I recall the day in 1989 when, as a young Fiat salesman, I was commanded to push the new Croma and Tipo to the corners of the showroom in order to make space for the unregistered X1/9 Gran Finale that had arrived. It was exquisite but attracted no interest and one day disappeared, no questions asked.
Today, Fiat’s two-seat, mid-engined, rear-drive sports car, on sale from 1972 to 1989, is considered a classic. It’s rare, though – rust-free ones rarer still.
But happily, you don’t have to pay fortunes to own a good one. One such as the 1989 G-reg example with 52,000 miles that we found priced at £4990. It’s a Gran Finale (in essence, an SE with a dealer-fitted rear spoiler and badge), finished in metallic red and powered by the later 1.5-litre engine introduced in 1978.
The private seller says it has a new battery, clutch, set of tyres, gear linkage, water pump and timing belt. He claims it has no rust but admits it has been welded in the past, undersealed and repainted. Encouragingly, it has a new MOT with no advisories.
On the strength of that thumbs up, we’ll not worry too much about the structural and safety aspects of the car (they’re still worth checking, though) and instead concentrate on known rust spots including wings, doors and wheel arches. The engine bay is cramped and many repairs can only be done with the engine out, so we’ll check for oil leaks and odd noises, too. Finally, we’ll be sure that what few electrical features there are all work. Concerning X1/9s, ‘Fix it again Tuesday’ could easily run into Thursday, too.
Land Rover Lightweight Safari, £8000: This was a military vehicle based on the 88in Land Rover chassis and designed to be carried by air into hot spots (it’s why its flat body panels can be removed). This example, which has free-wheeling hubs and an overdrive, uses a Ford Transit diesel engine.