Fiat X1/9 Update

I’ll get to the Fiat in a moment…..

I drove a few interesting cars on the weekend. Both experiences were unplanned. One car I drove with a view to buy and the other was purely for fun.

Peugeot 205 GTI

The first car was a Peugeot 205GTI. I stumbled across this one when I ran into a co-worker at Salamanca Market on Saturday morning. The Pug belongs to his son and Mal let me know that it was now up for sale.

Pug205gtiGiven that the 205GTI is a bit of a cult car, I had to check it out. Click the image to the right to enlarge.

Mal’s son is a young fella and being a young fella, he’d made a few young fella modifications. There’s a Whiteline strut brace across the top of the engine bay and a big fart-can exhaust. The strut brace made the top edge of the hood sit up a few centimetres. The fart-can was just way too loud.

The 205’s party piece is its handling and yes, this car shone in that department. I only took it for a short drive but it was plenty enough to see why the little Pug hot hatch is so loved.

I’ve got my eye out all the time for an inexpensive fun car and this one definitely fit the bill. I didn’t buy it, though, as there is just a little too much still to be done. I’ve got enough work to do with the Lancia and the X1/9 right now. I don’t need another fixer-upper, even if it’s already running and registered.

If you’re interested, the car is on Gumtree and Hew’s a wonderful young bloke. The interior’s a bit tatty but the mechanicals are all sorted after an engine rebuild done around 4 years ago. The clutch might need a pedal adjustment (at least) but the car goes like a cut cat and feels like it would be big bags of fun.

Alfa Romeo 145

My second drive for the weekend was an Alfa Romeo 145.

DSC_0173I featured this car a few months ago after it made its debut at Classics By The Beach. The owner is a mate of mine named Norman and he called in to our place on Sunday.

Of course, as soon as I saw he’d parked the Alfa out front I suggested he might like to take me for a ride 🙂 . He went a step further and handed me the key! Woohaa!

The 145 was never officially sold in Australia so Sunday was a very rare opportunity. The 145 came with a variety of petrol engines over its lifetime and interestingly, they were in two very different configurations. The early cars had Alfa’s wonderful boxer engine, the one I’m quite familiar with from my Alfa 33’s. Later cars had Alfa’s Twin Spark inline 4 cylinder engine.

Norman’s 145 has the 1.6 litre 8-valve boxer. It’s got a little less grunt than my old 16V Alfas but the Fiat chassis that underpins the 145 is a lot more solid than the 33. The end result is the most refined Alfa Boxer experience you’ll ever feel.

When you say “refined”, people often think you mean boring. Far from it. The sound is still fantastic and the little 145 loves a good corner. There’s nothing quite like a small car revving to 6,000 and sticking like a limpet.


Fiat X1/9

I’d normally be doing a Lancia Fulvia update around now but I spent the last two weekends gardening! Regardless, there isn’t a whole lot left for me to do with it parked out in the front yard. I’m at the stage where I really need to get the Lancia into the garage so I can clean it up and start stripping the paint. I can’t get the Lancia into garage, though, until we get Geoff’s Fiat X1/9 out of the garage.

Our young bloke, Geoff, bought the little Fiat from the same deceased estate that I bought the Fulvia from. It’s got 45,000 genuine kilometres on it and is in great cosmetic condition.

Sadly, it’s not running yet.


The first job we did on it was to change the timing belt. I say “we”, by which I mean Geoff did it and I handed him the occasional tool. It was actually an easier job than I thought it might be. The hardest part was getting the yellow cover back on.


Then the fuel was freshened, the oil, filters and plugs were changed and a new battery was connected. After that, it was time to try and start the car. Thankfully, the engine isn’t seized like the engine in my Fulvia. Sadly, though, it wouldn’t start.

Fuel, Air, Spark.

We have air, of course. And we have fuel. Spark is the problem.

We did a few tests and found there was no spark making its way to the plugs at all. A call to our local generic parts store got us a new coil, but it still wouldn’t start.


A local mate with considerable Fiat experience (G’day Ant!) came over to lend a hand. On closer examination, it seems we installed the new coil incorrectly (there were some extra, confusing wires in place). We corrected, but it still wouldn’t start.

Ant re-gapped the points. Geoff cleaned out the distributor cap. Still, it wouldn’t start.

I made some enquiries about getting a new distributor cap and was surprised to find that you can’t get one for a 1.3 Fiat X1/9 anymore. They were particular to that car and they fail so infrequently that the manufacturer hasn’t made them in a long, long time.

The guy I spoke to did give me some recommendations, however, so we have some new HT leads and a new condenser on the way. We’ll try it again when the new bits arrive.

The big jobs that remain on the little Fiat are the clutch and brake master cylinders, which are going to be a complete pain in the posterior (for Geoff) to replace.

While the engine’s in the mid position, the master cylinders are located at the front but you have to go under the dashboard to get to them. That means removing the seat and quite likely the steering column as well (we’re still researching that one).

You’d think removing a seat would be a pretty simple affair but not this one. Normally you just undo the bolts at the front and rear of the seat rails. With the earlier Fiat X1/9’s, though, there aren’t any bolts. You have to undo a spring underneath the seat, then you hold the seat adjustment lever and slide it forward until it slides right off the rail. It would’ve been nice and easy but the seat was stuck fast on the rail until a liberal dose of WD-40 finally got it moving.

So that’s where we’re at right now. We’re waiting on parts to try and get the engine started and the cabin is now ready for Geoff to hang upside down and get under the dash to replace the master cylinders.

Hopefully that’s all the little Fiat needs before we clean it up and get it registered. I can’t wait to see Geoff’s face the first time he takes a bend in this little mid-engined Italian.


Final note……

If Bertone can design the tiny Fiat X1/9 to have a full-size spare – it goes in this hidey-hole behind the front seat – how come modern cars can’t get one so easily?


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  1. probably can’t fit a spare wheel in there now because of the extra crash protection that goes into the doors now.

  2. In the late 60’s I had a good friend in the USAF with and X1/9…..I got drafted into keeping it running for him. It was actually a new car, but the points were always a mess. I got pretty good at adjusting them!!!

    Luckily the basic Kettering ignition is pretty simple. You can test the coil with an ohmmeter. You and also ground the coil points wire using a plug or gap to test the coil.

    replacing HT wires is also a good idea.. I learned a lot about these ignitions in my VW days… say the least.

    In the long run, I would put in a Pertronix hall effect module that will eliminate the points. Also this car will respond well to a CDI ignition like the MSD Street Fire and a Street fire coil. Will make it run much better.

    Not sure of you want my help on parts and information, email me if you like.

    1. I’ve been wondering if there was an electronic conversion for this car. I found one guy who’d put in a Crane Cams unit with some success. Will do some Googling on the MSD Street Fire.

      Would be happy to receive any info you’ve got, Dick. Ultimately it’s Geoff’s decision, but it’d be good to know what’s available.

      1. Here is a chart for the various Fiat applications for the Pertonix. The Pertronix II is slightly better.

        The Crane is good as well and uses a photo cell with a shutter wheel. If you are not using the Crane CDI ignition you need to make a little amp box. I could make one for him easily at no charge….I have all the parts here.

        I recommend the MSD Streetfire because it works well and costs only $150 USD. It is a good unit and many have had good success with it. The best CDI igniton is the Daytona-Sensors CD-1
        Comes with great coil for $595 USD………I am a distributor sou could get Geoff a great price on this unit. Check it out. Very advanced, rugged and powerful.