The Fiat X1/9 was never a great car; at best, at its introduction in the mid-1970s, it was a novel styling exercise and a miracle in packaging that yielded a tiny mid-engined sports car with the agile handling to match its excellent weight distribution.
By the standards of 1974, the X1/9 was not a fast car, running only about as quickly as the bog-slow standard family sedan of the time. When the car was discontinued in 1988, wearing a Bertone badge in honor of its designer following Fiat's pull-out from the American market, it was one of the slowest cars on the market, neck and neck with low-grade economy sedans and base-model minivans.
The 1974 edition ran 0-60 in a halfway respectable 11.0 seconds (respectable by the standards of the time, anyway), but by 1976 tightening emissions standards had caused the Fiat to fade to 14.0 seconds--an eternity in virtually any era.
What the X1/9 always had going for it, though, was style. Mid-engined cars are a novelty even today; in the 1970s, they were the stuff of exotica. With its extravagantly wedgy profile, intimate seating arrangements, and trim, tidy proportions, the X1/9 perfectly captured the time and looks sharp and contemporary even today.
Nowadays, you can find ratty old X1/9s behind gas stations, parked in alleys, and in fields--their marvelous designer lines left to slowly (or rapidly, as the case may be) rust away into nothingness.
I'm sorely tempted to nab one and fix it up to have my own boutique mid-engined, two-seat sports car, but Fiat's legendary unreliability, expensive parts, and typically casual 1970s approach to rust-proofing would probably make even a free X1/9 a very expensive proposition.
The international appeal of the X1/9 is displayed by the fact that these photos are courtesy of www.peterboehi.com
, a German-language site that discusses his love of quirky cars and Fiats in particular. This is just more proof that Car Lust transcends national and linguistic barriers.
Edit: This post was discovered by the fine folks over at X1/9 Automobili North America (XANA), and some of the posters there took issue with my characterization of their beloved car. Their counterpoints can be found here.