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From the X1/9 Lioness

July 3 2008 at 7:30 PM

Response to Into the lions' den ...

I’m afraid that I’m going to be the lioness that ends up biting you on what you wrote about the X1/9.

Indeed, my interpretation of what you wrote about the X is quite offensive, myth perpetuating, less than informed and quite mis-guided. My problem with Journalist in general, most are after a good read they tend to write in ways to attract an audience or use their topic of choice as reader entertainment. Problem here is, most journalists lack the education and true expertise to make a honest and deep analysis of what they are writing about. Much of what is written is based on hearsay, stereotypes that is kept alive within the world of journalist and they continue perpetuating these stereotypes, which are not always based on reality. My personal experience with reviewers or journalist has not been positive at all. I have watched in horror as manufacture repsesentives are making deals with magazine reviewers over an expensive dinner discussing what the reviewers are to present in their review. In turn, the reviewer and magazines gains advertising dollars and the reviewer gets a bit wealthier by building their reader base and in monetary compensation. Real expertise on the topic matter is irrelevant as all that is required to make a good read is catching the mind and eye of the reader long enough to entertain them and leave some lasting impression in their memory.

If one looks at the X1/9 superficially, one might be entertained by it’s chassis dynamics, road feel & feedback, grip and cornering ability, but wow, is this thing ever so S-L-O-W in accelerating!!!! Oh, and the revvy high strung engine sounds like it’s going to grenade any moment, so I better not rev it or push it too hard or it will leave me stranded on a deserted back road with me ending up as road kill. Well, it’s a fun little car that cannot be reliable due to what we already know, FIAT are held together by Italian pasta sauce and they are rusting during the production process. Better stay away, while this car might be a curiosity, it’s going to be more of a headache and pain than it’s ever going to be worth. Then there is the market value, “Oh my an X1/9! I’ll give your $0.02 for as it will cost me far more when this rusty heap must be hauled off to the scrap yard in the next day or so.”

Fact is, X1/9 are a bit different than most FIATs, Bertone built them since day one and was never really a FIAT product. FIAT financed the project, some engineering support by some of the most notable Italian car designers of the day, provided drive trains and specific components, but really it’s Bertone’s design and product since day one. A marriage of sorts between FIAT and Bertone.

If not for some serious prodding by Mr. Bertone back in the day and if not for Mr. Angelli’s interest in this design, it would have never went into production. FIAT’s management at the time did not like this design or supported it, what they wanted was a two seater front wheel drive car based on the 128. The last thing they wanted was a “Baby Miura” for the masses. This might be one of the few most significant and classic mid-engine designs forgotten and abandoned by car folks everywhere similar to what FIAT did to this design.

A few technical bits of information that you might not be aware of:

The X1/9 and Lotus Europe was the first significant mass production mi-engine cars that were affordable to mere mortals. One can include the Porsche 914, but its influence on mass production mid-engine cars did not have the effect of the X1/9 and this was not one of Porsche’s better chassis. Most hard core Porsche fans have basically dis-owned the 914 (placing the battery above the K jetronic pump and magnesium engine block was not a good idea as many 914’s burned to the ground due to corroded fuel lines which started a Magnesium fire in the engine compartment) as “not a real Porsche” The Lotus Elise/Exige, Toyota MR2 seires1-2-3, Pontiac Fiero, MGF, Ferrari 308* series, Ferrari 246, Lancia Stratos, Lambo Miura are a few mid engine cars using the X1/9’s transverse drive train layout idea.

*This was the second mid-engine car designed by Mr. Bertone’s group after the Lambo Miura. Much of what was learned from designing the Miura was applied to the X1/9. This why it was styled by Gandini. Ever noted how space efficient the X is? On can pack an amazing amount of cargo into this little car. Space utilization was one of the reasons why most manufactures refuse to design or build volume production two seaters. Few two seaters to this day can match the carrying capacity of an X. Then, there was the proposed 50mph frontal barrier and 80mph rollover requirements of the day that no car built in Detroit would pass. Yet, the X1/9 was designed to meet these requirements. Only the Volvo 240 series and the X1/9 actually passed these proposed government requirements. These requirements were dropped after political pressure from Detroit.

*As for reliability, I’m on X1/9 number 7 over the past 25+ years and have covered nee 500,000 miles in these cars, None have ever left me stranded or broken serious enough to require a tow. All have been driven to an inch of their lives when possible. The X has been the least expensive; most fun for the dollar and reliable car I have ever owned which is why I still own one. Rust, the X is much the same as similar cars of the day. I assure you any British Leyland, German, French, Italian, Detroit cars of the day rusted to similar degrees. Due to it’s very long production life, Bertone did improve rust and corrosion protection over time. X1/9s built in the early mid 70’s don’t have the same rust and corrosion protection of X1/9’s built in the mid-late 80’s. Take one apart and one can see the difference.

*There have been a good number of world class race drivers who really like the X, Emerson Fittapaldi stated the X chassis drove more like an open wheel car of the day than a typical two seater, Niki Lauda had one, Mr. Angelli owned one as a daily driver, Gilles Villeneuve also owned one and there were others too. Yes these were given to them by FIAT since they owned Ferrari too. Regardless, the liked and enjoyed the cars. If one were to go back and read the articles written by Motor Trend, car and Driver, Sports Car Graphic, Road and Track, all were positive. The X1/9 was a darling in Road and Track it’s entire time in production, which started in 1973 to 1988. Road and Track even raced one in a 24 hour show room stock event. It was their fun car of choice for the money.

*What most miss and never realize about the X1/9 is how far the designed in performance envelop of this chassis can be pushed. Basically this is a great design that was stunted, abandoned and dis-owned by it’s maker (FIAT) from day one. Just what is this chassis capable of, do search of just how far some members of this list have taken their X. Some of these cars are simply amazing even when compared to current production sports car of today. While it is not that difficult to increase the power out put in most cars, their chassis are usually seriously lacking resulting in a poor overall balanced car. Drive an X and the drive keeps wondering how can more power be coaxed from the drive train. Even stock, the X exudes more charm and personality than the vast majority of cars built today. Consider the X to be an un-finished work of art that some have not forgotten. Much like Leonardo’s Bronze stallion, which was completed a few hundred years after his death. It is one of the very few designs produced that one can use as a foundation canvas to express their ideas and engineering /design expertise of what a small mid-engine car could be.

*If you were in town where I’m located, I would be more than happy to spend a day with you driving my X and getting to know the car’s charm and personality better. I could show you how this car is designed and why they did things the way they did. I’m hoping that members of X web hold a get together for you to spend some quality time with the X and their owners.

I guess my reaction is due to your lack of real experience, lack of historical background and technical understanding why the X is they way it is to this day. Me, I don’t like or enjoy journalist taking liberties with writing about topics they don’t have an deep understanding of. Part of being a responsible journalist and writer is being truthful and doing the proper research to gain an good understanding of what they are presenting to their reader. This does not mean creating just a “Good Read” to gain readership. In the long run, it’s bad for journalist / writer and the topic they are writing about.

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