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

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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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.

  • C-b65792653 I'm starting to wonder about Elon....again!!I see a parallel with Henry Ford who was the wealthiest industrialist at one time. Henry went off on a tangent with the peace ship for WWI, Ford TriMotor, invasive social engineering, etc. Once the economy went bad, the focus fell back to cars. Elon became one of the wealthiest industrialist in the 21st century. Then he went off with the space venture, boring holes in the ground venture, "X" (formerly Twitter), etc, etc, etc. Once Tesla hit a plateau and he realized his EVs were a commodity, he too is focused on his primary money making machine. Yet, I feel Elon is over reacting. Down sizing is the nature of the beast in the auto industry; you can't get around that. But hacking the Super Charger division is like cutting off your own leg. IIRC, GM and Ford were scheduled to sign on to the exclusive Tesla charging format. That would have doubled or tripled his charging opportunity. I wonder what those at the Renaissance Center and the Glass House are thinking now. As alluded to, there's blood in the water and other charging companies will fill the void. I believe other nations have standardized EV charging (EU & China). Elon had the chance to have his charging system as the default in North America. Now, he's dropped the ball. He's lost considerable influence on what the standardized format will eventually be. Tremendous opportunity lost. 🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos I never used winter tires, and the last two decades I am driving almost only rear wheel drive cars, half of them in MI. I always bought all season tires for them, but the diff between touring and non touring flavors never came up. Does it make even the smallest bit of difference? (I will not read the lengthy article because I believe it does not).
  • Lou_BC ???
  • Lou_BC Mustang sedan? 4 doors? A quarterhorse?Ford nomenclature will become:F Series - Pickups Raptor - performance division Bronco - 4x4 SUV/CUVExplorer - police fleetsMustang- cars
  • Ede65792611 Got one. It was my Dad's and now has 132K on it. I pay my Mercedes guy zillions of dollars to keep it going. But, I do, and he does and it's an excellent vehicle. I've put in the full Android panel for BT handsfree and streaming with a backup cam.
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