Cheap Summer Driver: 1979 Fiat X1/9

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Is it too late to drive an Italian sports car that can shed its roof this summer? I don’t think so, which is why this 1979 Fiat X1/9 here on eBay seemed like a bargain at $2,950 or best offer. Although we’re on a downhill trajectory for months remaining where open-top motoring remains a viable activity, there’s still time to feel the wind in your hair. 

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Of course, as I write this it’s about 90 degrees in my fair city here in Rhode Island, so summer time isn’t going anywhere fast. This Fiat is said to be highly original, including an 8-track player still in the dash. No word on if the paint is original, but it appears just honest enough with all the badges and trim still in place to make me believe it is. The driver’s seat does have a tear but the interior looks presentable overall.

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Though not a rocketship, the mid-ship engine layout gave the Bertone-designed Fiat excellent handling characteristics. Even the spare tire and gas tank location were designed in such a way to optimize weight distribution and handling agility. The engine in this example has only 65,000 miles of wear and tear, and the seller has a laundry list of recent maintenance items addressed, including a new carb and radiator.

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The steel wheels with polished rings is an interesting look, but I’d be sorely tempted to ditch those for some upgraded 15×8 Corsa wheels, and then just pluck whatever I can find from the Abarth tuning catalog. The price seems right for a seasonal driver that isn’t perfect, but I’d bet you could snag it for a lower price than advertised. Would you set this up for autocrossing or summer driving – or both?

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Comments

  1. ron Bajorek

    only if you are glutton for punishment.se

    • Michael Bun

      These cars are extremely rare. I gave up looking for one (in my area) a few years ago. Many seem to have ended up in Canada. I am not a glutton for punishment, but they sure are cute.

  2. Rando

    A freind had one a long time ago. (80s?) It was great EXCEPT that ever so often, the distributor would move and when it started running funny, you had to stop and turn the distributor to get it back in time. No amount of tightening would make it stay in the correct position for any length of time. And it would change on a whim. Fun car 30 years ago, except for that one thing

  3. z1rider

    One of the hardest engines to work on ever. Just no room for your hands/tools and very poor access. That might not have mattered so much if they had been reliable cars.

    An absolute blast to drive though.

  4. Mike

    I have a 1973 X1/9 and I absolutely love it! It hasn’t many power, but it is incredible how well designed it is. Very good handling, enough space for the luggage combining the two trunks, and a surprisely good habitability.
    In fact, one day a guy I Know let me drive his Alpine A110 for a while, and when he asked me how was the ride, I said: “meh, I prefer my Fiat…” Now he thinks I’m stupid, by the way XD

  5. Gary

    These cars used tear up the autocross courses in the late 70s and left everything else that was running in their class fighting over the last few places on the finishing charts………yes, I was one of those ones eating their dust.

    Great price on this car. I guess the prices of the X 1/9s haven’t been run up to insane prices yet by the “I always wanted one of those” crowd. Buy it now before it’s too late. I’d jump on it if I had room.

  6. grant

    In 1999, I was a 24 year old with a brand new wife and baby. We had bought the obligatory Nissan family car, and I needed a work car but wanted something a little fun. Armed with $1500 and my wife’s blessing I headed out to check out a black X19 I had spied on a local used tire/auto repair/used car lot in town. It was black with pink (!) pinstripes and piping on the seats. No idea if it was original but if not someone was commited to it as it all matched nicely. Price on the car was $1200. Decent shape, not torn up too bad but needed some cleanup on the wiring. Was all but ready to try and make a deal on it but figured I should drive it first. So, accompanied by a grease monkey from the shop, off we went. It ran beautifully, and handled like a slot car. Headed back to the shop and came to a bit of a hill. RPM up, speed down. Clutch slipping. Limped it back to the shop all while wondering how hard it would be to put a clutch in the thing. Looked again at the engine and didn’t want anything to do with it. The shop (more of an oil change and spark plugs operation) didn’t want anything to do with it either but recommended someone else who quoted $1100. Even getting the shop down to $700 on the car it was over my budget which at the time was absolutely fixed. Saw it on a flatbed full of junkers a week later and I feel bad about it every time I see one now.

  7. Mark

    I had two. One for about 20 years. Really not hard to work on. The motor was very reliable but the clutch transmission and the hydrolics were not. Wish I still had one. But this one is too far away and lacks fuel injection and air conditioning which the later ones had.

  8. justajoe

    Friend had an ’78. Lovely car. Didn’t feel cramped on a Boise to LA to Portland and home run. But, it was a trifle slow for his taste, so first he boosted it, then put a 1608 124 engine in, and was still unsatisfied. So, he gave in to the absurd and installed a surplus miltary power gen turbine (yes, you read that right) with around 300 shp (shaft HP) adapted to the Fiat transaxle. It spun up a little slow, and while street legal, sort of, wasn’t really suitable for the road. But it went up the backside of Hilltop (Boise reference) really, really fast. Fun times.

  9. RoughDiamond RoughDiamond Member

    One of my managers bought one new in ’77. It was constantly having electrical issues that would either leave him stranded in his driveway or out on the road. His problems went away during one early morning commute in his X1/9 when the engine compartment caught fire and the car was a total loss after the Fire Dept. got through with it. His good fortune! He bought a new re-designed ’78 Toyota Celica Liftback with a 5-speed and never had a minutes worth of trouble out of it.

  10. Joe

    One word: Rust. Remember: Rust. Not kind to these X19s. Third time listing on ebay without a buyer. Overpriced. Will be very lucky to get $1500 tops as is.

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