Updated 17 May 2020
The Australian Bertone X1/9
Towards the end of 1982, Fiat has stopped production of the X1/9, and it was left to Bertone to manufacture and distribute. As the X1/9 was no longer a Fiat, it's World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI) on the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate was reassigned from Fiat ZFA to Bertone ZBB. It would mean that the X1/9 could not be sold in Australia until it had new compliance that involved it passing Australian Design Rules (ADR).
As Bertone had no Australian showrooms, the X1/9 was not for sale in Australia between 1983 and 1987. It wasn't until 1987 that LNC Industries Pty Ltd a car importer and distributor for many brands decided to include Bertone in their distribution. During this time Australia also changed from ADR27C with the introduction of unleaded petrol in July 1st 1985 to the new standard ADR37/00. The carburettor version X1/9 would have required some modifications to pass and would have suffered a loss of power to comply.
The first Bertone x1/9 imported to Australia in April 1988 was VIN ZBB128AS007163188 it was used as the Single Uniform Type Inspection or SUTI. Mr Cole Kennedy, the compliance engineer at LNC Industries Pty Ltd, was responsible for the Bertone's approval into Australia.
This SUTI Bertone was imported directly from Italy with a fuel-injected engine (California emission standard). By having the California low emissions regulations engine, it was a higher standard than the ADR standard so would pass SUTI without the engine needing to be re-tested and approved. Without this pre-approved engine, it would have been not cost-effective to do the local testing and compliance, and we would never have seen the X1/9 return to Australia in 1988. One strange thing about this Bertone was the speedometer displayed KPH however the clock is MPH. So it looks like Bertone just changed the face of the instrument to get the SUTI X1/9 here.
March 6, 1988, featured the first article found about the Bertone X1/9 reintroduction to Australia. This indicated a release in May 1988.
Source The Sydney morning herald.
April 1988, the first Australian Bertone arrives (ZBB128AS007163188) and is registered on July 26th 1988 with New South Wales plates OUS171. If you look at the top right of window you can make out the number 7 on a 1988 registration sticker. The plate were change to BERT1 then eventually CAR19X.
September 10, 1988, This article was the first to mention the cars specifications and a price tag of $32,250.
Source The Age.
14-23 October 1988, The Bertone was on display at the Sydney International Motor Show at the Darling Harbour exhibition centre.
November 9, 1988
The Age published an interview with the national sales and marketing manager Mr Simon Hunter. He worked for the Bertone importer Auswide Pty Ltd part of the LNC Industries group.
Mr Hunter mentions that fewer than 100 will be available for sale here this year. The initial shipment of 16 cars has already been sold and orders for the second batch of 34 vehicles are filling rapidly. The Bertone X1/9 is priced at $32,250 and covered by a 12 month unlimited kilometre warranty.
Sydney International Motor Show 1988
This number of 16 cars above lines up with the first 16 VIN being in sequential order from ZBB128AS007163837 to ZBB128AS007163852. With colours 3 Grey 5 Red and 8 White. The remaining 34 cars mention adds up to the 50 total imported that includes the initial SUTI Bertone. From VIN ZBB128AS007164013 to ZBB128AS007164025 and ZBB128AS007164027 to ZBB128AS007164218. There was a total of 9 Grey, 24 White and 19 Red.
This first Bertone was featured in Car Australia magazine November 1988 issue where it was compared to the newer MR2. Then once again in Modern Motor magazines January 1989 issue.
After the media rounds, this first Bertone sold to a lady named Yvonne Cooper from Newtown (NSW) now with plates (BERT1). As it was parked on the streets, it was broken in to twice. The radio was stolen as well as the Bertone badges. It suffered from minor hits and dings during this time. Under warranty one rim was replaced, as the clear coat was coming off. The carpet also needed replacing as there was wear around the driver's foot area.
Two other Bertone's were used by the press. The unknown Bertone featured above with registration OUS171 in The AGE newspaper above was published on the March 28th 1989.
Also making an appearance in November 1989 edition of Unique Car Magazine was this red Bertone with number plates BBG215.
SUTI Bertone with Carolyn Reid in 90’s
April 1990 LNC Industries sold the remaining stock of 22 Bertone's to Marc Berard.
Australia went into recession in the September quarter of 1990. This stalled sales and the remaining Bertone’s and were sold from as low as $22,000 to clear the stock that was now getting old.
August 10th 1991, The SUTI Bertone was bought by Carolyn Reid and has been with her ever since. The number pates were change to CAR19X until the cars relocation to Queensland.
Big thank you to Marc Berard & Carolyn Reid on providing some of this information