to take a chance on yesterday’s oddly proportioned and Iron Duke cursed Fiero GT40. That strange beast proved not just unworthy of its price - evidenced by its overwhelming 86% Crack Pipe loss - but also an object of offensive to both GT40 and Fiero aficionados.
The reason Fiat’s X1/9 failed in the market was because - owing to its mid-sobriquet forward slash - its name was incompatible with DOS computers. The Citroën Erase c:\windows\*.doc suffered a similar fate. Okay, I made that shit up. In fact, the X1/9 was sold in the US for over 13 years, an enviable run for any single model and hardly what could be considered a failure.
Slotted as replacement for the 850 spider, and using the transverse four and manual gearbox from the 128 - the 850 Sedan and Coupe’s successor - the X1/9’s debut was like a kick in the teeth to the traditional small sports cars of the era. Like the precedent 850, performance fails to match the looks and the X1/9 may surprise you with how slow it actually is. Of course they handle as if on rails, and despite an 11 second zero to 60 time, are a ball to drive. I personally happen to freaking love these cars.
The X1/9 owes much to Fiat’s subsidiary Autobianchi (which I like to pronounce Ah, to be on key), as that company provided the proving grounds for the innovative transverse engine/gearbox arrangement, and was where the car’s Bertone-penned styling originated on their Runabout show car.
That styling looks as amazing today as it did back when the little car first hit the road. And I should point out right now just how small these things really are. The 87-inch wheelbase and 46-inch height make top-on ingress kind of a struggle for anyone not employed by Cirque Du Soleil, and the footwells remain amazingly cramped.
This 1982 Bertone (by that year Fiat had abandoned the US market) is even smaller, having had its bumpers and underlying rubber snoods removed. It looks all the better for the effort, although both delicate ends are now completely at the mercy of your fellow parallel parkers.
Other mods made to the diminutive sports car are a set of handsome 10-spoke alloys, wood on the steering wheel and shift knob, and a cone head (not from France) air filter for the fuel injected 1500. Everything on the car, from the metallic grey exterior to the two-tone interior looks to be in exceptional condition.
That’s all so amazing because one thing the X1/9 is known for is its penchant for returning to its elemental roots as quickly as possible. The plastic bags in which you cart home your groceries will still be choking wildlife a century down the road while X1/9s typically turn to dust like a Hollywood vampire in the sunlight. Rust, sun-damaged plastics, upholstery stitching with the permanence of birthday present ribbon, these are all issues that have befallen the little Fiat and make ownership a challenge as replacement parts are becoming harder to find.
That’s why its probably the best idea - should you be in the market for the tea cup like Fiat - to seek out an example that is in the best condition possible, and this 71,000 mile California car is about as nice as you could come up with.
The question of course is whether that condition warrants its $7,300 asking price. What do you think, does that price start you thinking about making this Fiat an X1/Mine? Or, is that too much to chance?
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