Fiat X1/9, lawyer’s favorite spider turns 50 – Sotto la Lente

Happy birthday Fiat X1/9, fifty years old is a wonderful age, especially when they do not show themselves in any way, and the “body” (in this case, the body line) is still in perfect condition, so much so that it remains competitive with models. much later generations. The X1/9 was actually born in 1972, but its history—very special—began in 1969 with the debut of one of the Turin company’s most famous models, the front-engined 128 sedan with wheel drive. The generally recognized progenitor of all “middle” cars since the 1970s, the 128, designed by engineer Dante Giacosa, the “father” of all Fiat models of the period, led to the use of a front transverse axle, among other things. The front-wheel drive powertrain scheme was also used by Volkswagen to create the Golf.

From the 128 X1 / 9 model, it inherited only the 1.3 4-cylinder engine and the “central” location in the Fiat model range. The rest is pure creativity, because this original Spyder has a rear mid-engine, a typical solution for much more expensive models such as the 1966 Lamborghini Miura, with specially designed mechanics.
But back to the genesis of X1/9. In the wake of the success of the sedan, the 128 coupe was born, which was to be an “affordable” four-seater sports car. However, there was no open version, and management at the time commissioned Bertone, who already had a close relationship with Fiat as well as many other major manufacturers, to study the crosspiece derived from the 128.
In this regard, as Beppe Panicko, then head of communication at Bertone, recalls, it should be remembered, however, that it was Avvocato Agnelli who chose the X1 / 9 format, and not only therefore with a futuristic line that still makes it relevant today. , today, but above all thanks to the innovative rear-mid engine layout.
“Nuccio Bertone,” Panicco tells Ruoteclassiche, “produced two prototypes of the 128 Spider: the first retained the mechanics of the coupe and resembled the 124 Spider, but most of all he believed in the design of the mid-engined model. When Bertone was invited to the Fiat Style Center to demonstrate his prototype, he was asked to present only the front-wheel drive model and leave the X1 / 9 outside the showroom. While there was a meeting with the top management of Fiat, Avvocato Agnelli happened to see this spider in the corner and fell in love. entered the hall and made a judgment that left no room for reflection: “Good model, it will be 128 spider, right?”.
Bertone entrusted the development of this car (project name X1/9) to Marcello Gandini, father of Miura, who for the new Fiat was also inspired by the 1969 Runabout prototype built on A112 mechanics. In the Bertone studio, the engine is 1.3 75 hp. coupe 128, which differed in the location of some accessories, began to “dress up” in a truly original body.
The scheme includes McPherson suspension with a fairly sporty setting, a four-speed gearbox, disc brakes on all wheels. The maximum speed is 170 km/h. Another feature is the removable hardtop, based on the targa principle introduced by Porsche in 1966 for the legendary 911.
The debut took place in November and December 1972 – simultaneously with the launch of the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth – and became a memorable performance on the Targa Florio route in Sicily. On these roads, the X1/9 shows all its agility and performance magnificence, it depends on the weight capped at 880kg.
“The steering is ready, easy and safe,” writes the unforgettable Renzo Villare in his report for La Stampa dalle Madonie, “and the moment of inertia, also due to the stability mentioned above, is less on the X1/9 than on other sports cars. What was particularly impressive during the test is the braking: instantaneous, safe, it does not show the slightest sign of fatigue even after prolonged use, as fast driving on the troubled Madoni track requires. that will satisfy a huge clientele.”
The story of the X1/9 then runs through the sale by Fiat – between the late 70s and early 80s – of rights and equipment to Bertone, who affixes their trademarks to the car in place of the original Fiat badges. . And the last X1/9 was produced at the end of 1988, when about 174,000 units were produced, which is one of the best results in the history of sports cars in this segment.
Bertone still manages to collect some of the very last pieces (today highly sought after by collectors), which were sold in 1989 as a special edition reserved for export markets and called the Grand Finale.

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