By on August 1, 2013

16 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe had an orange ’78 X1/9 Junkyard Find yesterday, so let’s stay in the Microsoft Windows Hot Dog Stand color range and follow up that Fiat with another ’78. This car is also a Denver find, though not at the same junkyard as the orange car.

Yes, Fiat USA advertised the X1/9 on television. Then they split the country a bit later, leaving these cars to be marketed as Bertones by Malcolm “Yugo King” Bricklin.
06 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinCan’t open the trunk? Mr. Smooth took matters into his own hands here.
05 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has the look of a car that hasn’t run since Reagan was in the White House, but the engine appears unmolested.
04 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinCritters have made a comfy-looking nest inside.
07 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI think an X1/9 would make a good first project car for a teenager these days— it’s a cool old sports car that’s fun to drive, parts are easy to find, and an Alfa 164 engine swap makes them very quick.

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44 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Fiat X1/9...”

  • avatar

    Neat advert ! was that Monterery Raceaway ? .

    This is just the sort of $500 car I was thinking of ~

    The only noticeable rust is in the rear wheel arch ~ I guess they all rust there to begin ? .

    Some folks forget that true ‘ Sports Cars ‘ are not necessarily fast by design ~ they’re _Sporting_ to drive , that’s why they’re so much fun .


  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Good lord…there’s so much rodent doo doo inside that car, I wouldn’t stand five feet close to it. Yecchhh…

  • avatar

    A friend had one in high school. My only real memory was that the speedometer and tach needles swung in opposite directions to the center, speedo went clockwise, tach counter. This one looks like the both go clockwise. I remember it looked goofy.

    • 0 avatar

      Ahh..ha! Earlier post on the orange X1/9 has the opposite set-up.

      • 0 avatar

        Almost as if Malcolm Bricklin was raising his hands like Moses as you accelerated?

        Mouse BOOP!

        This is the furthest thing from an ideal project car for a teen. First, he would have to procure one, and no parent would subject their kid to a “death trap” like this these days. No articles on, or the car magaz-I mean, pamphlets that one could play follow-the-leader on. Then, he would look up the horsepower figure on Wikipedia, and think it was a typo at first before grouping this car among such characters as the Model T and Murray lawn tractor. Restoring and maintaining it would make sense to older folks who know what they’re dealing with. To a pimply-faced kid who isn’t resourceful, he will look at the brittle weatherstripping and say “Thing’s totalled”.

  • avatar

    Sometimes I wish my last name was Bertone, and I’d use that logo and script on stationery.

  • avatar

    You guys are all _lightweights_ ~ if you’re afraid of a little bit of mouse poop , you’ll never have the fun of saving a truly fine rust free junker ~ The Mojave Desert is chock full of 1,000’s of rust free old vehicles usually buried in the sand and full of pounds & pounds of mouse poop , hanta v*rus , black widow spiders and often , angry yellow jackets & wasps ~ .

    I bought a $75.00 ’63 # 113 DeLuxe VW Beetle once , it was full of mouse & dog poop up to the open window sills ~ I bought it for the pristine bumpers and perfect original paint fenders but after looking at it for a year , decided not to break it for parts .

    All told it took nearly five years to get the stink out of it ,I recently saw it @ The El Monte Airport where the new owner loves it nearly as much a I did the decade I ran the wheels off it in daily yeoman service .

    Any teenager who’s too self involved to touch a grimy old car , deserves to ride the bus ! .

    My first vehicle was a not very old 1959 Ford F-100 pickup that Ayers AFB junked because it was too rusty having gaping holes in the floor .

    I wanted to ride @ 4 Y.O. and so cleaned and tinkered it back to life , learning many valuable life lessons as I went along .


    • 0 avatar

      I once bought a ’68 Chevy Van that had been sitting in a farmer’s field for 30 years. When I got it home, I found that the entire back portion of the van had been used as a rat toilet. I have one of the huge Lowes shop vacs- it’ll hold something like 10 gallons worth of vacuumings. I emptied it 3 times when cleaning out that van. Luckily, I escaped Hanta-free.

      Ah, Hot Dog Stand. What an assault on the visual sense!

    • 0 avatar

      “Any teenager who’s too self involved to touch a grimy old car , deserves to ride the bus!” Hear! Hear! Actually ‘Anybody who’s….”

      “mouse poop , hanta v*rus , black widow spiders and often , angry yellow jackets & wasps ~ ” ….Diamond Backs, Timber and Pygmy rattlers all love to be around mice and rats… I looked under a truck seat in Texas and came face to face with a big rattler. Good thing I looked before I jumped in to check the brakes and steer that baby home for a friend.

      Hanta is a serious condition. Use a bleach solution of 3 parts water and 1 part bleach, apply liberally, wait till the crap dries, then scrape and vac. Make sure the vac exhaust is filtered and do the job outside. After, clean project again with a mixture of bleach and dish soap, rinse thoroughly.

      Bag rat debris in doubled plastic bags and thoroughly clean the vac with a bleach solution, replace filter and clean exhaust filter.

      Wear a good respirator at all times.

      Lost a friend to the Hanta virus, it is not to be taken lightly.

  • avatar

    Except for the bumpers and the faded repaint, this yellow X car brings back some good memories.

  • avatar

    Every time I’ve seen “X1/9” over the last two days, it seems to bring up the memory of some sort high school algebra II problem that I must have repressed along the way.

  • avatar

    I bought a car used from smoker once. Cleaning that out, now tha

  • avatar

    Oops. I bought a car used from smoker once. Cleaning that out, now that was disgusting.

    What’s with that light in the gauge cluster that says, “slow down,” other than when the light goes on you’re supposed to slow down.

  • avatar

    @28: Around here a good G-body will run you around 4 grand…

    Same goes for third-gen Camaros and Firebirds. A V8 powered example that hasn’t been thrashed to death runs you around 3500 bucks on a good day, and 4500 on a bad day.

  • avatar

    Is that 130 MPH speedometer optimistic, or is it actually in kilometers, they just painted “MPH” on it? Some small cars SEEM to be going faster than they really are, and many sports car drivers like to test the limits of the car, not the limits on the sign, so I think Fiat could get away with it.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in the 80′s I had a co-worker who had one of these in gold with black trim, roof and engine lid. It was clean, fun to drive and reliable but a couple of the syncros started to slip to the point where you would have to hold the gear shift in place as you drove. Apparently this is a common malady with the X/19 as well as the 128 which uses the same mechanicals. Wonder how these would be with a 124 Spyder 1.8 or 2.0 conversion and a beefed up transaxle?

  • avatar

    “Is that 130 MPH speedometer optimistic>”

    Very optimistic.

    On a good day with a good example, in good tune, maybe 95 MPH at sea level on a flat road with no wind, and it doesn’t matter what year. The 74′, and 81′ – 83′ injected models, could be marginally faster then the rest. The 74′ was the lightest. The 81′ – 83’s had the F.I., but not the extra weight of the Bertone models with their AC, PW’s and heavier seats.

    The ideal X builds would be an 74′ with a Fiat or Lancia 1,800 – 2,000 cc ‘Twin Cam’ engine or head with either carbueration or F.I., a set of Chromodora wheels. Then you could use that 130 MPH speedo.

    The 81′ – 83′ with a body kit and no bumpers, and a Fiat/Lancia 1.6 1,8 – 2.0cc ‘Twin Cam’ engine. Or the Fiat 131 Abarth engine, if you could ever find one.

    If your tall, you have to go with an 84′ and newer for the bigger footwells.

    The Fiat 124 1.6 DOHC engines bolt in, and are reasonably available, and there are engine and chassis performance parts still available.

    The X1/9 would be a fun car to restore and drive,especially with some performance and suspension upgrades and a body kit.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      +10 on the Twin Cam engines. The 2.0 lt with some dual webers…

      That little thing in there can also be turned into a screamer.

      • 0 avatar

        “Screamer” They sure can, as in my 18,000RPM Honda Benly.

        The problem is where you have to a vehicle DEQ’ed to get your plates/tags. The little modified engines would not pass emissions. Where that is not a problem, parts are available, and a streetable 90-110Hp is easy enough, but it would be cheaper and less fuss to put a twin cam in.

        It is fun to make the small displacement engines go, especially if they can pull some serious RPM and still have any fun torque, left.

  • avatar

    I always thought that one of these would be sweet with a 2.2 ecotec stuff in. A complete wiring harness from painless and violia a car that may stay running but will surly keep falling apart.

    • 0 avatar

      2.0-2.4 Ecotecs are good motors, but there all a lot of issues to be surmounted if one were to ‘attempt’ such a transplant.

      Painless could provide a ‘custom’ harness, but that would be expensive if they were willing to do it and you pursued it after hearing the ‘estimate’ for a custom ‘Painless’ harness.

      The 2.2 Ecotec is a physically larger engine and the engine compartment in the X1/9 is very tight. You would also need to adapt the engine to the transmission or use the Ecotec unit which could bring up other issues.

      The ideal Ecotec conversion would be the Cobalt SS Gen-11, 2.0 with the GM ‘Turbo Upgrade’ kit, giving 290Hp and 340 ft. lbs. of torque. Crazy power in the 2,000 pd. X1/9. We recently applied the ‘Turbo Upgrade’ kit to a Saturn Sky. While I’m not fond of the Sky or Solstice, the car was way too much fun with near 300Hp. I’m keeping my feelers out for one, for a possible Miata transplant.

      There has been a lot said about Fiat reliability, most of this is third hand, anecdotal BS, the cars were very reliable, though, they did have issues with things like window regulators and doors latches, interior controls.

      My tops never leaked, something I could never say for T-tops from any US OEM. The engines and trannys were reliable if not up to tolerating dumbass abuse or ham handed American mechanics. Pay attention and keep your shifts concise and speed shifts, deliberate, and the trannys and syncros held up just fine.

      True, they are not Miata’s/MX-5’s, which have the reliability of an anvil, but they will serve you well, if treated well, and looked after.

  • avatar

    Matt Brannon – who races X1/9s and operates MidWest Bayless – performs K20 conversions on these… Lord have mercy!

  • avatar

    240Hp in a 2,000pd car is a hp to weight ratio of 8.33, that is a serious figure, and 4 times the original horsepower. More Hp/W then a new Mustang GT or Camaro SS. Way more Hp/W then a Honda Acura NSX. A better Hp/W ratio then a whole lot of older Ferrari’s, Maserati’s, and Corvettes.

    I would still like to see a higher hp Fiat transplant, but I should talk what with all the mixed transplants I have done in 50 years.

    The positives of using a compatible Fiat engine upgrade.

    Still all Fiat.

    Easier to do, so there is a better chance of finishing the project and staying married, not to mention the quick accomplishment boost to your ego and sense of self worth. And, your on the road enjoying the new car and not taking abuse from wife, friends, siblings, along the lines of ‘What have you done lately on the POS taking up space in the garage while my new CUV sits out in the rain’, or variations on the same theme.

    Cheaper to do. More money left over for other upgrades.

    Don’t have to put up with BS from purists.

    Negatives and positives of a different make transplant.

    Positives… None. A Fiat DOHC can be built to the same Hp levels as a Honda K-20 or Ecotec

    Negatives… Your entering and unknown world with a lot of difficulties, especially in a transverse, mid-engine, IRS set-up, so it will take a lot of fussing/time and skills to effect, and your still facing a dubious outcome… if your ever finish it.

    Now if ‘Bayless’ came out with a kit, you would be money and time ahead to buy it.

    Of note on the Ecotec ‘SS’ engine. The build quality of that engine is pure race car. Most of the Muscle car engines of the day were not built to the high order of specification the Ecotec ‘SS’ is.

    Now go out and find a project, then find a garage to rent and not tell anybody what your up to. Get a Gym membership or sign up for volunteering for Habitat for Humanity projects to account for all the time your not at home while working on ‘The Project’. Start a second checking account for the project, using the address of the garage for bank mailings. With all of that, if you don’t finish ‘The Project’, nobody is the wiser, and you don’t have to suffer any abuse or carry that footnote about ‘your character’ to your grave….col!

    • 0 avatar

      “Now go out and find a project, then find a garage to rent and not tell anybody what your up to. Get a Gym membership or sign up for volunteering for Habitat for Humanity projects to account for all the time your not at home while working on ‘The Project’. Start a second checking account for the project, using the address of the garage for bank mailings. With all of that, if you don’t finish ‘The Project’, nobody is the wiser, and you don’t have to suffer any abuse or carry that footnote about ‘your character’ to your grave….col!”

      One word… dedication.

      • 0 avatar

        “Dedication”… Easily said, but not so simple. And, dedication has its hazards.

        Dreams/Fantasy meet Reality, and the initial excitement for a project eventually dies as the ‘dedication’ evaporates. Few can hold the view of the finished project in their heads when life intervenes and project time and costs, and frustration, build.

        Every week on ‘CL’, I see at least ten or more local auto projects that have died. Some sellers just want it gone, and nearly give it away to get it out of sight and out of their life.

        As a part time airplane/boat building/instructor, I see a lot of unfinished airplane and boat building projects, and most of the abandoned boat/canoe/kayak/sharpie projects, are quite simple in terms of time, money, and skills, when compared to an airplane or car project, yet they are abandoned.

        Rare is that guy that has the means, situation, and dedication to finish a project, and he lives alone or has positive support from his significant other. With out that support, the project is doomed. Others have the means to have the project built by professionals.

        A lot of people come to me about projects, I give it to them straight, some listen, some hear what they want to hear and nothing more.

        What they hear… Question_ ‘Can it be done” Answer_ “Sure it can be done”

        Do you have enough available funds?

        Do you have tools appropriate to the project?

        Do you have the necessary skills?

        What they don’t hear.

        Do you have the time? In other words… can you dedicate 3 hours or more a night during the work week and 16-20 hours on weekends for months or several years. If you can’t consistently find 25-30+ hours a week, don’t attempt the project.
        And, everything takes more time to do if you can’t work at it full time at regular hours. And, full time, means, starting at 8:00 AM and putting 8 or more hours in daily. Not starting in the late morning or afternoon, a few days a week. Something my oldest son never actualized and so far at 47, has never finished a personal project, but can take you on a tour of his abandoned projects. In fairness, he has started and finished projects for others.

        I recently bought a 48’ Merc convertible coupe, an abandoned project by a skilled builder, who did what he did of the highest order and had a huge financial and personal time investment in the project.

        Chopped convertible top, sectioned body, nosed and shaved, de-chromed, channeled, floored, boxed frame, tubbed, Heidts Mustang suspension, 8.8 Mustang rear end with 5-link coil-over suspension, 347″/415Hp Ford crate motor, 5-speed, wheels & tires, all body work done and primed, all retained chrome re-plated, and much more.

        His life situation changed, and with it his ‘dedication’ to the project. He had, by my estimate, 2,500 plus hours in the project and a $25,000+ bill. The project still has at least 500-800 hours left in the build, and another $12-15,000 in parts, paint material, upholstery, and top.

        Even the most skilled and dedicated, some times have to give it up. And so it goes…..

        Note; My ‘retired’ full time work is, building spec custom auto projects or a customer’s car, from restoration to suspension and crate engine/transmission upgrades. And, lately, some what specializing in putting LS engines into just about anything, especially second and third gen ‘F’ bodies.

        My professional background was, architecture, engineering, and spec construction.

        For relaxation, I spend time at the track, race sailboats, and spill Rita’s.

    • 0 avatar

      The power to weight ratio on these is right up there with the best of them. I hear what you’re saying about keeping it Italian, but I’ve seen the results and Brannon has performed this conversion on a number of cars, with nothing but extremely enthusiastic owners as a result. This conversion isn’t cheap, but the results are mind-boggling…

      • 0 avatar

        “results are mind-boggling…”

        Yes, they are, but, the ‘owners’ didn’t build them.

        And, once again, the Fiat F.I. DOHC’s can find similar horsepower, for a lot less headache.

        I would rather build a turbo system, then adapt a whole new drive train into a diminutive, RWD, Mid-engine, IRS, vehicle.

        Putting an M5 V-8 into my 328is, or an LS376 into a gen-11 Rx-7 or a Miata, is a walk in the park, compared to the Honda or Ecotec, X1/9 project. And this is from someone that is not easily deterred by complications of a mechanical nature.

        That said, with this posting/discussion, I wish I had the time to revisit X1/9 ownership/enjoyment with a project build.

        Too little time, too many cars, too many projects lined up. My enjoyable taste of the X1/9 experience will have to remain a lasting, pleasant memory. But, I sure do encourage others too develop a relationship to this essentially exquisite little handler, one of few, best of the late 60’s technology, that still comports itself well in todays expectations of what comprises good handling and road manners.

        Forty years down the road, this little Italian go cart, stands with the best, including the likes of the Dino’s and Lotus’s of that era.

  • avatar

    Before contemplating some of the modifications discussed above, please refer to this cautionary, if fictitious, incident:

  • avatar

    You know what Murilee needs to find now?

    A Fiero.

    I still see a decent number NOT in junkyards, but surely there are plenty that have ended up there.

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