Right off the bat, the 1983 Fiat X1/9 is a mid-engined, wedge-shaped, Bertone-designed sports car. It has a life-off targa top, a 5-speed manual transmission and fuel injection. Even displacing just 1500cc, this car is so small and tossable that it will feel fast regardless of what the specification sheet says – so long as your ego can’t be bruised by being stomped at a traffic light by a 10 year-old Kia Spectra.
Find this nice example here on Craigslist in Denver, Colorado for just $2550.
The Fiat X1/9 was released by Fiat in 1974 as a replacement for the aging but popular Fiat 850 Sport Spider – also designed by Bertone. Both served as the smaller younger brother to the Pininfarina-designed 124 (later the 2000) Spider. Where the 850 was rear-engined with displacement that maxxed-out at 903cc and styling from a bygone era, the X1/9 was 1970s chic and modern, looking like a 2/3 scale version of a contemporary Ferrari or Lamborghini, but for a fraction of that price (and with a fraction of the power).
X1/9s are good, scrappy handlers right out of the box – excellent balance and tight roadholding – but they came with small tires and could have used a bump in power. Luckily, upgrades were – and still are – available. Companies like Vick Autosports offer numerous upgrades for the X1/9 for street or track. Also available are full upholstery sets, which this car is going to need judging by the cheesy seat covers. The dash on this car looks to be in good condition, as far as I can tell from the small, somewhat grainy photo. A short-shift kit would be a nice add, given the yard-long shifter sprouting from between the seats.
Not unlike the dynamically similar Porsche 914, the X1/9 is remarkably roomy inside and can accommodate 6+ footers. Ingress and egress, however, can be a challenge if you have aging, achy joints like I do. The top is very easy to remove and replace, and is not nearly as temperamental as the targa tops on cars like the Porsche 911 – which can be finicky to fit and have a tendency to leak. The plasticky, angular dashboard is not to everyone’s taste, although I like it in a cool, retro sort of way, but a full set of gauges helps the driver focus on what is important.
Mechanically, X1/9s are fairly robust. Fiats often get a bad rap in the reliability department, and while they may require more care than, say, a Camry, for even the most remotely mechanically inclined care and feeding of an X1/9 is not rocket science. Most parts are readily available and very reasonably priced in comparison with many other European cars. If you have Ferrari tastes and a Wal Mart budget, the X1/9 may just fit your bill.