BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/18/23 9:49 p.m.

Guess I should do a proper introduction - as mentioned in another thread quite a while ago, I bought a rather nice, low mileage-ish '86 Bertone X1/9. Picked it up in Columbus OH, drove it straight back home and a few weeks later, put it (and us) on the Autotrain to Florida. Then drove it back home as a decompression exercise.

I finally got around to putting together an introductory video with some initial impressions and some driving footage:

 

I also try to answer the futile and eternal question "why?"

I am trying very hard not to modify it, and ended up compromising that I'll only put reversible mods on. I rather like the car - honestly, probably more than my Elise - and to me that shows what the difference between buying a mediocre vs a really good specimen of a vehicle can be.

As to what the current plans are - well, some of them are mentioned at the end of the video. Plus I'm looking at a header plus exhaust, and maybe a Momo Prototipo because I never liked the OEM steering wheel on these. The rim is just too thin.

Oh, and why Nero? Well, nothing's burning or fiddling yet. It's the original colour of the car, plus my first cat liked to play with one of the neighbourhood kittens, which was a black cat called Nero.

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/18/23 11:13 p.m.

Nice!

grubeguy
grubeguy New Reader
7/27/23 12:50 p.m.

Why? Why not - that little thing corners on rails, has a great sound, decent top end, and will give you tons of fun!

I drove two in high school :)

TurnerX19
TurnerX19 UberDork
7/27/23 1:22 p.m.

Yehahh!!  And welcome back to fun with a frunk.  If an Elise had the carry capacity and door aperture it could rival the X1/9. 

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/1/23 5:56 p.m.

Some updates, pictures to come later.

Midwest Bayless imported some decent Michelins in the correct size as these tires are almost impossible to get in the US unless one orders them from the UK, where they are now also out of stock. My set arrived early in August, and I finally got around to getting them mounted by someone who doesn't mind if you bring him tires you didn't purchase from him, for a very reasonable price. And about time, too. The insides of the rear tires looked a bit like Vin Diesel's bonce when seen from above. No wonder the car felt a bit iffy when it was damp.

I used that as an excuse to finally crawl under the car properly - in contrast to my Elise, it actually just about fits on my Quickjack. And what I mean by "just about" is that if you don't put it on the QJ exactly so, you can't get the rear wheels off.

During my inspection I found a few smaller things - of course, some of the <expletive deleted> brake calipers aren't quite as free as they should be, and the bushings on the rear suspension look very much their age. Got to do something about it. Also found a fuel leak, but that was just a matter of tightening up a clamp. The main issue I found other than figuring out that it might be a good time to replace exhaust and header, is that the steering rack is leaking. That I probably have to address sooner.

But all in all, I've owned worse X1/9s, and they were half the age of this one at the time.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/1/23 5:57 p.m.
grubeguy said:

Why? Why not - that little thing corners on rails, has a great sound, decent top end, and will give you tons of fun!

I drove two in high school :)

This is actually my third one, I can now say I owned one in each country I've lived in.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/1/23 5:57 p.m.
TurnerX19 said:

Yehahh!!  And welcome back to fun with a frunk.  If an Elise had the carry capacity and door aperture it could rival the X1/9. 

Yeah, all I need is to cram the motor of the Elise into the X1/9 .

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/10/23 11:23 a.m.

Ah, but why not a K series?

(Answer - I don't want to cut up the car)

Anyway, there has been some progress but muppet here forgot which camera the photos were on. Oops.

I can confirm that Nero fits on my Quick Jack - it's an even tighter fit than an NA Miata and it took three attempts until I got it positioned so I could actually get the rear wheels off, but I managed:

My X19 on a Quick Jack

I had been waiting for non-ditchfinder tires for the car for months as the size that was on the car is pretty hard to get (185/60 R13). Midwest Bayliss apparently bought up all the stock of Michelin Exalto PE2 (yes, the same tires Keith put on #338) in that size and everybody was waiting for the container to finally make it across the pond. I think it took me about five minutes between getting the email that they had arrived and my putting the order in.

Not only were the tires on the car ancient, I think there might have been some other factors that make the rear end feel a bit squirrelly. The rear end of the car, that is. Either way, looks like the previous owner and myself got our money's worth out of those tires:

Rear tires, well used.

While I was in there, I also pulled out the rear brake calipers as the handbrake isn't spectacular (yes, I know, they're all like that, sir). Let's pretend we didn't see this, lubricated everything that needs to be lubricated and put this back together. Hey, at least I'm not worrying about overbraking the rear.

While I had the wheels off, I also notice that I'll have to take a closer look at the steering as it looks like the tire is hitting the body. Already have rust converter, primer and underbody protectant ready to go for when it's warm enough in spring to apply it. And yes, I've also got a new used rubber grommet that should be covering the hole. I'm probably going to try and get out any crud in the "leg" and dump some cavity wax in there as this car is pretty rust free and I'd like to keep it that way.

While I could get under the car easily I had a good look around underneath as it  was really the first time I got a good chance to inspect the underside of the car. Apparently it was too dark for the camera with the light I had, and I apologize for the "artsy" shots in search of focus.

What's not pictured is that the rear suspension bushings are all original and the rubber is cracking. Those arms are on my "must rebuild" list as that's not going to do wonders for the handling. Not sure yet if I'll go with OEM rubber or polyurethane - rubber appeals, but I have no idea how old the available OEM bushes are.

As I have to poke around the engine bay anyway  - there's at least one nut missing from the original exhaust header flange and it's turned into a leak, so it's perfect time to replace the original exhaust with a header and sports exhaust so the car at least sounds faster - I'll probably want to find the source of the various oil leaks while I'm at it.

More concerning - and hopefully not the reason that the RF tire is hitting the body - is this:

I'm hoping it's just a matter of replacing the rubber boot and I already bought both as I suspect I'll have to pull out the rack anyway to properly replace the boots. If it's much worse, this might be a problem because I don't think you can get rebuilt steering racks for these anymore.

Oh, and the area around one of the front wheel bearings is also looking suspiciously oily and damp.

A local one man shop was more than happy enough to mount and balance the tires most larger shops weren't keen to fit them. Didn't matter that they couldn't get the tires, I don't think they want to touch these toy sized wheels.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/10/23 11:43 a.m.

During our trip up from Florida, we had noticed that the radio and speakers in the car had developed their own minds. Sometimes the audio would cut out completely if you touched the USB connector on the faceplate just so, sometimes one of the speakers would cut out and so on. Plus the headunit was a relatively restrained late 2000s one, but it still didn't fit the esthetics of the original interior. So it was time to dig a bit deeper into the wallet and try to install something that looked more period correct.

Of course, as soon as I pulled the radio, I encountered my nemesis, berkeleyed up wiring. This looks messed up enough to be a pro job, but maybe not. And yes, if you're thinking that these wires look awfully like someone stripped the insulation, wrapped the new wire around the stock wiring and covered the whole unspeakable mess with some, now gooey, electrical tape, you're correct. Good thing I don't have a strong opinion about this, because Kermit could've done a better job blindfolded and he doesn't even have proper fingers.

Fortunately I had a tub of liquid insulation that I liberally slathered over the various cuts, obviously after removing the offending wiring. And before you ask, of course they did the strip & twirl on the power wires, too. Hey, at least they were consistent.

What's most hilarious is that none of this was necessary - all one needed was a handful of crimp-on spade connectors and one could've instead just, well, plugged those wires into the existing connector. Aaaaaaaaargh.

Anyway, after multiple coats of liquid insulation, some crimping, some dorifto-spec cable ties and a short length of proper Tesa wiring loom tape, this almost passes muster. Almost.

Improved wiring loom

While I was in there, I figured it might be a good time to pull out the speakers in the car and replace them with new ones. One of them had already been replaced, but guess which of those two is new and which one isn't:

Speaker comparison

Oh, and the period appropriate radio? That would be this one:

 

Looks like the old Blaupunkts I remember, but it has USB connectors under the "tape" flap so you can plug in a USB stick or an iPhone. And most importantly, it looks right at home in this dash.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/21/24 5:30 p.m.

Almost 40 years between those two, and other than making the ND look big, I'd still say the X1/9 is holding its own styling wise:

03Panther
03Panther PowerDork
4/21/24 8:32 p.m.

Back in 86, after almost a decade of ol' beater cars, a friend almost talked me into a brand new Bertone. I went a different route (that actually work out well in my life) but always regretted not going for it! 

TheTallOne17
TheTallOne17 Reader
4/22/24 7:39 a.m.

In reply to BoxheadTim :

It's been a few years, but last I look Vick Autosport in TX had new production steering racks, not rebuilt. They're the same rack as the much more common and popular 128, so still produced in Europe from what I recall. I put one in my first X and plan on putting another in my second, it's actually not a terrible job

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/22/24 8:59 a.m.

In reply to TheTallOne17 :

Thanks, that's really good to know. I crawled under the car after taking the picture above and tried to identify any damage to the steering rack boot. So far I could not find any trace of  a split or hole, so I'm wondering if someone overpacked the steering rack with grease and it got pushed out as I drove the car.

I'm trying to get a second opinion from my local mechanics as I have to take the car down there for its inspection anyway. I do have a replacement boot so if they actually find any damage I'll just have them replace it and fix the alignment afterwards.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/28/24 11:34 a.m.

In reply to TheTallOne17 :

Finally got around to checking and they're still listed on their website. And they're pretty cheap, too.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/1/24 3:39 p.m.

Local shop had a look at it and like me, were not able to find any damage to the steering rack boot. They checked over the whole steering and gave it a "thumbs up and keep an eye on it" for now. Like me, they suspect that someone might've put a little too much grease in the boot and it was squeezed out when I drove the car properly for a couple of weeks in hot weather.

TurnerX19
TurnerX19 UberDork
5/1/24 4:39 p.m.

In reply to BoxheadTim :

These racks were dry inside when new. The only failure I've seen is the nylon bushing on the passenger side fails occasionally. It has always been available. Cheap easy fix if it fails, rack in the car. Every tire over 175 section hits the wheel well. Make steering stops if you rub them frequently, the spot it rubs was only .040" when new. I have always run my car(s) on 175/70 13 with 1/4" wheel spacers. No rub, but I think the 185s will even spaced. Any more spacer upsets the whole chassis balance, just like a big engine or all the other crazy mods folks do to them.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/1/24 4:52 p.m.

In reply to TurnerX19 :

Thanks - I think I'll have another look if there is potentially another source of the grease. I'll also check on the spacers - I think Midwest-Bayless has 5mm ones in stock and I have to order some parts from them anyway like the header and sport exhaust I promised the car.

 

TurnerX19
TurnerX19 UberDork
5/2/24 1:45 a.m.

In reply to BoxheadTim :

It is entirely possible that the last guy that replaced the nylon bushing did ad some oil/grease to the rack. I never have, but can't imagine it hurts. Split rack boots do greatly accelerate the wear of the bushing. Grease slinging from the back side of the wheel bearing is the only other onboard source of slime. Vacuum and waxoil is super good through the oval hole. I have trouble keeping those plugs in place, mine tend to pop into the hole, simultaneous  with a splash of crud.

ddavidv
ddavidv UltimaDork
5/2/24 7:03 a.m.

Back when I worked for a former Fiat dealer and we were still getting parts from FMNA, you could buy 'barely used' steering racks for X1/9s along with a lot of other parts. There were a fleet of them that had somehow been environmentally damaged on the way over and FMNA actually parted them out. So, used parts with only single digit miles on them. They were really cheap too. 

Another Fiat quirk was you could sometimes order parts that were no longer in the FMNA part catalog. I got hold of a 'master' part catalog from Italy. From this, we were able to special order items from Fiat Italy through FMNA. It's how I got a blue carpet set for an X1/9 for a friend who was doing a restoration. It actually came from Bertone's warehouse. 

None of which is applicable today, most likely, but some interesting trivia from back in the day. FMNA had to exist until the last Fiat was out of warranty...which was an X/19, according to Andy Mulraney who ran what was left of the company in New Jersey at the time. 

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