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Tuesday, July 2, 2024

The Legendary X1/9 Prototipo: Bertone and Abarth's Masterpiece

Forgotten BEAST - The Fiat X1/9 Abarth Prototipo is a sportscar that ignites excitement among automotive enthusiasts. Initally with only five units of the racing car model ever produced, it remains a rare sight. Today, only four are known to exist, with one having vanished over time. The car's story began in 1974 when Bertone and Abarth teamed up to create a sports car designed to dominate rally tracks. They selected Mario Colucci, a seasoned engineer with extensive experience at Abarth, to lead this groundbreaking project intended to replace the 124 Abarth Rally.
This meticulous restoration showcases the 1974 Abarth X1/9 Stradale Prototipo Coupe, completed by a dedicated Abarth collector. (Picture from: r/spotted)
Colucci was joined by a talented team of technicians, including Gino Macaluso, Renzo Avidano, and Aurelio Lampredi. The design of the X1/9 was crafted by Marcello Gandini, who worked under Bertone. Interestingly, Gandini also designed the Lancia Stratos, another iconic rally car, both inspired by the 1969 Autobianchi Runabout concept car.

One of the remaining four Abarth X1/9 Prototipo models features a reworked rear chassis, tunnel, and firewall to accommodate a Lancia Monte Carlo engine block, incorporating elements from a Lancia Monte Carlo body. (Picture from: Medium)
In just four months
, the team developed and built the prototype. They used a lightweight body shell designed initially for the Abarth X1/9 Prototipo racing car. This required significant modifications, including reworking the rear chassis, tunnel, and firewall to fit a Lancia Monte Carlo engine block. Parts from a Lancia Monte Carlo body were also integrated into the design.
The first 'prototipo', Chassis 128 AS 0000133, debuted a bonnet with a periscopic intake at ‘Quattro Regioni’, where it contended for the lead but broke the third and fourth gears during the second stage. (Picture from: VeloceToday)
The focus on reducing weight was evident throughout the car. Sections of the steel front boot floor were replaced with alloy sheets, and the rear window was swapped for Perspex. Access to the engine bay was relocated to the firewall behind the passenger seat. To improve handling, the body was reinforced with large tubes above the doors, and a fixed fiberglass roof was installed.
One of the four remaining Abarth X1/9 Prototipo models features a lightweight fiberglass engine lid adorned with a ducktail and the distinctive Bertone periscope. (Picture from: Medium)
Inside, the car featured a minimalist design with a custom instrument cluster in a thin fiberglass dashboard. The alloy console included unique heater controls and an Abarth badge. The glove box was non-functional to save weight, and other interior panels were made from alloy. The center tunnel housed a gated gear shift for the racing-oriented 5-speed "dog box."
The doors of the restored Abarth X1/9 Stradale Prototipo Coupe are crafted from lightweight steel frames and aluminum skins, eliminating the necessity for window winding mechanisms. (Picture from: ClassicThrottleShop)
The doors were constructed from lightweight steel frames and aluminum skins, eliminating the need for window winding mechanisms. Instead, a wing nut allowed for manual adjustment. Interior door handles were replaced by simple cords with rings. Bertone tube frame bucket seats upholstered in Alcantara, an Abarth racing steering wheel, and a rare horn button completed the interior.
The interior of the restored Abarth X1/9 Stradale Prototipo boasts a minimalist design, showcasing a custom instrument cluster within a sleek fiberglass dashboard. (Picture from: ClassicThrottleShop)
Under the front bonnet, an alloy fuel tank and air intakes directed airflow into the cockpit. The fiberglass bonnet featured vents for radiator air release, alloy hinges, and quick-release latches. The distinctive nose panel bore a rare Abarth badge, while fixed headlights with alloy covers and a purposeful front spoiler gave the car a menacing look.
The restored Abarth X1/9 Stradale Prototipo's interior is finished with Bertone tube frame bucket seats upholstered in Alcantara, complemented by an Abarth racing steering wheel and a rare horn button. (Picture from: ClassicThrottleShop)
The engine bay housed a powerful Abarth 2000cc twin-cam motor with twin Weber carburetors mounted on a handmade intake manifold. This setup included an adjustable altitude bar for Alpine rallies, a 4-2 Abarth exhaust header, and a stinger outlet muffler. The engine was paired with a close-ratio 5-speed Abarth transaxle featuring a limited-slip differential.
The restored Abarth X1/9 Stradale Prototipo Coupe model is equipped with a potent Abarth 2000cc twin-cam motor featuring twin Weber carburetors mounted on a handmade intake manifold. (Picture from: ClassicThrottleShop)
Fitting the engine and gearbox required extensive modifications, including custom mounting points and substantial bracing for the rear strut towers. The lightweight fiberglass engine lid, complete with a ducktail and Bertone periscope, was secured with quick-release latches. Suspension and brakes were upgraded to competition specifications, with sway bars added to both the front and rear.

In the early 1970s, the X1/9 competed in the Targa Florio in Sicily but did not finish due to transmission issues. However, it showcased its potential by winning the Rally of the Eastern Alps and later securing victories at the 100000 Trabucchi and the Liburna Cup. These successes highlighted the car's capabilities and promise.
The restored Abarth X1/9 Stradale Prototipo Coupe model looks fierce in its orange-silver finish, enhanced by the distinctive Bertone periscope at the rear. (Picture from: ClassicThrottleShop)
By early 1975
, the Fiat X1/9 Abarth was ready for Group 4 homologation, requiring the production of 400 units. These cars were to be manufactured by Bertone. Along with Abarth, they presented the X1/9 Stradale Prototipo to Fiat, hoping to secure funding to produce 300-500 cars. Despite the car's impressive performance, Fiat declined to fund the project. | aAbM-QDsPws |
As a result, the Stradale prototype was stored for four years before being sold to Alfred Cosentino. Accompanied by comprehensive documentation, the car underwent meticulous restoration by a dedicated Abarth collector. Today, the Abarth X1/9 Stradale Prototipo, along with its remaining racing model siblings, is celebrated for its innovative engineering and thrilling driving experience, making it a cherished piece of automotive history. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | CLASSICTHROTTLESHOP | VELOCETODAY | EXCLUSIVECARREGESTRY | ROARINGTON | MEDIUM | X19.COM.AU ]
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