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Desert Flower! Barn Find Fiat X1/9

You’re choking down a grease-burger at a truck-stop diner and you overhear a conversation. Something about a mid-engine Italian sports-car stored in a barn since the ’80s. Next thing you know you’re following Ole Clem to a metal building. His buddy rolls the door open and there, beneath some dust, you recognize it immediately… it’s a F, F… Fiat. I mean “It’s a Fiat!” Looking imperfect but well preserved and complete, this 1979 Fiat X1/9 in Pahrump, Nevada seeks a new owner here on eBay where (at time of publication) it awaits an opening bid of $3000. Thanks to Adam C. for spotting this unique Italian two-seater.

A previous owner added, in hardware store vinyl stickers, the “X19” script… just in case someone would mistake the car for, say, a Corolla or, well, any other car. Introduced as the world’s cheapest mid-engined sports car, the X1/9 also boasts one of the world’s most esoteric car names. Visit the page here at woiweb.com to learn more about the name and other details about these interesting little cars. Kudos to the seller for washing the tiny tourer and giving it a chance to earn top dollar.

As blue and tan color combinations go, this one blends less attractively than some. Still, I’ll take it any day over the ubiquitous all-black interior. Are those seat covers? With fewer than 63,000 miles on the clock, it should be in fairly good shape, though desert storage can be hard on plastic and rubber components.

There’s an engine in there somewhere! The 85 HP 1.5L mill won’t put your neighbor’s Ferrari to shame, or your spouse’s minivan for that matter, but the transverse I4 provides enough thrust to keep things lively in a nicely-balanced one-ton car, and well-driven it would be hard to catch in the twisties. The lack of anti-roll bars front and rear make for deft handling without the stiff feeling of heavier contemporaries. Modern tires should do wonders compared to the original skinny 70-series skins. If other mid-engine Italian sports cars have appreciated beyond your budget, consider this nifty Fiat. What would you give for this angular two-seater?


  1. Avatar photo Skorzeny

    I’ve been in one of these and they are awesome in the corners. Hope it’s saved. Send the engine to Paeco it would be a great little car!!!

    Like 3
  2. Avatar photo Keith

    I remember these cars back in the day. When I was in the Air Force (early 80s) a fellow airman wanted to buy one from a dealership but the bank wouldn’t loan the money because of known maintenance issues and bad reputation these cars had.

    Like 3
  3. Avatar photo Ralph

    I think that 85hp figure seems optimistic, these had close to 70hp or less in US smog trim.

    And those are not seat covers, thats what the seats looked like in these, at least these later ones have their giant log bumpers slightly better integrated than the pre 1978 cars.

    Like 0
  4. Avatar photo Dan

    Fiats are known for rusting horribly…much as I like the design, I wouldn’t want to buy one as long as I live in the Rust Belt. The feature on this cars that confounds me is the angular shift knob; it looks unpleasant to grasp. Maybe a reader who has driven an X1/9 can confirm or deny that?

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Rosco

      Doesn’t everything rust in the Rust Belt?

      Like 6
      • Avatar photo Keith

        Mopars rust, in or outside of the rust belt ………

        Like 2
  5. Avatar photo Stevieg

    I had one of these once. Owned it for less than an hour. I didn’t fit in it lol. If I would sit in it, I needed to keep the top off it. Problem was, my line of eye sight was right there with the windshield header. I COULD scrunch down, but that wasn’t real comfortable (& I was way skinnier then lol). Or I could keep the top off & sit on a phone book. My friend I bought it from took it back lol.

    Like 2
  6. Avatar photo Spodeeodee

    I’d buy it and then scrap it. These cars are death traps!

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Brakeservo

      My brother drove his over 250,000 miles proving that occasionally FIAT screwed up and built a good car every once in a rare while.

      Like 3
    • Avatar photo Dave

      I disagree with the death trap label. I own several and was recently rear-ended at at least 35mph while at a dead stop. Yes, I got a concussion when my head hit the targa bar, but I’m 6’4”, so if smaller I wouldn’t have been hurt at all. The only damage to my car was a small dent, some broken plastic trim and scratches on the oversized bumper. The other car’s front end was destroyed completely. I drove home, the other car went in a rollback. That’s not the only time I’ve been hit in an X and had no real damage.

      Like 3
  7. Avatar photo h5mind

    My second car ever was a 1978 X 1/9, for which I paid the princely sum of $300. It ran and drove well, although I will second the lack of headroom comment. Mine came without a left rear quarter panel, so I had to meticulously craft one out of fiberglass and Bond-O. I drove it 2,500 miles from NH to my school in Utah, and apart from crushing the alternator pulley on a pothole in West Virginia (repaired with a few tweaks of a crowbar), I made it no problem.

    Did I mention there was no reverse gear? I eventually found out why. As I was pulling into my student accommodations, the entire engine and transmission felt out of the car. Come to find out, after a clutch job by the previous owner, the bolts which held everything together had never been properly torqued down. Half a dozen hardware store bolts later, I was back in business, now with reverse! Perhaps the most amazing thing was as small as that car was, it held everything I owned at the time.

    Like 7
    • Avatar photo t-bone Bob

      I once played in a band in which the drummer hauled his drum set around in a lime green ’74. He put the bass drum in the passenger seat and a tom on the floor. All the other drums, cymbals and hardware fit in the two trunks.

      Like 5
  8. Avatar photo Dave

    Funny how it’s always the ignorant that leave negative comments ! Yes you ! You are ignorant and stupid ! Yes they rust but that doesn’t mean this one is rusty and If you had a drive in this car you would be smiling for a week ! One of the most fun cars I have ever owned

    Like 7
  9. Avatar photo Mark Epperson Member

    I drove one of these little suckers once a week for a buddy in the Navy who was on cruise. It was fun in the curves, okay on the road but since it was a convertible it was great! Cars like this do a have a niche, especially since it really wasn’t that expensive.

    Like 3
  10. Avatar photo Robert

    Al Cosentino I think made a kit to transplant a Mazda rotary engine into the X1-9

    Like 0
  11. Avatar photo Dean

    Al never made a rotary swap kit for X1/9s, but was into RX-7’s later in life.

    The hot ticket these days is a K20 swap, turbo the K20 if you want crazy power.

    These are great cars, even a carburated ’79 is fun. Drive it as it came before you decide it needs an engine swap. You can get into enough trouble with it’s 67hp as rated in ’79. It’s all about momentum and handling.

    Paint failure and weak upholstery seams are standard items on this vintage X1/9.

    For all the guys complaining about rust, show me anything built in the 1970’s that didn’t rust.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Rosco

      I have multiple cars from the ’70’s and before, some that I have owned 40+ years, no rust. Not that uncommon in a dry climate.

      Like 1
    • Avatar photo stevefed

      DeLorean ha ha!

      Like 0
  12. Avatar photo Chubby

    In 1977 I was attending college and bought my first X1/9…1975 model. Had it a few months and at 27,000 miles, the timing belt broke while traveling at 60 mph. Complained to FIAT (Feeble Italian Attempt at Transportation, Fix It Again Tony, etc) who advised me my owners manual incorrectly stated to replace the timing belt at 30K miles…it should have read 25K miles.

    Job was not too bad and I was lucky…only bent valves and slightly scratched the top of each piston. Kept the car for another year or two and had a blast! Might consider another one but my height is not the problem…width possibly an issue.

    Like 0
  13. Avatar photo Little_Cars

    Sold at the Pontiac franchise in the sticks of southwest Virginia, one of these found their way into the hands of my first room mate in college because his father owned the business. The only one ever sold out of that dealer’s stock. I drove it, in hindsight it handled much like a 128 3p coupe I recently drove. “Nimble” comes to mind. That wasn’t enough for my room mate not to trade it in quickly when the restyled 82 Trans Ams came out.

    Like 2
  14. Avatar photo Steve S

    My cousin owned a 79 x1-9 for a long time. I bought the car some time after he got out of high school I think. when he sold the car some where around 10 or 11 years ago or something like that. he sold it as a rolling chassis. he had the engine out to rebuild it. but he never had the time to rebuild the engine. He had everything together with the car when he sold it also. The car was almost mint condition except for a little dent on the driver’s side quarter at the bend next to the engine compartment and his was gold.

    Like 0
  15. Avatar photo Jeffrey Auch

    My friend had one in high school. It was a whole lot of fun to drive. Always something going wrong with it but never left us on the side of the road.

    Like 0
  16. Avatar photo Robby Wreckless

    My Dad bought a 1976 Fiat X/19 leftover in 1978. He got it for a song. I drove it a few times and had fun scaring gas station attendants in the late 1970’s. You see back then they would check your water and oil, give you directions, and clean your windshield. The Fiat X/19 had its Spare tire and removable roof storage under the hood since the engine was behind the driver. I took the spare out and put my little brother in the space under the hood with a bicycle crank. I’d pull into gas stations and ask the guy to check the oil. When he popped open the hood by brother would pop up like a Jack in the Box . He’d be cranking the pedals like he was the engine. The attendant would jump and be startled and then laugh. All good clean fun back in the day.

    Like 5
  17. Avatar photo John B.

    Several years ago my wife and I followed a good friend and his wife to Gatlinburg, TN. My Chevy had over 100,000 miles on it so I took tools with me in the event that I had trouble. He was driving another friends Fiat X 1/9; it gave trouble the whole time! We had to work on it just to get back home; I was amazed how anything that looked so good could give so much trouble!

    Like 0
  18. Avatar photo arizman2

    I had a buddy who had one. He raised the compression ratio, tossed in a camshaft and a pair of DCOE carbs, had a set of 124 steel wheels widened and shod them with racing slicks and tore up the autocross courses in the area.

    Like 0
  19. Avatar photo Stillrunners

    My girl at the time bought one new…what a body but high maintenance car.

    Like 0
  20. Avatar photo Doc

    I’ve owned my X1/9 for 22 years, and in all that time I’ve only had to replace an air flow meter and the ignition switch. They are a little temperamental with the electrical systems because of poor grounding, but that’s pretty easily fixed. It’s not a daily driver, but it’s been quite reliable, handles great, and looks downright exotic compared to the MGs and Triumphs that we’re its contemporaries. I’m going to need some transmission work in the future (3rd gear synchro is wearing out), but that’s well documented and cheap to fix. With 108,000 on mine, I’d say I’ve done ok.

    If anyone is in the market for one, I strongly suggest a fuel injected car rather than the earlier carbed models- they make a lot more power and are more reliable.

    The car for sale here looks more than solid and is a good value, as prices on decent examples are rising quickly.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo arizman2

      I had a buddy who tossed dual 40mm DCOE’s on his carb version along with higher compression pistons, a cam, headers and they worked a treat

      Like 0
  21. Avatar photo Victor Anderson

    I’ve had/have 14 of these X1/9’s. Doc is correct that the fuel injected ones are better cars. Some of the ones I’ve had were 1979 models that had the carb instead of fuel injection. The carb ones tend to be a bit of a hassle because you’re always messing with the carb. Very easy to do and all – but seems like the jets get clogged all the time and you’re forever tinkering…..plus as he pointed out, the fuel injected ones tend to be more responsive. They’re really pretty much the funnest car you can get to drive – and will reward you nicely once you master how to drive it properly around corners. I’ve had 1st gen MR2’s as well – and while the MR2 is obviously a better ‘car’ – it’s not nearly as much fun to drive – and of course there is the targa top too. Doc has 108,000 miles on his — tell ya what a few of mine have a lot more on them than that lol. They’re a lot more solid car than you’d expect.

    Like 3
  22. Avatar photo Don

    Its funny how everyone has a story about this little car everyone loves to hate.

    Like 1
  23. Avatar photo Steve S

    My cousin never had a problem with his x1/9 until he had to rebuild the engine. I don’t remember what happened to the engine for it to need to be rebuilt. I don’t remember how many miles it had on it either. He also drove it every day until the engine needed rebuilt. Except for the winters I think.

    Like 0

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