Italian Fun: 1979 Fiat X1/9

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Well, you don’t see these cars around anymore. Close to the shores of the Great Lakes, this 1979 Fiat X1/9 is for sale in Saginaw, Michigan. The Fiat is listed for sale here on Craigslist for $5,800. The seller did a good job with taking quality pictures of this two seat, mid-engine sports car. The car has reportedly only covered 65,000 miles in its 41 year life.

The engine compartment looks fairly original. The carburetored 1,498 cc inline 4 cylinder engine is mated to a 5 speed manual transmission. The  US version of this engine was rated at 67 horsepower from the factory but later examples (1980-1981) were fuel injected which increased the power rating to 75 horsepower. The transverse mounted engine was said to help the car with handling. The seller states that the Fiat has newer tires and the brakes, alternator and steering system has recently been repaired or replaced. The suspension on these cars is fully independent.

The downside on this car appears to be the interior. The driver’s seat will definitely need to be recovered. The interior looks original but shows wear and I am not sure whether it can be cleaned up. I always wanted one of these cars in high school. I just thought they looked neat. There were not a lot of cars in the 1970’s with retractable headlights and a removable hardtop that I could afford. The standard wheel on the Fiat X1/9 was a 13-inch stamped steel wheel but this car looks like it is fitted with the optional cast alloy wheels.

Fiat produced the X1/9 from 1972 to 1982 and Bertone, who designed the car for Fiat, built cars the X1/9 from 1982 to 1989. Fiat produced approximately 140,000 examples while Bertone only built 19,500 during their shorter production run. Exports of the Fiat X1/9 were sold in the U.S. from 1974 to 1989 by Fiat. Bertone built Fiats were imported and sold through specific dealers. The largest Bertone dealer was MIK Automotive in Southern California. This car is said to run well and drive nicely. I am sure it attracts a lot of attention wherever it goes.

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  1. RoughDiamond

    This looks like a great deal to me and I happen to like the color. It’s always a good idea to keep a small fire extinguisher in any car because you just never know what could happen. I worked with a gentleman who bought one of these when they first came out due to the styling. His love for the car soon nosedived though because it just would not start at the most in opportune times like leaving for work. Finally, on his last day of ownership as he was driving in to work, he smelled something burning, immediately pulled over on the shoulder and got out before the car caught fire and was destroyed. So if I owned one of these having a small fire extinguisher on board would be mandatory.

    Like 10
  2. Skorzeny

    One of my best high school friends had one of these. He didn’t have to slow down for any corner under 40 mph or so. The handling was super, even with the narrow tires it came with. He never had any trouble with it as far as I remember. The wheels are stamped steel units. And an engine is mounted transversely so as to take up less space lengthwise, not to improve handling per se. The mid mounting helps with that. Neat car, fun to drive.

    Like 9
  3. Bill

    I had that car’s doppelgänger when I was a teenager (mid-80’s). It was a sexy little thing… when it ran, which was almost never. It could be a fun car if someone were to pull the power train and replace it with something that requires less than full time maintenance.

    Like 5
  4. EuromotoMember

    The word you were looking for is, “carbureted”.

    Like 1
  5. Todd Davis

    I owned a ’74 from 1978 to 1985. I agree with the previous comments. Once it got up to speed you didn’t have to slow down. I would like to own another one but not this one.

    Like 2
  6. nlpnt

    FWIU these were *all* built by Bertone under contract to Fiat (much like how Karmann built VW’s convertibles), and Bertone became the marque in America only when Fiat pulled out of the US and Malcolm Bricklin signed up to continue imports.

    Like 2
  7. Robbie R.

    Back in 79, I had a 74 model for about 3 months. It left me stranded more times than I could count. The local dealer had no idea how to fix it, so I unloaded it on some other poor fool. My brother owned a 75 model about the same time. The wiring on his caught fire and burned up. Good riddance to both.

    Like 3
    • Dickie F.

      I think your words “The local dealer had no idea how to fix it” is so true, but also add the words “how to maintain it”.
      Mine had very firm suspension and you never knew what to expect when you walked up to it in the morning…..

      Like 2
      • Robbie R.

        Exactly Dickie. The dealer also sold Chrysler Plymouth Mitsubishi cars. I don’t think any dealer would or could have survived selling only the Fix It Again Tony cars.

        Like 1
  8. FitzMember

    I had one in ‘77. Fun little car the one weekend of the month it ran….

    Like 4
  9. Maestro1

    I had a friend with one, and as long as he had it (several years) it was trouble free. I think he got lucky.

    Like 0
  10. gerardfrederick

    My step daughter bought one new. She owned it for 50 000 miles and reported nary a problem with it. The only time I drove it I thought it was great fun – the only Italian car Iever liked because of its reliability and gorgeous styling. Apparently many owners had problems, but unfortunatly that´s normal considering the cars origins.

    Like 0
  11. Kevin

    If I thought I could still get into it I’d be very tempted to see about getting this one ! I had a ‘78 drove it for 4 years. Absolutely loved it. Other than a set of brakes and a frozen radiator hose ( it goes from the front all the way back engine ) thawed it out added the correct antifreeze and not an issue again.i lived in a detroit suburb then and it was a pretty cold morning. The only other issue- these are sensitive to SLIGHTLYS low oil- I thru a rod thru the block. It was a nice clean hole on a flat surface… pulled the motor and PATCHED the hole with a piece of aluminum inside and out,cork gasket material, form-a-gasket,4 bolts and a new Connecting rod…. drove it everyday for another 30,000 miles…. I was 22 by then,sold it to a kid and showed him what I did- he was cool with it and it was cheap enough…I know he drove it for another 2 years and then some….. probably rusted to pieces before it died again !

    Like 2
  12. Markopollo

    Do NOT neglect the replacing the timing belt on these! it’s an interference engine and the pistons hit the valves if the belt fails. .. Check the front shock towers for corrosion and stress cracks, otherwise the shock will be banging out the underside of the Frunk hood….also watch for rust in the Frunk floor and footwells.

    Like 1
  13. chrlsful

    they have troubles only because they treat it as usa-ers do, no maintenance. “Set it and forget it”. Ignore – no “tinkers”, not ‘car guys’.

    The mid/transverse (mid transmis, 4 or 5 speed) was designed to handle. And as some here have said “It does”! I see them do very well at the auto cross (‘canyon carvers’) with the Sports Car Club America.

    Like 0
  14. araknid78

    Nice little car.

    Like 0
  15. Scott

    Still have my 1979 X1/9. purchase in 1979. Its been in storage for maybe 25yrs. Hope to get it out in two years. it has 43000 miles on it. Really never had a problem with it. the time I did I replace the computer and that was the end of the problem. It would just Quit running going down the road. Hope to get it out within the next two years

    Like 0

    Surprised to find my car featured here on Barn Finds. Thank you Bruce.
    And if anyone is interested, it is still for sale. Reduce to $4500 until spring.
    Thanks again.

    Like 0

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