Once again it’s time to strap ourselves into the de Haviland Otter Floatplane of knowledge, skim across the cold, murky lake of time and go fishing for something from motoring past, to be dredged up from the depths of automotive history. Welcome back to The Carchive.
Recently I’ve had enough of England, frankly, so today we’re heading to Italy and the late ’80s, when the life of the legendary Fiat X1/9 was coming towards its end.
Enhance legibility (a bit) by clicking on the images
“At Fiat, we have a long, proud history of sporting cars.
In 1907, our cars won all three major European Grand Prix.
And with Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Lancia now all owned by the Fiat Group, we can draw on a tremendous pool of experience”.
That was undoubtedly the case, but by the time this slim brochure was published in ’87, the curtain was beginning to lower on the X1/9, and it hadn’t really had a massive amount of development since Bertone took over production from Fiat in 1982.
And in truth, apart from efforts in self improvement, namely developments in quietness, comfort, roadholding and attempts to quell that annoying X1/9 habit of wanting to return to the ground from whence it came as soon as possible, there was no real need to do much to it. This was because although there were plenty of other cars you could spend an X1/9 shaped sum of money on, none of them were really rivals.
“The leather trimmed steering wheel is perfectly positioned for a relaxed, arm’s length driving style”
Some people spoke of the driving position being a thing of glove-like perfection. Others, not so much. Nobody ever criticised the handling, though; nor the balance of the car. It was, quite simply, a little gem of a car, and if you could keep yours from fizzing away before your very eyes, you would surely never stop smiling. And whenever I see one these days, which is a rare occasion indeed, I immediately break out into a broad grin.
These things used to be all over my neck of the woods. When I was young enough that they were taller than me I genuinely thought they were little Ferraris, only as I grew did I begin to realise how tiny the X1/9 was. It’s certainly way too diminutive to stand any chance of being recreated for production today without gaining several feet in extra length and girth.
Though based on a lot of ordinary production Fiat components, the clever design thinking behind the X1/9 meant it wasn’t even really a car of its time. It seemed to be from a parallel plain of existence.
(All images are of origibal manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Fiat SpA. New 124? If it ain’t got pop-ups, it ain’t shit.)