The Alfa Romeo Alfasud (Type 901, 902 and 904) was a small family car, manufactured from 1971 to 1989 by Industria Napoletana Costruzioni Autoveicoli Alfa Romeo-Alfasud S.p.A of Italy, a new company owned by Alfa Romeo and Finmeccanica. The company was based in the southern region of Italy as a part of the labour policy of the government.
It is considered one of Alfa Romeo's most successful models, with 893,719 examples sold between 1972 and 1983, plus 121,434 Sprintcoupé versions between 1976 and 1989. A common nickname for the car is ’Sud. The car went through two facelifts, the first in 1977 and the second one in 1980.
Alfa Romeo had explored building a smaller front wheel drive car in the 1950s but it was not until 1967 that firm plans were laid down for an all-new model to fit in below the existing Alfa Romeo range. It was developed by Austrian Rudolf Hruska, who created a unique engineering package, clothed in a body styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign.
The car was built at a new factory at Pomigliano d'Arco in southern Italy, hence the car's name, Alfa Sud (Alfa South). January 18, 1968, saw the registration at Naples of a new company named "Industria Napoletana Costruzioni Autoveicoli Alfa Romeo-Alfasud S.p.A.". 90% of the share capital was subscribed by Alfa Romeo and 10% by Finmeccanica, at that time the financial arm of the government controlled IRI. Construction work on the company's new state-sponsored plant at nearby Pomigliano d'Arco began in April 1968, on the site of an aircraft engine factory used by Alfa Romeo during the Second World War.
The Alfasud was shown at the Turin Motor Show three years later in 1971 and was immediately praised by journalists for its styling. The four-door saloon featured a cutting-edge technology, following the technical scheme already experimented in Lancia since 1960 on the Lancia Flavia, that is: a front wheel drive with Boxer of 1,186 cc water-cooled engine with a belt-driven overhead camshaft on each cylinder head. It also featured an elaborate suspension setup for a car in its class: (MacPherson struts at the front and a beam axle with Watt's linkage at the rear). Other unusual features for this size of car were four-wheel disc brakes (with the front ones being inboard), and rack and pinion steering. The engine design allowed the Alfasud to have a low bonnet line, making it very aerodynamic for its day, also giving it a low centre of gravity. As a result of these design features, the car had excellent performance for its engine size, and levels of road-holding and handling that would not be equalled in its class for another ten years. Despite its two-box shape, a hatchback was not initially part of the range. Some of the controls were unorthodox, the lights, turn indicators, horn, wipers and heater fan all being operated by pulling, turning or pushing the two column stalks.
First series Alfasud
The range grows
In November 1973 the first Alfasud sport model joined the range, the two-door Alfasud ti—(Turismo Internazionale, or Touring International). Along with a 5-speed gearbox, it featured a more powerful version of the 1.2 litre engine, brought to 68 PS (50 kW; 67 hp) by adopting a Weber twin-choke carburettor, allowing the small saloon to reach 160 km/h (99 mph). Quad round halogen headlamps, special wheels, a front body-colour spoiler beneath the bumper and rear black one around the tail distinguished the "ti", while inside there was a three-spoke steering wheel, auxiliary gauges, leatherette/cloth seats, and carpets in place of rubber mats.
1975–78 Alfasud Giardinetta
Alfasud Super 1.3
1979 Alfasud ti 1.5
In 1974, Alfa Romeo launched a more upscale model, the Alfasud SE. The SE was replaced by the Alfasud L (Lusso) model introduced at the Bruxelles Motor Show in January 1975. Recognizable by its bumper overriders and chrome strips on the door sills and on the tail, the Lusso was better appointed than the standard Alfasud (which was now called "normale"), with such features as cloth upholstery, headrests, padded dashboard with glove compartment and optional tachometer. A three-door estate model called the Alfasud Giardinetta was introduced in May 1975, with the same equipment of the Alfasud "L".
The Lusso model was produced until 1976, and was then replaced by the new Alfasud 5m (5 marce, five speed) model, the first four-door Alfasud with a five-speed gearbox. Presented at the March 1976 Geneva Motor Show, it was equipped like the Lusso it replaced.
In September 1976, the Alfasud Sprintcoupé was launched. Built on the same platform of the saloon, it featured lower, more angular bodywork, again by Giorgetto Giugiaro, and featured a hatchback. The Sprint was powered by a new, more powerful Boxer, stroked from the 1.2 to displace 1,286 cc (78 cu in) and develop 76 PS (56 kW; 75 hp), and was paired the five-speed gearbox. The same 1286 cc engine was later fitted into the 2-door saloon, creating the Alfasud ti 1.3, which was put on sale alongside the "ti" 1.2 in July 1977.
In late 1977 the Alfasud Super replaced the range-topping four-door "5m". It was available with both the 1.2- and 1.3-litre engines from the "ti", though both were equipped with a single-choke carburettor. The Super introduced improvements both outside, with new bumpers including large plastic strips, and inside, with a revised dashboard, new door cards and the choice of either Alfatex (vinyl) or two-tone cloth seats. Similar upgrades were applied to the Giardinetta.
In May 1978 the Sprint and "ti" got new engines, a 79 PS (58 kW; 78 hp) 1.3 (1,350 cc) and a 85 PS (63 kW; 84 hp) 1.5 (1,490 cc), both with a twin-choke carburettor. At the same time the Alfasud ti received cosmetic updates: bumpers from the Super, new rear spoiler on the boot lid, black wheel arch extensions and black front spoiler, and was upgraded to the revised interior of the Super. The 1.3 and 1.5 engines were soon made available alongside the 1.2 on the Giardinetta and Super, with a slightly lower output compared to the sport models, due to having a single-choke carburettor. In 1979 the Sprint was given a double twin-choke carburettor setup and became the Alfasud Sprint Veloce.
All Alfasuds were upgraded in 1980 with plastic bumpers, a new instrument panel, headlamps and rear lights, as well as other revisions. The Ti version was fitted with a twin-carburetor version of the 1490 cc engine that had been fitted to the Sprint the previous year, developing 95 bhp (71 kW; 96 PS) A three-door hatchback was added to the range in 1981 in either SC or Ti trim, and the two-door Ti and Giardinetta were deleted from most markets around that time. Belatedly, in 1982 the four-door cars were replaced by five-door versions, as by now, most of its competitors were producing a hatchback of that size, although some also produced a saloon alternative. The range was topped by the five-door Gold Cloverleaf, featuring the 95 PS (70 kW; 94 hp) engine from the Ti and enhanced interior trim.
In 1983 an attempt to keep pace with the hot hatchback market, the final version of the Alfasud Ti received a tuned 1490 cc engine developing 105 PS (77 kW). Named Quadrifoglio Verde (Green Cloverleaf), the model was also fitted with Michelin low-profile TRX tyres on metric rims (tyre size 190/55 VR 340 TRX) as well as an enhanced level of equipment.
End of production
Rusty Alfa Romeo Alfasud (about 6 years, and 88,000 km old).
Despite their sophisticated engineering, Alfasuds (especially the early ones) had a bad reputation for suffering from rust, mostly due to the poor quality Russian steel used in their construction, and the storage conditions of the steel. Worse yet, bare completed bodies had to be moved outside the factory after assembly before being taken to the paint shop in a separate building, no matter what the weather happened to be.
In 1983, the five-door Alfasud saloons were replaced by the 33 models. The 33 was an evolution of the Alfasud's floorpan and running gear, including minor suspension alterations, and a change from four-wheel disc brakes to front disc and rear drum brakes to reduce costs. The Alfasud Sprint was renamed the Alfa Romeo Sprint in 1983. That model was continued until 1989 by sharing 33's running gear. The three-door versions continued for a further year before being replaced by the unsuccessful Alfa Romeo Arna, a joint venture between Alfa Romeo and Nissan.
The Alfasud was also assembled in Malaysia by City Motors of Ipoh, although the plant was located in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian cars received the 1.2, 1.35, and 1.5 litre engines, and all had the four-door bodywork. In South Africa, Alfa Romeo's local subsidiary built the Alfasud in its plant in Brits. Beginning in June 1981, the Alfasud was renamed the Alfa Romeo Export GTA and received the 105 PS (77 kW) version of the 1.5 litre flat-four. The Export GTA had the five-door bodywork.
1977–1983 1.3 L (1,286 cc) Alfa Romeo Boxer H4, 68-75 hp (56 kW)
1978–1983 1.4 L (1,350 cc) Alfa Romeo Boxer H4, 79 hp (59 kW)
1978–1984 1.5 L (1,490 cc) Alfa Romeo Boxer H4, 85–105 hp (63–78 kW)
From 1975, a racing series was organised exclusively for Alfasuds. One year later, the Alfasud Trophy began in Italy and Austria, and later France and Germany got their own competitions. In 1977 the "Trofeo Europa Alfasud" was set up, in which the best drivers from each country competed. The Trofeo Alfasud was equipped with the 1,286 cc engine with an Autodelta kit. Gerhard Berger is probably the best-known driver to participate in the Alfasud Trofeo.