Fiat X1/9: The Affordable Mid-Engine Sports Car That's Still Addictively Fun Today

Fiat X1/9 21 photos
Photo: Mecum
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Forgotten by most sports car enthusiasts, the tiny but mighty X1/9 was designed by the man behind the Lamborghini Miura, featured a mid-mounted four-pot created by a former Ferrari engine wizard, and featured a near-flawless suspension system.
Fiat is known worldwide for gathering many prestigious automotive brands under its corporate umbrella, but when it comes to its namesake brand, it's usually associated with passenger cars that were only impressive in terms of affordability.

However, throughout its history, Fiat also produced a series of noteworthy sports cars such as the exotic post-war 8V, the Ferrari V6-powered Dino (a name shared with the mid-engine Ferrari model), or the more modern Barchetta.

But arguably, the best Fiat-badged sports car ever created was the X1/9, an exciting mid-engine two-seater for the masses that has been unfairly forgotten.

It all started with a breathtaking Bertone concept

Autobianchi A112 Runabout Concept
Photo: Stellantis Europe
During the late 1960s, the long-lasting partnership between Fiat and Bertone was stronger than ever. The design house had stylized most of the automaker's mass-produced models and even built the sporty, econocar-derived 850 Spider at its Grugliasco plant in Turin.

Although reasonably successful, the small 850 Spider was nearing the end of the road, so Bertone proposed to design and build a successor that could share components with the upcoming 128 yet push into genuine sports car territory.

Such a project would've secured a fine contract for the design house. Therefore, even when Fiat management said no and officially discontinued the 850 Spider, Bertone went ahead and built a concept.

A wedge-shaped Barchetta that oozed Mustang 1 and Corvette Sting Ray vibes, the mid-engine concept called A112 Runabout was officially created to promote the Fiat-owned Autobianchi marque and its new A112 subcompact.

However, Bertone's real intention was to convince the carmaker's management to change their minds about a small Fiat sports car for the masses.

The plan seemed destined to fail, but Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli fell in love with the Runabout. Despite being advised by the management team and shareholders not to give Bertone the green light for a closely related, mass-produced model, Agnelli did just the opposite, and in 1972, the X1/9 was born.

The Lamborghini Miura's affordable step-sibling

Fiat X1/9
Photo: Stellantis Europe
Like the Runabout concept, the X1/9 was designed by Bertone's famed stylist, Marcello Gandini.

A proponent of the mid-engine layout, Gandini managed to convince Ferruccio Lamborghini to produce the exotic Miura, and with the X1/9, he wanted to give enthusiasts the world's first affordable mid-engine sports car.

Though affordability was the main focus of development, Gandini worked wonders at making the X1/9 look good.

He retained the low-slung silhouette and wedge-shaped styling of the Runabout, added pop-up headlights and a removable targa top, and used existing Fiat components while managing to give the sports car a distinct, eye-catching appearance that distinguished it from all other Fiat production models.

Powered by a Lampredi engine

Fiat X1/9
Photo: Bring a Trailer
A legendary Italian automobile and aircraft engine designer, Aurelio Lampredi is best remembered for the race-bred V12 he designed for Ferrari during the 1950s.

After leaving Maranello, Lampredi became Fiat's chief engine designer, and in the late 1960s, he designed a SOHC four-cylinder for the compact, front-wheel-drive 128.

A 1.3-liter version of the Lampredi-designed four-pot was used in the X1/9, where it stood between the cabin and the rear axle. As with the 128 econocar, it was transversally mounted and came with the same four-speed manual (subsequently replaced by a 5-speed), but thanks to its relocation to the middle of the chassis, it sent power to the rear wheels.

In terms of output, the 1.3-liter only made 74 hp, which was on par with what the 132-pound (60 kg) heavier, flat-four-powered Porsche 914 could deliver.

Despite its apparent lack of oomph, the SOHC inline-four was praised for its high-revving demeanor, smooth power delivery, and surprisingly menacing sound.

Subsequently enlarged to 1.5 liters, which took output up to 85 hp in the Euro-spec model, the fuel-efficient (for that era) engine felt more powerful than it actually was, which had a huge impact on the X1/9's thrilling driving experience.

A surprisingly advanced chassis

Fiat X1/9
Photo: Stellantis Europe
Apart from the wonderful wedge-shaped design and the lively, mid-mounted Lampredi engine, the affordable sports car was built around a brilliantly engineered monocoque chassis.

During a time when the vast majority of passenger cars still used leaf-sprung live axles at the rear and drum brakes all around, the X1/9's chassis featured a fully independent suspension system, with MacPherson struts and disc brakes behind all four wheels.

Coupled with the low overall weight and mid-engine layout, the advanced chassis helped make the small two-seater exceptionally nimble through tight corners.

Successful in the US

Fiat X1/9
Photo: Bring a Trailer
Co-manufactured by Fiat and Bertone from 1972 to 1982, then solely by the design house until 1989 (as the Bertone X1/9), the small mid-engine sports car was produced in nearly 170,000 units.

Despite all its qualities and an initial price tag of approximately $4,000 ($25,808 in 2024 money), which made it over $500 cheaper than an entry-level Porsche 914, the X1/9 wasn't particularly successful in Europe, where enthusiasts often called it "a hairdresser's car."

Nevertheless, as it was the first Fiat designed to comply with US federal safety regulations, the X1/9 was exported across the Atlantic, where it faired much better.

Initially available with the 74-hp 1.3-liter, then equipped with a Bosch fuel-injected, 75-hp 1.5-liter that complied with federal emission regulations nationwide, the tiny Fiat was praised by enthusiasts and the American motoring press, so about two-thirds of the units built during the entire production run found a home in the US.

Still extremely fun and surprisingly affordable today

Fiat X1/9
Photo: Mecum
Half a century after it was introduced, the brilliant X1/9 seems to have been erased from the collective mind of sports car enthusiasts. That may be because it featured Fiat badges instead of those from Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Maserati.

Nevertheless, if you watch a video review like the one below by Twin-Cam, you'll discover that the X1/9 is still addictively fun to drive even today, in the era of 1,000-hp, mid-engine sports cars.

Even with unassisted steering and brakes, it's extremely responsive and easy to tame on a winding road, delivering the pure, analog driving experience that most modern sports cars lack.

Sure, it lacks speed, but it doesn't feel underpowered at all, as its inline-four compensates for the lack of horses with a rev-happy attitude.

Even more impressive, unlike more popular sports cars from the 1970s, the X1/9 remains affordable. Although a small fraction of examples have survived, the average value for one in great shape currently stands around $13,000, according to

That's unquestionably a bargain for one of the most exciting yet underrated budget-friendly, mid-engine sports cars ever created.

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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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