Unless a car company runs a very forward thinking design department, like Citroen of old, most of its designs obviously belong to the decade they were first produced in and this little Fiat X1/23 concept car is definitely a case in point with references to the Fiat 126 and some Lancias of the time. It has a certain Italian style about it and actually there is a design connection between it and some of the small two person cars of today, such as the Swedish Uniti. The car was first shown at the Turin motor show of 1972 without a powerplant installed, and in 1976 an electric-powered prototype was ready.
Designed by Centro Stilo Fiat, a Turin design office that was tasked with the future look of Fiat, they made some fairly obvious errors, like a windscreen so steeply raked you would hit your head when leaning forward. The side windows didn’t open at all so air conditioning was fitted, which would have sapped power, which it didn’t have a lot of! However, the diminutive car did feature some fairly interesting ideas, such as weight saving gained by its single-spoke steering wheel.
Talking of power, the rear mounted Yardney nickel-zinc battery pack supplied a lowly front mounted 13.5hp electric motor, which in a car weighing 820kg must have meant Shanks’ pony would have been quicker than it could accelerate; top speed was 45mph and allegedly it could manage 50 miles of range on a charge.
Sadly, electric car technology just wasn’t of the era and the X1/23 never made production. Those cars, however, were designed to be a theoretical alternative to petrol-engined vehicles during the oil crisis, when fuel prices had rocketed. This unwittingly paved the way for cars we known and love today, including the original Mini.
Although the X1/23 did not have a future, it arguably paved the way for other future Fiat EVs, including the Panda Elettra. The Elettra was built by Steyr-Puch between 1990 and 1998. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because today Austrian-based Steyr-Puch is now known as Magna Steyr, which produces the Jaguar I-Pace electric car.
Demonstrating how the X1/23 wasn’t quite as useless as it might at first appear from its specification, the Elettra was only capable of covering 62 miles per charge and hitting a top speed of 43mph – some 2mph less than the X1/23. Its batteries also took up precious interior space, meaning the Elettra was restricted to just two seats… like the pioneering X1 /23.