Anyone who has ever stood behind an auto parts counter has their favorite tale of a befuddled shopper. Like the college student desperately needing to replace a leaking “710” cap. Huh? After a lengthy diatribe it was determined that he was looking at the part upside down. It said OIL.
Working around Italian cars we got our fair share of these as well, but with a special gusto. Several times we got calls for a replacement “Brevetatto,” the customer was reading Italian word for patented stamped on the part. There were many creative pronunciations– for instance Lancia was often LAWN-chair-uh, or the Fiat 124 owner who was called his car a Tina Farina. But the best was the lady calling on behalf of her stranded husband: “It’s a 1981 Fiat… times nineteen.”
It took us a few minutes to decipher that: Fiat X1/9.
The oft maligned X1/9 was introduced in 1974, and I was a fan as long as I can remember. It lumbered on in America even after Fiat retreated, sold as a Bertone (or “Bert One” as one customer called it) through 1989.
Mine was a `79 without reverse (a common ailment of the five speed) and it was the best car we to drive in the snow. Especially after I fixed reverse! I was please when Petrolicious offered praise for this affordable Italian runabout.
The Fiat X1/9 ( which remains the only ever mid-engined rear-wheel drive model from the Italian manufacturer), is gaining a higher distinction among enthusiasts these days, but there have always been proponents of the affordable, accessible sportscar.
Featuring a prototype-inspired model name and a forward thinking and forward-canted wedge design by Bertone’s own Marcello Gandini, the X1/9 brought some of the high-spec Italian performance staples to the masses.