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Italy has graced the world with all manner of objects of automotive art. From the 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C to the Lancia Stratos, the Ferrari Dino, the Enzo, the Maserati Bora and Lamborghinis galore. In fact, the Alfa 8C Competizione coupe is probably the most beautiful car made this century. Of course there’s a while to go in this century and apparently it handles like a boat, but it looks good.

The same cannot be said of the Fiat X1/23.

Penned at the start of the 70s it was a loud warning bell for what was to come for the rest of that decade. It was so ugly that, in profile, it almost looks cute. But don’t be fooled.

I can only assume Fiat were trying to mimic the broad flat designs of Ferrari and Maserati. Either that or they spent so much money designing those elegant steel wheels they had nothing left for the rest of the car.

Underneath the ugliness there were incredible compromises. If you leant forward to touch the dashboard you’d surely hit you head on the windscreen. The side windows dip down so low in the doors that they couldn’t be opened. This forced them to have a/c in an already underpowered car.

While we’re on the subject of underpowered, when Fiat unveiled this concept in 1972 it had no engine. Faced with public reaction (read: horror and belly-aching laughter), Fiat decided they had to create a working prototype for the masses to truly appreciate their brilliance. Unfortunately, Fiat’s brilliance led them to install a 400lb battery and electric motor. It probably took 300 of that 400lbs just to move the battery. They claimed a top speed around 50mph and a range of 45 miles. But given the whole car weighed 1800lb, I’m guessing these claims were done by the same people who make the claims for laptop batteries.

Thankfully, Fiat saw (sore?) the error of their ways and ditched the X1/23 in 1975 and went on to design the X1/9 and the retro 500, both brilliant designs, even if one of them was a rust bucket. I’m grateful, what about you?



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