1979 Fiat X1/9 Reviews

1979 Fiat X1/9 1.5 from North America

Year of manufacture1979
First year of ownership1986
Most recent year of ownership1998
Engine and transmission 1.5 Manual
Performance marks 7 / 10
Reliability marks 8 / 10
Comfort marks 7 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 7 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
7.3 / 10
Distance when acquired60000 kilometres
Most recent distance160000 kilometres
Previous carFiat X1/9

Summary:

Trusty but rusty; cheap thrills; superb handling; anemic power.

Faults:

Rust. Living in the Pacific Northwest of North America doesn't help. Caused driver's window to be inoperative.

The engine burned a little blue when I bought it. Changed the oil every 5,000 Km. The powerplant never had a problem. I had it rebuilt (see below).

Transmission needed some work after 120,000 Km (couldn't get into reverse). Otherwise, it had no problems.

Interior: Seat vinyl and cloth on driver's seat had a lot of wear. Interior was leaky when it rained hard.

Went through 2 clutches, 2 sets of disk brakes, 1 starter, 1 alternator,...etc. But that's just normal wear and tear from lots of mileage.

Only had one electrical problem. It turned out to be a pinched wire going into the engine compartment. The shop I used was very familiar with this so I assume it was a "factory defect". Heard a lot about headlights not popping up, but mine always worked (The servos are over-designed and bulletproof).

Did I mention RUST?

General Comments:

Handling of this car was incredible, but standard torque and power was wholly inadequate. Because of the Mid-engined design, brake performance was in the super-car range (at least before they get too hot).

Installed swaybars (no swaybars on stock version - really!), KONI shocks. Kept original 13" wheels. There wasn't much left on the road that could out-handle the little FIAT.

Installed a high-lift cam and bigger carburetor. This made low-end torque even worse than stock (if that was possible), but when the secondary throat kicked in you could really feel the benefits of the cam. Winding out the engine to the 7500 rpm redline was a whole lot of fun.

Test drove a low mileage 1988 Supercharged MR2 in 1997 as a comparison. Power-wise, the X1/9 was several leagues below the MR2. The MR2 felt like the FIAT off the line when you started in 3rd gear - this is no joke, I really did this. The Toyota's power-to-weight ratio is what FIAT should have been aiming for.

In terms of handling, the Mk I MR2 was a surprising step down from the FIAT. It always felt like it was on the verge of tipping over. You couldn't toss the MR2 around as easily as the FIAT. The Toyota just didn't have the road feel that the FIAT did.

I drive a 1999 BMW M3 Coupe now. My modified FIAT handled better around the city. At higher speeds, it's about even, but then again, I still have the factory settings on the M3 (too much under-steer).

I've had three X1/9's (1975,1974,and 1979). All three were eventually totaled by careless drivers (two were when my car was parked - one was due to some pickup running a red light). I can atest to the strength of the design since I am still here, and that the 1979 was still drivable after being rear-ended hard enough to roll it up onto the curb.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 28th May, 2004

1979 Fiat X1/9 Bertone 1.3L from Australia and New Zealand

Year of manufacture1979
First year of ownership2000
Most recent year of ownership2002
Engine and transmission 1.3L Manual
Performance marks 7 / 10
Reliability marks 7 / 10
Comfort marks 9 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 7 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
7.5 / 10
Distance when acquired180000 miles
Most recent distance190000 miles
Previous carHolden Commodore

Summary:

Superb piece of automotive design which is a joy to own

Faults:

To those who have a passion for these cars, practically nothing. To those who expect a faultless run, the following.

Brakes were totally overhauled, and are still at best mediocre in their ability to haul the car to a stop and suffer from terrible break fade.

Changing gear is an acquired art via the heavy and very grumpy 4-speed gearbox. Gearbox overhauled when I lost third gear. Reverse is always weak and jumps out. Never put yourself in a situation where you need to reverse up a steep incline in one of these vehicles.

Heater has never worked, and is a nightmare to fix, so I haven't bothered, the controls are cable operated and seize up, I still have use of the window de-mister though.

The steering lock is pathetic, as is the turning circle making the car a pain to maneuver in tight spaces despite it's tiny size.

Rust. I am blessed with very minor rust problems on my example, however, expect to give this matter constant attention should you ever own one of these cars.

General Comments:

The engine is unburstable. It is underpowered in 1.3L form, but ring it's neck and it's huge fun. But the joy of this car comes from handling which is quite honestly sensational.

It is a perfectly balanced small car in which you can corner at insane speeds with total confidence. In addition to this it has a very comfortable ride, far better than that of my mothers Mazda MX5.

The cabin is surprisingly comfortable, top off, the wind intrusion is minimal. And storage space is outstanding for an open top sports car with two boots, one fore and one aft.

The styling in my eyes is masterful, with beautiful taut angular pinnfarina design worthy of a Ferrari. People love to ask me about the car and it really turns heads.

This is genius piece of automotive design which never got the kudos it deserved.

I love my X/19, and forgive it for its faults.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 13th September, 2002

5th Dec 2002, 05:31

Pf? don't you mean bertone?

19th Jan 2003, 19:17

Sorry, yes I do mean Bertone, I sometimes get that confused as the last roadster I owned was coachwork by PF, I stand corrected :)

1979 Fiat X1/9 1.3 from Australia and New Zealand

Year of manufacture1979
Engine and transmission 1.3
Performance marks 7 / 10
Reliability marks 7 / 10
Comfort marks 7 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 9 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
7.5 / 10

Faults:

Only owned for the last four months but the front headlight has to be put up manually, and a leak in the radiator.

General Comments:

Fantastic around corners. Mid engined mount so there isn't a lot of spare space. Feels like a 15-1600 in terms of power, no power up hills, no acceleration, but unless it's important to you it doesn't matter... Oh yes it's a stunner of course to look at.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 14th February, 1999

23rd Nov 2003, 12:51

The problem with your headlight is probably a blown fuse. In the fuse box (above the foot-well on the passenger side) are 2 mini fuses (among the other fuses). 1 of those 2 fuses has blown - even though they might look good, remove them and see.

They're a little hard to find, but they are out there.

I've got a '79 X1/9 and love it!

24th Nov 2003, 03:26

The X 19's headlights are controlled by diodes, one for up, one for down. I think they're located behind dash. This is a common problem on these. Den.

4th May 2004, 14:00

Actually the diodes are on the headlight motors themselves. The diodes are exposed to the elements and often break. Soldering new ones in (be sure they face the right way) will fix the problem in 99% of the cases. Rarely do the motors themselves cause the issue.

Average review marks: 7.4 / 10, based on 3 reviews