Friday, December 2, 2016

Fiat by Bertone by way of Oregon

LITTLE ITALIAN WEDGE IN THE EAST VILLAGE
I was leaving a huge industry wine tasting filled with drunk wanna-be alpha males when I found this little wedge waiting for me:
Bellissimo! This is a Fiat X1/9 by Bertone in Gold/Oro Metallic. These cars are so tiny and entertaining but you just don't see them any more.
*There is no reason for the following fun fact but in Westchester County only (and maybe a bit of southern Putnam County) NY a submarine sandwich is called a wedge. You're welcome. Rhode Island calls milkshakes cabinets too so who knows?
This one is in remarkable shape considering that the crumpled license plate indicates that it is indeed parked on city streets often. It would take nothing for a careless driver to destroy this ride while backing into a spot in front of it.
Look at this thing! The X1/9 was designed by Bertone and then manufactured by Fiat from '72 to '82. From 1982 through 1989 they continued to be built and imported to the States by Bertone. In 17 years the car barely changed its looks.
Much like the Porsche 914 this is a mid engine targa sports car meaning that the 4 cylinder engine is located between the rear wheel and the passenger seats. This setup makes for near-perfect front to rear weight balancing and as a result the handling is legendary.
These side intakes are basically the grills for the engine within.
This thing is absolutely tiny! When you walk up to an X1/9 the roof comes up to your waist. You need to take a deep breath and climb way down into it to drive. Think "steering wheel between your knees" small.
With such a delicate little car those federally mandated safety bumpers really look out of place.
Nothing says "1981" like the font in five speed.
That's the gas cap all the way up against the rear window. Refueling without spilling any on the engine cover or the paint is a neat trick.

That black roof panel comes off and stores perfectly under the front trunk (leaving space underneath for storage). This targa body style isn't terribly common and is mostly seen on imports. The 1984 Corvette actually offered a targa top but for the most part we had T-Tops in the States.
Here we can see the funky Bertone logo on that sale panel emblem. Those wheels are factory originals from '81.
This car is supremely parkable due to its scale. The gas mileage was better than most cars on the market when it was new.
Well that's where we'll leave this little wedge. I've only known one person to own one of these and they destroyed it before even driving it once by doing a valve job 100% wrong and messing everything up inside by turning the key. Occasionally they would be seen in driveways or in the parking lot of a doctors office or something but they are just about extinct in the Northeast.
Curiously enough when I started googling details about X1/9s I encountered this exact car that someone had taken pictures of parked in its native Oregon. Those pics are from 5 years ago and there is one difference; the word Fiat can be seen in the front fender portion of the black side stripe. Why they elected to get rid of that we'll never know.




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