Crapwagon Outtake: 1981 Fiat X1/9

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
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crapwagon outtake 1981 fiat x1 9

I like the unusual when it comes to cars — as must be quite clear from the pieces I’ve written over the last few months. However, my current fleet is quite mainstream, consisting of a Chrysler minivan, the wife’s Chevy Trailblazer, and a first-generation Miata. Perhaps that explains my wandering eye.

Over the last couple years, I’ve developed an appreciation for Fiats that is nearly inexplicable, and potentially unhealthy. I’ve even caught myself ogling Yugos in junkyards. I’ve said it before; I’m a sucker for a great exhaust note, and somehow even this single-cam four cylinder sounds amazing.

Rust, of course, is always an issue with anything built in the Seventies. This 1981 Fiat X1/9 isn’t immune, and it appears to have some of the typical surface rot in the sills. The seller claims that the paint is mostly original, so it shouldn’t be hiding anything.

He also says it’s unmolested. I hate that term.

I haven’t had the pleasure of driving one of these yet. I’m told that they aren’t as quick or as light as one would imagine as 2000 pounds is a healthy chunk of steel for 75 horses to push. I’d have to imagine that it would be quite similar to the MR2 I drove a few weeks back, though down on power. The charm of the Italian might win me over, however.

At $4,250, this car looks to be a bargain. Some relatively straightforward metalwork, a good respray, and a thorough mechanical going-over are due, but this could be quite a nice classic for under $10,000.

I wonder if I’d fit inside.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in ebay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Oct 02, 2015

    My 74 128SL had the same drivetrain as this car. It was a very handsome sport coupe, really fun to drive, but unreliable and rusty. I always admired the X1/9 package, but figured it would be a nightmare to work on. And at 6'6", I'd never fit in it.

  • MRx19 MRx19 on Oct 02, 2015

    You will fit if you are under 6'3". Owned one for 25 years and wish I still had it. Basically a street legal go cart. If driving this on a twisty road doesn't bring a smile on your face nothing will. Buy it if the body is good. Very few left, as these were built from cheap eastern Europe steel and lasted about 3 years if driven in mid-western salty winters.

    • See 1 previous
    • Scallootch Scallootch on Oct 02, 2015

      @GeneralMalaise Heck, Mazda3s from the current decade have fared worse for rust!

  • -Nate -Nate on Oct 02, 2015

    Everyone I know who has/had one of these loved it . This one looks possible , I'd want it up in the air first . Isn't the price a bit high ? . -Nate

  • GeneralMalaise GeneralMalaise on Oct 02, 2015

    I've seen nicer cars for less, but they have seen some appreciation lately.

    • DenverMike DenverMike on Oct 03, 2015

      They have to appreciate more as buyers appreciate them more. When they appreciate the sad truth they're not building anything like these anymore. Especially mid-engine Go-karts. I really like these but then MR2. And newer (plus mid '80s) sporty cars are complicated with various control modules that are already scarce. You almost have to stick with the Mustangs and such, for the newer but aging sporty cars.