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Hagerty Employee

Retro Rematch: Fiat X1/9 vs. Triumph TR7

Fifty years ago, Fiat brought mid-engined sophistication to the masses with its X1/9. The TR7 was Triumph's riposte, but was it ever enough to restore faith in the U.K.'s once great sports car industry? Welcome to Retro Rematch, a series from our friends at Hagerty UK, which pits contemporary rivals against one another in the here and now.
Intermediate Driver

My 74 TR7 was not a steller car, but neither was a friend's X1/9. Still, for looks and bang for the buck, as we say stateside... I would really love to drive them back to back to back with my NA Miata, then an EV version of both. I'm sure a little extra power will cure a lot of ills.

While I enjoy my TD, A,B,and B-GT, I had an 81 x/19 that was a great car and a lot of fun, wished I would have kept it too
Advanced Driver

I had a 1979 X1/9 and I loved it. I put over 150,000 miles on it, and all it ever needed was a starter rebuild and a clutch/pressure plate.

It truly taught me the adage about driving a slow car fast.

- Jim

Both cars take love and devotion. 

Mechanical issues, rust and parts are issues. 

I love the X1/9 but it is still a Fiat. You can beat on them hard but you need to be wary that there are some things you just have to do or it is catastrophic failure. Namely timing belts. 

Also rust is a major issue in many parts of the country. 

Both are hard to find low mike clean models and if you do they are not cheap. But in the long run they still may be the Best Buy if you find one. 

The TR7 is a fun car but my money would go to a TR6. 

Cars like this is why many people drive Miata’s. The same fun and much less fuss. 

The truth is most sports cars take love care and money but the drive is the reward. 


New Driver

I can’t comment on the TR7 as I’ve never owned one but the X1/9 on the other hand - had more than a few and raced one for a few years. Stock there should be very little shake or rattle, typically it is a badly fitted roof but the dashboard is a pig to get back right once removed so going to guess the one sampled here has some loose fixings from a repair. The level to which you can push these is astounding for a 70s designed car but they need maintenance- especially on the brakes (like every few weeks if you want them in peak form) unless you “upgrade” to modern calipers (thank you uno turbo). The engine tunes well too and most will rev off the natty tachometer (regardless of which way it turns), a new exhaust and a re-jet just unleashes the beast. For the brave an engine swap (uno turbo again) turns the car into a missile, for the really brave a k-swap gives you a super car worrier…

Mr race version ended up with a generous 400+ bhp in a slimmed down 600kg package although the last time I actually raced it I only had 200 (long story) but the point is the chassis just took the punishment and never felt overwhelmed.

There are problems though, pre-rusted budget Russian steel actually being the least of them. A few really poor design choices mean some things are a nightmare to fix and if you get an engine that runs but doesn’t like to rev then the only cure is a new engine block (they like to twist as they heat up and the mid-engined design means they get hot). The original fuel delivery system is poor (nothing an electric fuel pump can’t solve) and the electrics (while very clever are rarely in good condition after 10years, let alone 50…
New Driver

Certainly a good comparison, but as the author notes, though both cars are tiny by modern standards, it is not exactly apples to apples, more like orange to nectarine.

Would love to see a comparison of the early 70s tiny GTs, the Saab Sonett, Fiat X, and Opel GT.

While I was stationed at Fort Polk, LA in 1976, a newly -arrived E-7 showed up with a new TR-7. He was assigned to our unit and he and I discovered a shared appreciation for cars. He began buying things for his little Triumph and I volunteered to bolt them on. A pair of Weiand Lynx air filters replaced the giant air cleaner that it came with, and then a header was added. Some Western aluminum wheels, Koni shocks and a little engine tuning made his car a lot of fun on those Louisiana back roads but, because it rains A LOT in that place, the wipers got quite a workout. After a few months at Camp Swampy, the best of Britain began to exhibit a strange tendency: When the lights and wipers were on at the same time, the headlight doors would open and close in time with the wipers' sweep. Several trips to the nearest dealer in Houston never solved the problem for more than a week. I finally wired the lights around the fuse panel and installed a secondary relay to provide them with uninterrupted power. Ralph got rid of it when the mold that began to grow in the trunk started asking for crawfish...
New Driver

I sold TR7's , Alfa's and Honda's back in the day in Clearwater Florida, the TR-7's came off the truck needing repairs, we had a brown TR-7 parked in the back lot of the dealership that was deemed unsalable so the mechanics robbed parts off it to get the TR-7's that were running salable ! I owned a 124 spider and Spitfire's so I was well versed in British Leyland cars.
I remember the TR-7's being very tender with questionable build quality, many came back for repairs just after a few months of ownership, some customers wanted their money back.
The Alfa spider's were great cars compared to Triumph's offerings, the dealership dropped Triumph soon after, they were making a killing off of Accord's and Civic's.