I have to admit that my first purchase of a car approaching 'classic' status was not a Bertone X1/9. I hankered after another Toyota MR2 Mark One after having owned one for a short while back in the late 80s. I bought another one two years ago after 'hovering' over the AutoTrader website for a few months waiting for the right one to come up. It had to be a Mica Blue MR2 - the same colour as the one I had owned all those years ago.
The MR2 is great and I have had a lot of fun with it. I started to collect a bit of memorabilia - a few old brochures and car magazines. I was always aware of the X1/9 and noticed that a couple of the old magazines I had purchased via Ebay pitched the MR2 and the X1/9 'head to head' in comparison tests.
It was then that the idea of owning an example of each began to gel. I'd never driven an X1/9 but had already been seduced by the Bertone design. What came out of the 'head to head' tests in the old magazines was that the MR2 being a later car than the X1/9 was that it was more, well, 'modern'. The X1/9 had character in spades and was, well, 'more fun'.
I knew I wanted a late X1/9 and this is probably the 'daft' bit - but I wanted a Blu Micalizzato (doesn't that sound great!?) one to 'match' the MR2. Both 'F' reg. and both blue. It didn't take long to find a low mileage X1/9 (51,000 miles) that had had few owners and was in good condition. It even had one of these sought after 'Saratoga' roofs that I had read about.
What has been real revelation is how different the two cars are. In some ways the MR2 has lost a little of its appeal just because it does feel so 'modern' when compared to the X1/9. The mid-engined layout and great handling is common to both, but the Italian car certainly more exuberant and fun.
I am by no means a mechanic - fuel, coolant, oil and air are just about my mark. I have a good relationship with Twinspark in Hampstead who have service contracts for Toyotas and Alfa Romeo - so there is a Japanese and Italian 'mix' in the cars they usually work with. The MR2 feels 'rock solid' these days under Twinspark's care and has undertaken its annual jaunt to Devon without a hitch, so I thought I'd put the X1/9 into Twinspark to sort the few things I had noticed and let them look it over.
The intial bill for the X1/9 was bigger than I hoped, but that hasn't dampened the enthusiasm for the car. It had been MOT'd with no advisories earlier in the year, but when you ask a mechanic to go over a car with a 'fine tooth comb' and report back - they are only doing what what I asked! Anyway, I like to try and prevent as many unplanned stops as possible.
So there we are, two similar cars which are in many ways so different. I've already heard myself saying that if I was forced to get rid of one of them it would be the MR2, but I really like having both cars.
The '89 Gran Finale
The '88 MR2
The Alcantara material on the X1/9s drivers seat had split when I got the car - a common occurrence I believe? I will eventually get it repaired, but I wanted to get some seat covers in the meantime just to cover up the unsightly seat squab really. I found via Ebay a company in California called 'Iggee' who will make up a set of seat covers for virtually any car. You can find them at www.iggee.com. Although they don't list Fiat/Bertone in the list of manufacturers, they do have patterns for X1/9 seats on their computer. You just have to upload a photo of your car to give them an idea of which model it is.
I am pleased with the set I had made -
Unfortunately the drivers seat squab cover doesn't fit as well as the passenger one - there is not enough gap between the seat and the hinge to get the material tucked down well and I haven't tried to dismantle the seat. Anyway, the vulnerable material beneath is protected until I ultimately decide what to do long term.