Throwback Thursday: Fiat X-1/9
Often times we like to boast about the latest and greatest from manufactures in order establish brand dominance in the current market; however, heritage is important and Fiat has one of the most unique heritages of all. So, admittedly, this article is a little bit for me and a little bit for my dad. I was raised by gear heads and spent most my childhood helping wrench on our ’67 GTO and our ’71 Mach One, and when my dad found out I became an auto-blogger he was more than enthusiastic about calling me up to give me article ideas about his favorite muscle cars. The conversations about classic cars are enjoyable, but I often don’t get the opportunity to indulge his requests. I was surprised the other day when he called me up and said, “Hey, you should write about one of my favorite cars of all time, the Fiat X-1/9.” I thought about it for a bit and became increasingly intrigued. What could make a classic American muscle car guy call me up and say the Fiat X-1/9 was one of his favorite cars of all time? So, let’s call this one throwback Thursday and take a look at one of the meanest Fiats ever created..
1972 First Production Fiat X-1/9
So, I introduced this article with a bit of pros but let’s get down to the facts. The Fiat X-1/9 was first released in 1972 and was based on the absurd Bertone concept car the Autobianchi A112 Bertone Runabout. Maybe absurd is the wrong word considering the era. A recent moon landing and a plethora of science fiction novels and movies must have inspired this very alien looking vehicle. It was a wedge shaped vehicle that looked more like a boat with wheels than a car. It even had headlights mounted to the left and right rear quarter panels to give the vehicle a 1960’s sci-fi rocket ship feel. While this design was a bit outlandish, it would go on to inspire the fiercest Fiat of the muscle car era.
November 1972 introduced the first Fiat X-1/9. Its body styling came from the Autobianchi A112 Bertone Runabout and its powertrain came from the Fiat 128 Coupe 1300. Enhancements were made to the 128 Coupe powertrain before putting it in the X-1/9. Most notably were aluminum cylinder heads, aluminum oil sump, twin-choke carburetor and an 8.9:1 compression ratio. The 1.3-liter engine produced 75-horsepower with 72 lb-ft of torque and had a top speed of around 106 mph. The aerodynamic design of the Fiat X-1/9 combined with much lighter aluminum cast engine parts made the X-19 perform much better than the Fiat 128 Coupe.
220px-Fiat_X1_9_Dallara_antX-1/9 Rally Prototype
While the top speed of the Fiat X-1/9 left much to be desired from American muscle car enthusiasts, the superior handling was nothing to scoff at. While an American muscle car might smoke you on the quarter mile, good luck keeping up with the X-1/9 on any winding roads. This was because of its unique mid-rear engine placement that gave the Fiat X-1/9 a near 50/50 weight distribution and relatively unmatched handling for vehicles of its era.
In 1973, Abarth chose to build an X-1/9 prototype to replace their 124 Spider Abarth as one of Fiat’s rally cars. The X-1/9 Prototype used an 1840 cc engine with a custom 16-valve cylinder head fed by twin 44 mm Weber IDF carburetors. Externally the car sported flared wheel-arches and a small spoiler. It also featured a Formula One style air intake system.
The Fiat X-1/9 marked a unique moment in the heritage of Fiat. Of all the Fiats ever made you will not find another like it. In fact, it took me a minute to believe it was a Fiat. It had a very powerful and athletic stance complemented by a mid-rear engine and a beautiful body style. Will we ever see another Fiat similar to the X-1/9? Probably not, but the 124 Spider definitely comes close. Personally I would love to see a modern X-1/9 built on the same concepts with a turbocharged 4C engine. Hey a guy can dream right? It would definitely make old gear heads like my dad become filled with nostalgia.