Rust and restoration, rust and retribution - my tale of FIAT X1/9 ownership

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In 1995 I bought a Bertone Fiat X1/9 for restoration. In hindsight I must have been daft.  Like most X1/9's it had a large dose of "tin worm" and having welded up numerous other 1970's and 80's Fiats I should have known better. However, I had always fancied one of these cars and having just helped someone restore a MG Midget I got caught by the car restoration bug.

The steel used in the manufacture of a 1970's/1980's Fiat must have been a special formula!  You would very often remove a trim or a number plate to find that the eighth inch hole for a self tapping screw had in say 6 or 7 years become a monstrous inch and a half rust hole! In its defence my X1/9 was mechanically sound and not rotten underneath (well at that point anyway).

Someone once told me that with a Fiat if you welded up one side by the time you had done the other the first side would have rusted out again! That's not the case any more as the Fiats produced since 1989 are galvanised and actually last quite well. Oh and I should confess that we still have a Fiat as a family car.

Fiat X1/9 start of restoration X1/9 at beginning of restoration.  Check out the rust hole in the sill.
Over the next eighteen months I welded on new sills, new rear wheel arches, repaired the bottoms of the doors, front wings, engine cover and bought a new bootlid. Progress was fairly slow as I had to make a lot of repair pieces out of steel myself as very few were available. I also had to remove the windscreen and weld up the windscreen surround. I fitted a new windscreen myself using some evil black gunge which took a week to come off my fingers. Then came the filling, the preparation, the spraying the refitting of all the trims and the MoT.
Corrosion within the cars sills Amazing.  Inside the sills the metal was perfect where the cavity wax had actually reached but at the seam was rotten. Typical 1980's Italian stuff.  The repair was awkward to do as there was an inner sill, middle strengthening web and an outer sill too.
Anyway after the restoration the car turned out quite nice and as soon as it was finished we went on holiday to the Brecon Beacons in it and had lots of fun zooming about the mountain roads with the roof off. Fiat X1/9 back on the road.

I used the car for about 5 years but the rate these things deteriorate is quite alarming.  It eventually ended up parked in my yard looking rather sorry for itself.  I did advertise it for sale and a guy came to look at it.  I knew he wouldn't be able to do anything with it as he had long hair.  I don't have anything against men with long hair per se but lets face it if he was good enough at welding to own an X1/9 his hair would have been burned off years ago!

Being parked in the yard exposed to the Cornish weather was the end for the car.  The fuse box filled up with water and when you started the engine it wouldn't turn off.  The headlights also started doing this sinister winking thing.  The car became possessed by Italian electrical demons and I decided it had to be punished for defying my valiant attempt to preserve it.  So in 2001, I cut it up - retribution for all those hours of welding and burnt elbows.  My one time pride and joy consigned to history along with other relics of the 1980's such as mullet hairstyles, ZX Spectrums and Dire Straits cassettes!

Fiat X1/9 scrapped Fiat X1/9 rear supsension visible
Fiat X1/9 reduced to parts Fiat x1/9 sofa conversion!Neat Sofa?

I sold the engine and gearbox and various other bits to a guy from Saltash who was restoring an X1/9.  After a while I gave him all the other spares I had left.  Just so happened he works at the local car auctions and returned the favour by pointing me in the direction of a good buy a few months later. These chaps get to drive the cars to the auctions from the dealers which is a lot better than just seeing them start and drive through the ring.

The alloy wheels and solid alloy bumpers were weighed in for scrap and the tyres (which were good) I gave to a mate who used them to get a car through the MoT.

I am totally cured of car restoration now.  Plant is much more fun and actually lasts for a while once you've repaired it.

 

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