Baby Ferrari: 1979 Fiat X1/9

1979-Fiat-X1-9

Why do people call the Fiat X1/9 a “baby Ferrari”? Could it be mid-mounted engine? Italian heritage? Shared parent company? We’re not quite sure, but we have seen quite a few X1/9 owners show up at Ferrari shows with expectations of full acceptance. It may not be a prancing horse, but the X1/9 can provide loads of fun for Shetland-sized money. The seller of this 1979 Fiat X1/9 claims that it only has 42k on the clock and they are asking $12,500 or best offer here on eBay.

1979-Fiat-X1-9-interior

No gated shifter in here, but everything is clean and well presented. Fiat made a bunch of improvements in 1979 so this car benefits from fuel injection and an enlarged 1.5 liter engine that pushed the horsepower rating up to 75 85. Luckily that shift stick is also connected to a 5-speed transaxle instead of the previously used four-gear unit. This sounds good and all, but not like something that came out of Maranello. The engine was actually sourced from the fwd 128 and it doesn’t even have two cams!

1979-Fiat-X1-9-engine

There is still some hope that the title is justified though. This two-seat targa body is lightweight and the engine is mounted mid-ship. Now, those are words that may be printed in a Ferrari sales brochure. They mean good handling and that is why X1/9 owners love their cars. What they lack in power, they make up for with corning ability and that is where it counts for most of us. Unless you have access to a track you will probably never fully exploit the ability of a Ferrari, but you could drive this little Fiat at the limit on public roads all day and have a blast doing it.

1979-Fiat-X1-9-side

The seller does not mention if this one has ever been restored, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it has had a respray at some point. Most of these have succumbed to the tin worm so it would be astonishing to find one this clean still wearing its original paint and sheet metal. They are asking $12,500 or best offer and although that may seem high for an X1/9, it’s a bargain for a baby Ferrari! They say it is more fun to drive a “slow car” fast than a “fast car” slow anyway.

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Comments

  1. Pat

    6k car at most, the bertoni are the ones to have. 5th gear kept screwing up on these.

  2. araknid78

    Uh…this model has a carburetor as evidenced by the round air cleaner. They did not have FI until mid-way through the 1980 model year, just like their bigger brothers (Spider and Brava) and then mostly California market cars. All Fiats got FI beginning in 1981. Still and all, this is a very nice example, but $12.5k? I think it’s a bit steep even for a low mileage car. If its been kept in the garage, away from the coast and never driven in the rain, I wouldn’t be surprised that this is all original. I’ve seen several well-cared for examples that look much like this. If they are well sorted and not driven hard, these can be very reliable cars. And way too much fun.

    Like 1
    • Jesse Staff

      Thanks for catching our error.

  3. Rick Prokopchuk

    I had two of these. I think I mentioned it in earlier posts. One was the 74 in darker green than that bright green they commonly had. It had the little bumpers. I had it souped up with a guy who raced them in Seaside California. The other was a 78 in black metallic that I had a hotter cam put into by a German dealer outside of Ramstein AB Ge. It had the big bumper, but because it was black, the all black bumper blended quite well. Loved them both to death. More fun than they had a right to at that price. The 78 would cruise at 100 on the autobahn with no problem. Wish I had the cash. But, I’ve just bought a new Ford Focus ST that has a LOT of punch, especially when the turbo kicks in. The Focus is a true hot hatch.

  4. alfadoc

    ’79 was the first year of the 1500 and the 5 speed, but they were all carbureted, as is this car. Bosch L-Jetronic was used for the California 1980 models, and was an option for 49 state cars. 1981 cars were injected, 50 state.

  5. JC

    Please do not ever, ever, ever use the words “Fiat X/19” and Ferrari in the same sentence, that is pure blasphemy.

    • Mike

      Yeah, especially since Fiat SPA owns Ferrari…

      • JC

        I certainly hope that you’re not insinuating that a Ferrari and a Fiat are similar because of the financial arrangement. Enzo’s probably rolling in his grave over the association and I’ve never run across a 35 million dollar Fiat or one that could hold a candle the heritage and craftsmanship of the prancing horse. It’s like comparing a Hyundai against a Bentley.

      • z1rider

        And, Enzo was alive and well when he sold part of his company to Fiat. Ferrari might not have survived without the deep pockets of Fiat. That’s why he had approached Ford several years earlier. The craftsmanship you refer to was provided by Pininfarina, Bertone, Zagato and others who styled and built the bodies for Ferrari. Technologically speaking, Ferrari tended to be a late adopter, preferring to let others work the bugs out of new designs. Ferraris were prized for their reliability by racing drivers in the 50’s and 60’s for that reason.

      • Mike

        JC, lets compare apples to apples here. The build quality of a 78-82 X-1/9 was at par with any 308 built during that same time period. Shoddy wiring and misfit parts.

        FWIW, I know of atleast 3 Ferrari owners that prefer driving their X-1/9’s over their more expensive cousins. PLease dont judge a book by its cover/cost. They are amazing little machines. And I own/race 2 of them. One is a strict racer with a 140hp powerplant and stripped down. It’ll dislodge your kidneys in the corners and the other is in resto mode awaiting an Abarth motor swap.

      • JC

        Mike, although I am happy that you are happy with your X1/9’s, the general consensus in the automotive world would differ with your opinion. Ferrari and Fiat are apples and oranges.

  6. Rick Prokopchuk

    My black one must have been a 79 model then. It had the five speed.

  7. Rene

    I’ve seen several of these here in Denmark (on the other side of the pond)

  8. stigshift

    I had a ’77 in that color. I bought it with 164K miles on it, and everything still worked. Except the rust protection…. Still miss it.

  9. Greg

    I have one of these, same year, but three shades of silver and full of rust holes in the bodywork. Still the most fun slow car I’ve ever driven, and I’ve had plenty from both England and Italy. These things are neatly packaged and, along with the Volvo 240, were the only two production cars to meet stringent crash standards that were planned for the US in the early/mid 70’s. No real surprise that the Volvo passed, but they must have tested one of these straight off the assembly line, before the rust set in.

    A lot of fun, great mpg and the top comes off!

  10. jim

    this one is very nice. never owned one but always wanted too. checked ebay and autotrader to see what others x1/9 are out there and did not find much. the x1/9, fiero, mr2 and 914 ( yes a 914 4 or 6) are on my wish to own list. great find

  11. redline2k

    Shame about the dealer installed side mouldings to ruin a great car.

    • Mike

      Lots of cars were ruined by those.

  12. DT

    funny ,
    I thought 42,000 miles was a lot for a x1/9

  13. elchoppo

    @Jim-Like the list. Just add a TR-7 and it would complete the Aero-Wedge wish list for me.

    • jim

      i could do the tr-7 or maybe the 8 for the sound.

  14. Rick Prokopchuk

    Right after I bought my black X 1/9, my commander bought a new TR-7. It was falling apart within a week, paint was peeling off…he had a heck of a time with that car.

  15. Tim H

    I like the part about driving a slow car fast, that’s where I am at. I have a 400hp MR2 but to play with it I have to do a track day or completely disregard the safety of myself and others. Instead of an X19 i got a Miata, I only take the MR2 out a few time a year. It is truly more fun to drive a slow car fast.

  16. AMCFAN

    I was a tag along at the Fiat dealer with my father. Given the chance between the X/19 and 124 Spyder he chose the Spyder. To him the X/19 was too radical.
    JC, Fiat and the prancing horse go back a long way. To say they have nothing in common. What about the Dino? Why would Enzo let Fiat name a car after his son then procure engines for it? Their relationship goes back to the 1960’s

    • JC

      Please allow me to provide an analogy to make my point. A once great race car driver who later became a manufacturer, named Carroll Shelby built the AC Cobra’s and Shelby Mustangs. Many years later he also attached his name to the 4cyl Dodge Shelby. Other than an associated name, how much in common do you believe the vehicles had ?

  17. chilliwillee

    One possible reason for the “baby Ferrari” nomicer, other than the ownership situation, is a one off Bertone designed Ferrari Rainbow back in the late ’70s that looked a lot like the X19.

  18. JohnD

    My dad bought one new in ’74 or ’75…same color as this one. His previous car was a ’69 911S Targa that he couldn’t help but get speeding tickets with. He always complained that the 911 just couldn’t be driven ‘slow’ around town, it caused too many problems with the engine. I think he would’ve kept the X19 (I wish!) if it hadn’t gotten rear ended/totaled.

  19. AMCFAN

    JC, Forgive me I am lost on your last statement Are you still defending the “Fiat X/19″ and Ferrari in the same sentence statement you made? I think Mike and chilliwillie covered that. Maybe not. Fiat helped Alfredo Ferrrari’s (Enzo’s son) homologate the V6 for formula racing. The 206GT 246GT & GTS Ferrari’s had Fiat engines. Ferrari and Fiat has always had a long relationship. Behind the scenes might be more then you think. How ironic now Fiat owns Ferrari today. Your analogy relating the late Carrol Shelby as lending his name for the Shelby Charger relates to the Fiat Dino how? Ole Shell was friends with Lee and I am sure that Shelby did more then just lend his name for the Charger. Be that it may. The Charger was already a production vehicle for Chrysler not something designed from a drawing board.

    • JC

      AMCFAN, Yes, I stand by my earlier statement as a “Ferrari” and a “Fiat” are two very different makes no matter how many associations between the two you connect. There are many reasons why Ferrari’s have favorable value and collectability along with an immense amount of respect from enthusiast throughout the world. Come on really, when’s the last time you saw a Fiat x1/9 sitting on the grass at Pebble Beach. If you want to delude yourself into thinking that while cruising the X1/9 you share in Ferrari heritage, then by all means knock yourself out, it still does not make it so. The car may be fun to drive, own and I’m certain it has appeal to a handful of collectors and enthusiast and I’m not trashing the car specifically , I’m just clearly stating that the two are worlds apart.

      • Mike

        Actually it’s the other way around. While cruising your Ferrari you can emerse yourself in Fiat heritage. Lolz!

  20. AMCFAN

    The vehicles are worlds apart as for who they were designed for. The Fiat is an everymans car. Everyone knows the expense with a Ferrari. It was never intended on ever being a car the mass. You are simply overlooking the heritage and relationship between the two. It is no different then the VW Beetle VS the Porsche 912/911. The relationship compairing the X/19 to the Ferrari when new wasn’t thought of. If so I believe it would have been a great selling point. Today we can see simular details that can possibly relate the two. Why can’t a Fiat guy dream? I am sorry you or many others in your group cannot nor will not accept. I canot accept Chrysler products at an all AMC meet. Both being an everymans car!

    • JC

      They are worlds apart from just about every perspective, that’s just the reality. Chrysler and MBZ were merged at one time, does that make the LeBaron and 500 SL similar cars that share a heritage, no way. Now that Fiat owns Chrysler, maybe the Hemi ‘Cuda and Abarth share a thing or two ?? Carroll gave his name and offered consultation to just about anyone would buy it, does it mean that those cars share vintage Shelby heritage, I think not. Comparing the two would be a dream shared by Fiat owners hoping for something more, definitely not the other way around. I hope you can understand.

      @Mike, start counting the Ferrari owners that do that, let me know when you get to “1”, I have a couple things I want to sell him.

      • Jason

        Holy Maranello, JC is the worst sort of badge snob. How many Ferraris do you own, by the way?

  21. JohnD

    Ah yes, another car I wish dad had saved for me. I believe his was a ’75, identical colors to this one. Of course the Targa top was my favorite part of the car. I also liked the engine compartment deck lid for some reason. Unique I guess, and the mid engine is cool.

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