1978 Fiat X1/9: owner review

  • Doors and Seats


    2 doors, 2 seats

  • Engine


    1300, 4 cyl.

  • Engine Power



  • Fuel



  • Manufacturer



  • Transmission


    4 Spd Manual

  • Warranty



  • Ancap Safety




An insane love affair.

Owner: Robert Toti

  • It has always gotten me home

  • The electrics were designed by an imbecile

What is it that makes human beings fall in love with other people, or perhaps another country, a particular holiday resort or a car?

I don’t think even the world’s greatest psychologist could honestly answer that, especially in the case regarding my blue 1978 Fiat X1/9, which I bought back in 2009 sight unseen on eBay for the princely sum of $500. Yes, you read that right!

The seller, who is now a friend of mine and a fellow Fiat club member, had placed the car for auction on eBay without a reserve price, and as I was the only bidder at the starting price of $500, I got the car.

One of my favourite movies is The Money Pit, and this little X1/9 is the automotive equivalent of the home that self-destructs in that movie. But just like that home which still had good foundations and was able to be rebuilt, so too my X1/9 was surprisingly rust-free and therefore repairable.

The car had been vandalised by someone with a hammer, and many of the panels were dented and the glass all smashed. It was then placed under a carport where it sat for 22 years out of the rain and with airflow, hence no rust. When I picked it up, it was difficult to tell the condition as it was covered in so much dirt and the interior was full of forest litter.

When I started working on it at home, the first shock were the redback spiders, dozens of them! A few cans of insecticide and that was solved. Once I had taken the car apart and sanded all the paint off to the bare metal came the realisation – no rust. That’s when I decided to restore it instead of breaking it up and selling the parts.

After much panel beating I learned from YouTube, it was back on the road looking beautiful in 2014, but mechanically it was far from perfect. The engine was actually running quite well, until my wife and I went for an overnight trip to Mt Hotham. This is one of the best driving roads in Australia, and the little car performed brilliantly on the way up. Its leech-like grip on the corners made it a memorable drive.

But on the way home I started seeing a little bit of blue smoke here, a little bit of white smoke there. By the time I was 20km from home it was a full-on bushfire, and I couldn’t even see the traffic behind me. I had a choice to make: sacrifice the car or risk severe physical injury from my wife if I forced her to endure a trip home in a tow truck. So we pushed on!

The little X1/9 kept going, but 5km from home we had to stop at a traffic light, and the cars behind us were not visible in the cloud. When we took off they stayed put, obviously unable to see ahead. But we made it home (just!), the little X1/9 battling on like a wounded donkey in the First World War carrying its soldiers home.

This is when the mechanical restoration began. I pulled out the engine and gearbox, and upon inspection I found a sizeable chunk of piston in the sump. How on earth did it keep going? I had the engine totally rebuilt, and it is now in better than new condition.

Over the following years virtually every single component, nut and bolt has been restored or replaced. I shouldn’t jinx myself by saying this, but now it’s actually reliable and starts first shot every time. A joy to drive and an absolute demon in the corners, nothing puts a smile on your face like an X1/9.

Owner: Robert Toti

Owner’s Rating

1978 Fiat X1/9 Coupe

4.2/ 10

Technology & Connectivity