No wedge driven between me and ‘Exy’, my beloved Bertone X1/9
- Credit: Supplied by Guy Ransom
Guy Ransom bought his Bertone X1/9 in 1990 and this 'bella' Italian sports car is still a big part of his and wife Claire's lives.
Having finished university in 1990, and recently married, my wife and I had been using a car kindly provided by my mother-in law – a respectably boring, grey Mark II Ford Escort.
One bright summer morning, however, I was driving past a motor dealership at Thorpe, near Norwich, when a beautiful little metallic blue, wedge-shaped sports car caught my eye – an X1/9.
Generally known as being a Fiat, the car was actually designed by Lucio Bertone in Turin. In 1989 Fiat ceased making the X1/9 and Bertone, still being in love with his 'bambino Ferrari', purchased the rights to manufacture it for one more year. This car was one of the Bertone X1/9s. To emphasise the shape of the car, the registration number even ended WEG – what more could I ask for.
With a 1,500cc engine and a twin Webber carb, the X1/9 has ample power to let it skip through the country lanes. As the engine is mounted in the middle of the car, the weight distribution is ideal, allowing superb road holding. The X1/9's greatest design features however lie in the single panel roof which removes quickly, and easily, to safely stow under the bonnet, still leaving ample space for two large holdalls. In case this isn't sufficient for your travels, the car has an additional boot behind the engine which holds the two specially-designed X1/9 canvas travel bags.
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When I purchased my beloved 'Exy', she was only a year old and had a mere 14,000 miles on her clock. Despite becoming far more sensible as time moved on, and acquiring various family cars, I have stubbornly held on to my X1/9, keeping her garaged throughout each of the past 26 winters. The result is that she is still the same gleaming testament to the brilliance of Bertone's design skills that she was when I bought her.
Over the years we have suffered a few challenges – including her engine overheating while warming up in my garage before driving to Le Mans in France. This was not a normal overheat however. Walking into the garage, I noticed the engine had stopped and found flames and smoke coming from under the bonnet.
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The consequence was missing the Le Mans trip but, more seriously, having an engine bay refit with all pipes and wires – plus other consumable plastic items – being replaced. The engine however remained fine.
In the main, however, Exy has given us many years of brilliant motoring. It has included taking her on a circuit of France, complete with tent, cooking equipment, food and clothing for two weeks – and, yes, we did eventually reach Le Mans.
We've also taken her, as a classic car more than 25 years old, on the London to Brighton car rally twice. Our most recent trip this summer was to take her on a 4,000-mile journey through France, Switzerland and Italy – including a stop-off at the Lucio Bertone factory in Turin (now owned by Maserati). Over the 16 days of our journey, including driving over the Alps, through traffic jams in Turin and mile after mile of beautiful vineyard-bordered roads in Provence, she didn't miss a beat. Indeed, my wife and I were still competing for whose turn it was to drive on the last day of our travels.
The next major journey we're planning is of a similar length, but this time starting in Santander in Spain, getting there by ferry, and travelling round the circumference of Spain to include as many of the must-see spots of 'real Spain' en route.
For us, the X1/9 remains one of the best-designed, yet most under-rated examples of Italian sports cars. As we had called to us several times as we drove through Turin – 'Bella, bella!'.
Tell us about your first car and the adventures and scrapes you had – email your motoring memories with a picture of the car to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it to Andy Russell, motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.