One Owner & 19k Miles: 1975 Fiat X1/9

1975 Fiat X19

The most unusual thing about this car is that it’s still there! By that, I mean that most 70’s Fiats I’ve seen have rusted beyond all recognition. I’ve heard all kinds of stories that they were rusty when unloaded from the boat; that Fiat used poor-grade Eastern-bloc sourced steel at the time; and that the paintwork was sub-par. To be honest, I don’t know the reasons for sure. I just know most of them have ended up very perforated! This low-mileage, almost rust-free example located in Northbrook, Illinois is up for auction here on eBay with the reserve not yet met.

Rust damage

Let’s get the rust out of the way first. The seller has included a picture of the corrosion in front of the left rear wheel to show the extent of the damage. To have that much rust-through on the left and nothing on the right would surprise me, and I suspect the panels under these left-side holes won’t be pretty either. I admire the seller for being so upfront with pictures of the issue. I didn’t have any luck finding a ready-made patch panel, but there were plenty of stories on Fiat forums about people fabricating their own.

Fiat four cylinder

X1/9’s were powered by small SOHC four-cylinder engines, in this case a 1.3 liter making 75 horsepower. Here’s hoping the rags stuffed in the carburetor throats are a signal of preparation for long-term storage rather than the car just being parked. The seller states it was last registered in 1980, so the low quoted mileage is probably true, but what’s happened since then?

Sheepskin covers

Moving on to the interior, does anyone else remember fake sheepskin seat covers? I had a pair for my first Triumph Spitfire–those houndstooth seat covers that Josh likes the look of so much didn’t hold up very well for me. One can see the tears in the driver’s cushion in the pictures. I’m not worried about the seam separation, I can easily understand the stitching going bad after 40 years, but I’m surprised to see what I think is a torn bolster as well. That has me wondering how well the car was taken care of while it was on the road.

Solid shock mounts

Strut tops and other vulnerable areas look rust-free, and even what you can see of the rubber weatherstripping looks uncracked. I can’t say I’m in love with the green color, it looks like they borrowed the mid-70’s British Leyland palette, but getting the chance to pick up a mid-engined icon with so few miles outweighs my distaste for the color. If you’re interested, let us know in the comments!

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Chris in San Diego

    I had one of in College during the mid 90’s. Bought it from an old guy who lived in Texas desert. I loved that little car but wanted a bike and sold it to a friend who took it up north and left it parked outside for a winter. Come spring it had become swiss cheese. To this day I regret selling it to him, if it had stayed down south I am sure it would still be the sweet little ride I remeber.

  2. Horse Radish

    Could you, PLEASE, spare us from these redundant “ONE OWNER” AND “LOW MILEAGE”
    b.s. claims/stories ?
    Suffice it to say: this car, again has a 5 digit odometer.
    I guess blank check to blatantly lie, these days.
    Mileage is at least 118k (look at the driver’s seat !).
    It sat in a southwestern garage or carport for x-amount of years before it got shipped eastbound and changed hands 15 times before the story got so far diluted that nobody “knows”,
    …………but I can tell.
    NEXT

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Agreed that the BS Meter is pegged in the red zone on this one.

      No way a car with that low miles would look like this. Has had rust repair, appears to be a repaint, tattered interior, etc…..

      • tom999p

        I agree, I go with 118k miles….

  3. julian

    I had an ex fiat friend who started a business specialising in X1/9 s. Business failed because the cars rotted away. Nice little sports car sadly missed.
    The Fiat paintwork was good (unlike the Lancias) but we had new cars coming to the UK with great shiny paint but the rust spider already in the steel under the paint. Sals dropped off, Lancia cars were no longer imported and the great Fiat service depot at Brentford, London was closed. All very sad because of some stupid sourcing decision in Italy.

  4. Mark E

    I don’t know. This is from the time that Fiats seemed to be made of compressed rust. My family bought a new 1974 124 sedan and between build quality and the quality of service from the dealer my father traded it for a Mercury Marquis in 9 months! I could very well believe that someone would get so frustrated that they’d simply stop driving it, that is if they were well enough off to not have to trade it or sell it…

  5. DRV

    It’s hard to tell the mileage on a car that could be in very poor condition with ten thousand miles on it. These are fantastic in concept but have so many upgrades needed to make them reliable and lasting. I wouldn’t start with this year and condition to make a good one. Check the wear on the pedals…

  6. Carl B.

    RUST – GEE – on a 40 Year Old Car.

    Growing up in Ohio, and running around in the Great Lakes States – every manufacturer turned out cars that turned to Rust Dust in a matter of four or five years in the 50’s and going into the 60’s. Then living in California and Spokane, Washington – – I found that the lack of road salt and somewhat drier air, extended the useful life of steel vehicles by a factor of of 3x to 5x.

    Of course you have to throw into the mix, the actual care any specific vehicle received over its lifetime. My Porsche 911’s of the 60’s had the same RUST problems as my DATSUN’s of the earl 70’s. The 1967 911 was far worse than the 76 911 that started to use galvanized sheet metal. Likewise the DATSUN 240Z of 1970 was far worse than the 1972 240Z that used more galvanized sheet metal.

    Over the years improved manufacturing processes related to corrosion protection, improvements body primers and paints, the broader use of galvanized sheet metal – all contributed to greatly lengthening the life-cycle of our automobiles from about the 70’s forward. All perhaps driven by increased Competition the Auto Industry. By the 70’s it was very clear that it wasn’t just the Big Three any longer.

    Of course there seems to be “exceptions” to every general rule. At the extremes of my knowledge would be the Chevy Vega which actually started to Rust Though within a year of purchase. At the other end were the Mercedes Benz as sold in the US – which were far more fully “corrosion protected” and better finished than anything else on the American Roads from the 50’s though about the 80’s. Funny thing is that the VW Bugs were also exceptionally well made.

    Which brings me to this X-1/9. I worked for a DATSUN/FIAT/SAAB dealer in 1973, then for a VW/FIAT dealer in 1975 here in Clearwater, FL. The X-1/9 here in Florida held up well for 20+ years in terms of corrosion. So if they rusted out badly in other places – it was the place not the car. For that matter, should anyone really expect a car made of steel sheet metal – to last more than 20 years? This X-1/9 if 40 years old for goodness sakes.

    As I see it – if you were the typical Italian owner – in Italy – and you cared for and drove the car as it was expected to be cared for and driven by you – you could most likely drive in and enjoy it for 20+ years and 100K miles without a hitch. In America, in the hands of the typical American Driver – the car was just not up to the task. For that matter all FIAT’s were just not up to the task in America. Almost everything about them were frail by our standards. The fit/finish on the body panels however was actually quite good. As was the original paint job.

    Looking at the example here being discussed – no question in my mind – that most certainly is NOT a 19K original mile example. Being far older and far more experienced – if I had the opportunity to buy a true 1 Owner Fiat x-1/9 with less than 50K original miles – one that had the care it required over the years – – I’d buy it. They are fun to drive, great looking design and would be a very interesting “Special Interest” if not Classic sports car to own today.

  7. Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    ….I’m with Michael…… BS meter is pegged, and the odometer has rolled over

    Passsssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

  8. fred

    No question that Fiats and Vegas were the two fastest rusting cars of the era- but most others, even domestics, could give them a run for their money in salted road areas or coastal states. My friend’s 124 Sport coupe had completely rusted out rockers in just two years. But it was a LOT of fun to drive- I remember him scaring the heck out of me by pulling onto the median at 70, maintaining complete control. And what an exhaust note!

  9. jim s

    a little less then 2 days to go with reserve not met and $1127 bid. X1/9 were interesting cars but this one is not. i wonder what the stories are on the bikes in the background?

  10. Barry

    I have always liked the style of these cars, but from everything I have read about them over the years the build quality is very poor.

  11. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Guys, I have to disagree with you on this one. I would bet the low mileage claim is true, and here’s why. Purchased 1975, last registered 1980 (ok, assumes that is true, but that can be checked up on). Can you imagine an X1/9 being driven 118k miles in 5 years? Given the reliability record of 1970’s Fiats?

    Understand, the above paragraph is written tongue-in-cheek…mostly :-)

  12. CraigInPA

    The bolster seam separation is normal. When these cars were new, the vinyl seats were sprayed with a fire retardant (some US regulation). Over the course of 4-5 years, the stitching dissolved, leading to what you see in this car. This happened on all 74-75 Fiats with the vinyl seats. If you complained about it long and hard, Fiat would replace the seat covers at no charge. If you didn’t complain, you had to live with the split seams or pay to have them re-stitched yourself.

    Last registered in 1980 means, at most, 6 years to rack up 120k. That’s totally believable. I had a 74 (purchased used with 28k miles on it) when I was in college in the early 80’s, and regularly drove it 15-18k miles a year. Unlike those who speak of the “unreliability” of 1970’s Fiats, I can state from actual experience that the car was very reliable. The only incident I had in 5 years of ownership was when the clutch master cylinder blew a seal. I had to speed shift the car to get it home, but I wasn’t stranded. Beyond that, in 60k+ miles, the only things I did were routine maintenance: replace the timing belt, put in a clutch, brakes, a ball joint after dropping the front end into a pothole, belts, tires, and spark plugs.

    On the other hand, 6 years on a new car to rack up only 18k strains the credibility meter. I’d want to see some paperwork, inspection records, or something to prove the low mileage.

  13. Mathieu Belanger

    A friend of mine had one in the 90’s what a fun car to drive. Even if we were upnorth, the car was straigh, probably the car have never saw winter. I do remember a 24 pack of beers can be put in the trunk just behind the motor. He then lost pleasure in cars and then sold it for cheap….

  14. Bernie H.

    The unfortunate thing is that the seller will probably loose a fair amount of $$ to rid himself of this. Fiats just dont enjoy much upward price trend so unweary buyers jump-in before realizing they paid TOO MUCH!!!. Yup, they use salt in Northbrook., IL., I was born there in 1943, now I’m an old fart.

  15. tom999p

    I love these cars, had a Bertone back in 1990. It had all the luxuries possible, two tone paint, real leather interior, 5 speed trans, larger engine, fuel injection, aluminum alloy wheels, power windows, air conditioning, digital clock, remote side view mirrors, Bertone badge on the dashboard, etc.. The coolest part was that you could take off the roof and put it in the trunk… I used it to tow my jetski to the ocean during lunch break from my waiter job….Ah the good old days….

  16. tom999p

    I’m currently looking for a super rare 1987 X19 Final Edition, if anyone knows of one sitting in the bushes somewhere…

  17. cory

    had a black and gold one in my barn for a few years. never did get it running. I always liked the look of them, and the idea. light weight mid engine, removable top. there is no value in them, and parts are hard to come by. there is just something cool about feeling the engine in your lower back while you accelerate.

    • Danton J A Cardoso

      Parts are hard to come by for a FIAT? How is that possible?

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