Happy birthday Fiat X1 / 9, fifty years are a beautiful age, especially when they do not show themselves and the ‘body’ (in this case the body line) is still in perfect condition, so much so that it remains competitive compared to models of much more recent generations. In fact, the X1 / 9 was born in 1972, but its history – very special – began in 1969, when one of the most famous models of the Turin company made its debut, the 128 sedan with front engine and drive. Universally recognized as the progenitor of all ‘medium’ cars from the 1970s onwards, the 128 – which was designed by the engineer Dante Giacosa, ‘father’ of all Fiat models of that period – gave the use the front transverse powertrain scheme with front wheel drive also at Volkswagen to create the Golf.
From the 128 the X1 / 9 inherits only the 4-cylinder 1.3 engine, and the ‘central’ positioning in the Fiat range. The rest is absolute creativity because this original spider features the rear mid-engine, a typical solution of much more expensive models, such as the 1966 Lamborghini Miura, with specially designed mechanics.
But let’s go back to the genesis of the X1 / 9. In the wake of the sedan’s success, the 128 Coupé was also born, which wanted to be an ‘accessible’ four-seater sports car. However, an open version was missing and the management at the time entrusted Bertone – which already boasted a close collaboration with Fiat as well as with many other major manufacturers – to study a spider derived from the 128.
In this regard – as Beppe Panicco remembers, at the time head of Bertone’s communication – it should however be remembered that it was Avvocato Agnelli himself who decided for the format of X1 / 9, not only therefore with the futuristic line that still makes it current. today, but above all with the innovative rear mid-engine layout.
“Nuccio Bertone, Panicco tells Ruoteclassiche – had prepared two prototypes for the 128 spider: the first kept the mechanics of the coupe and resembled the 124 Spider, but what he really believed in was the design of the mid-engined model. When Bertone was invited. at the Fiat Style Center to show his prototype he was asked to present only the front-wheel drive model and to leave the X1 / 9 outside the showroom. While the meeting with the Fiat top management was taking place, Avvocato Agnelli passed by by chance. he saw that spider in a corner and fell in love. He entered the hall and pronounced a judgment that left no room for second thoughts: “Nice that model, that will be the 128 spider, right?”.
Bertone entrusted the task of designing this car (project name X1 / 9) to Marcello Gandini, the father of the Miura, who for the new Fiat was also inspired by the 1969 Runabout prototype built on the mechanics of the A112. In Bertone’s atelier, the 1.3 75 hp engine of the 128 coupe, which differed in the arrangement of some accessories, began to be ‘dressed up’ with a truly original bodywork.
The scheme includes McPherson suspension with a fairly sporty calibration, four-speed gearbox, disc brakes on all wheels. The maximum speed is 170 km / h. Another peculiarity is the removable hardtop, according to the ‘targa’ principle launched in 1966 by Porsche for the iconic 911.
The debut took place in November and December 1972 – at the same time as the launch of the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth – and provides for a memorable presentation on the route of the Targa Florio in Sicily. On those roads the X1 / 9 demonstrates all its maneuverability and brilliance of performance, this in function of the weight limited to 880 kg.
“The guide is ready, light and safe – writes the unforgettable Renzo Villare in his reportage for La Stampa dalle Madonie – and the moment of inertia, thanks also to that stability mentioned above, is less on the X1 / 9 than on other sports cars. What particularly impressed during the test was the braking: immediate, safe, it does not show the slightest sign of tiredness even after prolonged use, as required by fast driving on the troubled Madonie circuit. exciting in every aspect, fun beyond all expectations and that will satisfy a huge clientele “.
The history of the X1 / 9 then passes through the sale by Fiat – between the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s – of the rights and equipment to Bertone, which affixes its trademarks to the car in place of the original Fiat badges. And the last X1 / 9 is produced at the end of 1988 after around 174,000 units, one of the best results in the history of sports cars in this segment.
Bertone still manages to assemble some very last specimens (today highly sought after by collectors) which were sold in 1989 as a special series reserved for export markets and called the Grand Finale.