With a transverse engine and gearbox in a mid-mounted, rear-wheel drive configuration, the X1/9 was noted for its excellent handling, lightweight-removable hardtop, front and rear-storage compartments — and for being designed from its conception to meet the late 1960s U.S. safety regulations.
History and packaging
The X1/9 succeeded a 1969 show concept car called the Autobianchi Runabout, with styling by Bertone under chief designer Marcello Gandini. The Runabout was powered by the same engine as the Autobianchi A112.
Designed around the all-new 128 SOHC engine and with the gearbox (transmission) from the front wheel drive Fiat 128, the X1/9 relocated the transverse drive train and suspension assembly from the front of the 128 to the rear of the passenger cabin, directly in front of the rear axle, giving a mid-engined layout. The layout also located the fuel tank and spare wheel side by side ahead of the engine, directly behind the seats — optimizing the proportion of the car's weight falling within its wheelbase for more effective handling and also enabling cargo areas front and rear.
Unlike Fiat's marketing nomenclature at the time which used a numerical system (e.g., 127, 128, 124, 131) denoting relative position in the model range, the X1/9 retained its prototype code as its marketing name. Fiat's prototype coding used X0 for engines, X1 for passenger vehicles and X2 for commercial vehicles. The X1/9 was thus the ninth passenger car developed using the nomenclature.
The prototype car featured a distinctive wedge shape and took many styling cues from contemporary power-boat design. Though the more extreme features of the Runabout such as the C pillar mounted headlights and the small wind-deflector windscreen were lost for the production car, many aesthetic features of the Autobianchi Runabout are readily identifiable on the X1/9. The long flat bonnet (hood) with central indentation, the large front overhang, the wedge shape with prominent C pillar roll-over hoop and the car-length indented plimsoll-line all made the successful transition to the X1/9, giving it a highly distinctive appearance.
Once developed for production, the two-seater featured sharp-edged styling with a wedge shape, pop-up headlights and a removable hard top roof panel (targa top). The removable hardtop stores in the front luggage compartment, below the front hood, only slightly reducing the space available for cargo. An aftermarket company offered a top made of lightweight clear-smoked polycarbonate.
Design & engineering studies
Bertone conducted at least two design and engineering studies with the X1/9.
The first was an all-aluminum body shell, developed in concert with ALCAN. Five all-aluminum cars were built to the same strength and stiffness of the normal steel cars, and tested for vibration, noise, high load input, and corrosion. Weight savings were 1/3 of the normal steel body.
The second design study was a 2+1 completed in 1981. Two inches of width was added to the entire car, and more than seven inches of length was added behind the door and ahead of the rear wheels. The spare tire was relocated to the new space behind the driver's seat, and a third seat was added to the space behind the passenger seat originally used for the spare tire. "Opera" windows were added to the sail panels. The stock 1.5L engine was replaced by the 2.0L DOHC FIAT engine to add more power to compensate for the added weight. At least one example of the 2+1 had been on display in the Bertone museum before the company went bankrupt.
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Initial X1/9 Sales in European and UK markets
The car was developed for release for European sales in 1972 to replace the 850 spider by Bertone. It was not intended as a replacement for the 124 Sport spider and production of the 124 spider and X1/9 continued in parallel for much of the X1/9's life. The car's monocoque body was produced at the Bertone factory in Torino (Turin) and then transported to the Fiat's Lingotto factory for final assembly. In 1982, shortly after the introduction of the 1500 model, complete production was assumed by Bertone with models subsequently badged as the "Bertone" X1/9. Bertone models featured revised footwells redesigned to enhance legroom and sitting comfort for persons taller than the original design's target.
The last production models were named the Gran Finale and sold over the 1989/1990 period. They were a dealer modification of the special edition (commonly abbreviated to SE) of 1988/1989, with the addition of a rear spoiler and "gran finale" badges.
U.S. sales of X1/9s
The X1/9 underwent three generations in the U.S.: 1974 cars, 1975-78 cars, and 1979-87 cars.
The 1974 U.S. examples aligned closely with worldwide models, including small bumpers, 63 hp (47 kW) 1290cc engines, and four-speed transmissions.
The 1975-'78 U.S. cars were unique to the U.S. market with "ladder-style" impact absorbing bumpers front and rear. To meet U.S. evaporative and exhaust emission standards, X1/9s were fitted with exhaust gas recirculation valves, air pumps and activated charcoal systems. These cars were rated at 61 hp (45 kW).
In 1979 U.S. cars received increases in displacement to 1498 cc and five-speed transmissions, with max power up to 67 hp (50 kW). The 1979 U.S. cars retained the previous emission controls. Model years 1980 and 1981 saw a transition from carburetion to Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection, with the changeover coming in 1980 for cars sold in California and a gradual changeover for "federal" cars from late 1980 to 1981 model years. The combination of fuel injection (FI), a catalytic converter and unleaded gasoline allowed these cars to meet California's and later federal emission standards. Fuel injected cars were rated at 75 hp (56 kW).
In 1979 U.S. X1/9s also received both exterior and interior revisions including integrated bumpers front and rear, as well as new front grilles and airdams. The instrument panel and dash redesign moved the heating and ventilation controls from the center console up to the main dash, relocated the radio into the center dash area, moved the fuse panel from the area above the driver's left knee to the area above the passenger's footwell where the glovebox was, and moved the glovebox atop the dash.
During 1982, Fiat ended its presence in the U.S. Fiat turned over marketing and support of the X1/9 to International Automobile Importers, Inc., headed by Malcolm Bricklin, and turned over full production duties to Bertone. In 1983 the orphaned X1/9 was sold as the "Bertone X1/9." IAI and Bertone continued to update the X1/9, providing rust protection, revised seating to accommodate taller drivers, and a modernized electrical system for 1984 models.
U.S. sales of the X1/9 took a nose dive in the final few years, and 1987 was the last year that IAI imported X1/9s to the U.S.
From mid 1987 to end of the production in 1989 Bertone X1/9's were imported to the U.S. by M.I.K. Automotive, Inc. in North Hollywood California, owned by Miro Kefurt, who at that time was the number one Bertone dealer in the U.S. and one of the very few that sold exclusively X1/9s. The last four X1/9s were imported to the U.S. in April 1990 (1989 model year produced 12/1989).
|Model year||Differentiating characteristics|
|1974||Small wrap-around steel bumpers with large rubber blocks; chrome trim rear fascia; oval holes in rear bodywork; manual choke (operating knob located between the seats); no access panel to distributor from spare tire well.|
|1975||Ladder-style aluminum bumpers; aluminum grille replaced oval holes in rear bodywork; automatic choke controlled by coolant temperature.|
|1977||First year for distributor access panel in spare tire compartment.|
|1978||Production included an unknown number of "special edition" cars (in Europe these were called "serie speciale") with interior colors and trims and exterior striping unique to the edition. Affixed to the right fender, the identifying label had the Italian or local national flag, a four digit serial number, and Nuccio Bertone's signature. In other markets, the label was variously on the left side or both sides of the car, or sent to the original purchaser sometime after the sale.|
|1979||First major makeover includes: square, aluminum bumpers with "elephant ears" side trim; horizontal slat front grille; revised interior includes new dash, new seating; drivetrain improvements include 1.5L engine with Bosch electronic ignition, five-speed transaxle, more durable axles and wheel bearings; raised engine cover to accommodate taller engine; addition of an access panel between the engine compartment and rear trunk; modern fuse & relay center.|
|1980||Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection fitted to California cars; additional vent oval added to sides of engine cover.|
|1981||Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection fitted to federal (49-state) cars.|
|1982||Newly offered two tone paint scheme with the paint line midway up the wheel arches.|
|1983||First year that Bertone-logo badges replaced FIAT wreath badges on the front nose and rear decklid.|
|1984||Electrical system modernized (GBC fuses are replaced by ATC blade style fuses in the fuse and relay center under the dash just below the glove box). New two-tone paint scheme with the paint line higher on the body, just below the greenhouse. First year for Cromodora CD-179 wheels (nicknamed "Trons").|
|1985||Bumper and sail panel molding/trim finish changed from natural aluminum to flat black.|
|1986||Added federally required center high mounted stop light (CHMSL); mounted in rear window just below the targa bar.|
|1987||Minor appearance makeover includes wide body side moldings, fully padded 3-spoke steering wheel, cosmetic changes to climate controls on AC-equipped cars. First year for Speedline "phone dial" wheels. Full "blackout" treatment to windshield moldings, door frame surround moldings, and sail panel trim and molding pieces.|
The Filipinetti X1/9 of Scuderia Filipinetti was presented first at the Geneva Motor Show on 15/3/1973- 25/3/1973 as the first Fiat X1/9 race car. It was built in coorporation with Fiat by the technician and racer Mike Parkes who later developed and built the Lancia Stratos. The Filipinetti had a 1290 cc engine with Lucas mechanical fuel injection. The power was about 160 hp (119 kW) at 8600 rpm with a top speed of 210 km/h (130 mph).
The Fiat subsidiary Abarth, in 1973, developed the Abarth X1/9 Prototipo to replace the 124 Spider Abarth as Fiat's main rally car. Ultimately, the parallel 131 Abarth project was chosen over the X1/9 as the main rally competition platform.
The X1/9 Prototipo used an 1840 cc engine (a bored out 1600 cc 124-derived unit) with a custom 16-valve cylinder head fed by twin 44 mm Weber IDF carburettors. Externally the cars sported flared wheel-arches, a small "duck tail" spoiler and an F1 style air intake designed to feed the carburettors cool air from above the cars roof. All the X1/9 Prototipos were raced in the traditional Abarth lime-green/yellow and orange/pink colour scheme.
The prototype nature of the X1/9 Prototipo project means that the exact number of cars produced is impossible to define. Components and entire body-shells were routinely swapped and replaced as part of the development process, but it is believed that 5 genuine cars were produced.
In 1975 the X1/9 was chosen by Dallara to enter the World Championship for Makes in the Group 5 Special Production class. The Dallara Icsunonove (the Italian pronunciation of "X1/9") featured a modified X1/9 engine with a custom 16-valve cylinder-head and fundamental suspension and body/monocoque alterations, the most obvious of which are the massively flared wheel-arches and the oversized rear wing.
The Faran Car Co. Ltd. was a U.K based company that offered both D-I-Y kit and in-house assembled options for their Eliminator kit. The design featured replacement fibreglass mouldings for the front and rear wings, together with front and rear integrated bumper sections. The external modifications were completed by side sill skirts and a rear boot spoiler which was not dissimilar in style to that found on a De Tomaso Pantera. Faran also offered conversions using Lancia or Fiat Twin Cam engine units, although some owners opted to keep the original SOHC setup. Production of the Faran kits ended following an unfortunate factory fire.
Eurosport (UK) Ltd. is an X1/9 parts specialist that produced two kit variants commonly referred to as the full and bolt-on kits. The full kit was a contender to the Faran version and utilises wide replacement fibreglass moldings for the front and rear wings, together with front and rear integrated bumper sections. Side skirts completed the styling which featured Ferrari Testarossa style side air intake mouldings ahead of the rear wheels. The bolt-on kit in contrast featured replacement front and rear integrated bumper sections that were moulded to blend with the standard wings. This allowed the 1500 alloy bumpers to be substituted with ease and offer a more modern appearance. Side sill skirts were also included in the bolt-on kit. Both kits are still available today.
The Schult X1/9 kit was produced in Germany and could again be likened to have taken some inspiration from the Testarossa style, but with more angular lines. Current availability for the Schult conversion is unknown.
Paint codes for mica red (408) and mica blue (407) (1988 to 1989) are not listed in Fiat paint catalogues (they are Bertone colours) but are listed in Volvo paint catalogues. The colours used on the contemporary Volvo 780 are identical to those used on the X1/9 (even using the same 408/407 codes) as the two cars were produced, and painted, by Bertone in the same factory at the same time.
- Porsche 914, a contemporary mid-engined targa two-seater.
- Matra Bagheera, a contemporary mid-engined three-seater.
- Pontiac Fiero, another mid-engined two-seater.
- Toyota MR2, another mid-engined two-seater.
- Corona Dardo, a Fiat X1/9 replica sold by Fiat dealers in Brazil.
- Ward, Phil (2000), Fiat X1/9, Motor Racing Publications Ltd, p. 33
- Ward, p. 53
- "The Fiat Bertone X1/9 Story". sportsvogn.no. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- "Fiat X1/9". carsfromitaly.net. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- "Technical specifications of 1972 Fiat X1-9". carfolio.com. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- X1/9 is correctly pronounced in Italian as Icsunonove: 'x' (ics) 'one' (uno) 'nine' (nove). Phonetically iks-oo-no-nov-eh. English speaking countries pronounce the name as 'x-one-nine'.
- Unlisted Author. (1977), Motor, February 26, 1977:
At its announcement in 1972, Fiat's Bertone styled X1/9 had the distinction of being the first mid-engined sports car destined for volume production.
...the X1/9 is a remarkably safe car with excellent handling and high reserves of roadholding...
- "1969 Autobianchi Runabout (Bertone)". carstyling.ru. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
- "Fiat X1/9". Autocar. Vol. 137 nbr 3994. 14 December 1972. pp. 50–52.
- Before official right-hand drive X1/9s were manufactured by Fiat in 1976, Radbourne Racing were converting left-hand drive X1/9s to a right-hand drive configuration for sale in the UK market. None of these early conversions are believed to remain in existence.
- "The Building and Test-Track Evaluation of an Aluminum Structured Bertone X1/9 Replica Vehicle". Retrieved 2016-11-01.
- Hogg, Tony (ed.). "Fiat X1/9: Now it has fuel injection and is smoother than ever". Road & Track's Road Test Annual & Buyer's Guide 1981. No. January–February 1981. p. 82.
- "Filipinetti X1/9 World - Zeitungsartikel in "Motor" April 1973". Fili.project-x19.de. 2007-11-12. Retrieved 2010-09-30.
- "1973-1974 FIAT ABARTH X1/9 PROTOTIPO". bernimotori.com. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
- "1975 Fiat X1/9 Dallara (Bertone)". carstyling.ru. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- "The history of the Fiat X1/9 Dallara group 5". http://www.x19world.de. Retrieved 25 March 2012. External link in
- "Eurosport (UK)". eurosport-uk.net. Retrieved 2010-03-31.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fiat X1/9.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bertone X1/9.|
- Filipinetti X1/9 - All about the first X1/9 racecar from Scuderia Filipinetti
- The Bertone Runabout concept-car - History by Tobias Berger
- 1969 Bertone Runabout Information
- The Fiat X1/9 Wiki
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