Which Mid-Engined Targa is Right for You?
From the early 1960s on, the growing dominance of mid-engined designs, in almost every category of international racing, saw public demand for similar road machines rising throughout that decade—by 1970 that demand had reached a boiling point. Though cars like the Lamborghini Miura (the first rear mid-engined road car to market in 1966) and DeTomaso Mangusta had been around for a few years by that point, they weren’t exactly within the reach of the middle class, either. Introduced in late 1969 as a 1970 model, Porsche’s 914 was the first affordable, mass-market mid-engined sports car (discounting the Lotus Europa, many of which were sold in kit form). It was an immediate hit. Fiat followed suit two years later with the X1/9. Both cars relied heavily on pre-existing mechanicals in order to keep costs low, but still managed to deliver the goods—they were indeed greater than the sum of their parts.
For this week’s eBay Question we have two beautiful examples of each for your consideration.
First up is is a ’73 914 wearing the lurid, overripe orange that they’re best known for. With a fuel-injected version of VW’s flat four making only about 80 HP, you’ll never get to the corners very quickly, but thanks to a curb weight of just over a ton and typically sophisticated Porsche suspension tuning, once you get turning the fun on offer is nearly off-the-charts. We absolutely love the 914’s simplicity and purity of design, particularly inside its all-function, no-frills cockpit. If there’s ever been a better looking set of instruments fitted to a car, we’re not aware of them.
Next is Bertone’s diminutive and delicate wedge on wheels, the X1/9. Using Fiat’s SOHC , 1300 cc motor from the then-new 128, it offered a similar power-to-weight ratio to the Porsche—with six fewer horsepower but with an overall weight of about 160 lbs. less. Just like the 914, all X1/9’s were equipped with targa tops, perfect for savoring the revvy little four’s raspy exhaust note on bamy summer nights. Known for their tossable demeanor, the X1/9 savored a good thrashing—best results were had by revving it mercilessly and tossing it like a fastball into corners. Styling-wise the X1/9 isn’t as unadorned and minimal as its German competitor, but rather than endow it with a fussiness, its intricate detailing somehow only adds to its prettiness.
So, which do you prefer—German simplicity and efficiency or Italian emotion and design flair?
1979 Fiat X1/9
1973 Porsche 914