Fiat X1/9 + Alfa Romeo 164 + Plywood = Launcha Splatos

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
fiat x1 9 alfa romeo 164 plywood launcha splatos

We’ve seen a fair number of outstanding engine swaps in 24 Hours of LeMons racing— the Saab B Turbo-powered 300ZX comes to mind— but most such projects tend to have reliability and/or performance issues in the car-slaughtering arena that is LeMons. At the frozen Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis race a couple weeks back, the much-anticipated radial-engined MR2 ate its drivetrain after a single lap, but there was one outlandishly butchered machine that actually contended for the overall win: the Alfa Romeo quad-cam V6-powered Bertone X1/9 of Team Launcha Splatos.

The team is packed with a bunch of well-known pro Alfa builders and top wheelmen, so the LeMons Supreme Court sweats them mercilessly when they bring their suspiciously quick ’69 Berlina and race-winning GTV6 to a race. “What can we build that will make you happy?” they asked after last fall’s Chicago race. “A replica of a Group B Lancia Stratos, complete with ridiculous engine swap and Alitalia graphics!” we responded. And damn if they didn’t go ahead and do just that, finding an Alfa Romeo 164 as an engine/transmission/front-subframe donor and a Bertone X1/9 for the rest. You see, there’s nothing wrong with an X1/9 that upgrading the horsepower from 75 to 190 can’t fix.

There’s a fairly complete description of the build at Kilometer Magazine, which makes it clear that the Launcha Splatos guys know how to do some serious metal cut-n-pasting. A big gallery of build photos may be found here.

The “headlights” are actually coffee cans with photos of headlight faces glued on the fronts.

The louvers are plywood, and the paint job is all Krylon rattle-can.

Prior to the Splatos, the only cars to have been this heavily modified and still spend a respectable amount of time in the top ten at a LeMons race have been the Honda CBR1000-powered Geo Metro Gnome and the more-or-less-scratchbuilt Model T GT. How good did the Splatos look on the track?


Let’s watch a nail-bitingly close duel between the Rod Blagojevich 500-winning Skid Marks Neon and the Splatos at Gingerman Raceway, from the perspective of the Neon. The Splatos still needs some bugs worked out of the suspension, but it has great power out of the turns. The Neon corners better. Each car has a top-notch driver at the wheel. Nothing passes these two cars during their battle.

Unfortunately, the Splatos still needed some suspension refinement, which meant that it spun out and/or left the track with depressing regularity. After all that time in the Penalty Box, the Launcha finished the race in 29th place, after spending much of the first day’s session in the top three (the Skid Marks Neon, with zero black flags, came in second overall). Next race, we expect to see the Splatos behave itself… and contend all weekend.

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  • GeneralMalaise GeneralMalaise on Apr 28, 2011

    Excellent drivers, indeed! I have approximately 100HP and a little less weight than a stock '81 X and my car is tons o'fun... can't even fathom what a blast it would be to drive with 90 more.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on May 03, 2011

    Very cool car, and a great video to watch it in action.

  • SCE to AUX I like the concept, but $6k just gets you started. I'd have to outsource the bodywork, which is a real problem on a project like this.Still, the result would be a fun vehicle that reflects what many people want today - a small unbloated utility truck.
  • TheDoctorIsOut Try and keep it as light and focused as it always has been and as analog as possible. For those who can appreciate it (and fit into it) there’s still something special about a car that can be driven at 90% of its potential for most of the daily drive.
  • SCE to AUX Let it die with dignity - no electrification. That would kill the spirit of the original.Mazda needs to think about survival and market share, not tinker with a niche car with waning sales, or dying on Wankel Hill.Maybe their body and paint engineers could help Tesla once Mazda folds.
  • Lou_BC H-E-L-L-C-A-T
  • EBFlex "EBFlex speaks more truth."It's sometimes a burden being right all the time.
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