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.


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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

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