For the lover of Italian cars, the MITCAR event has become one of several unmissable entries in the calendar. Organised by the East Midlands section of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club, but with entry open to Italian cars of every marque, it moves around from location to location every year. Most of the time, a stately home has been selected, but for 2016, the decision was taken to hold the 16th iteration of the event at what is now known as the British Motor Museum, at Gaydon. As well as giving attendees the chance to see the completely remodelled museum, now with a second building housing some of the reserve collection, it has the advantage of a large area of hard-standing in front of the main building, meaning that there is no chance of a repeat of 2012 when the ground at the venue for that year was so soggy that the event was more or less called off. I was unsure whether holding the event a couple of weeks later, over the Bank Holiday weekend would increase or decrease attendees, but sometimes you just have to go with when a venue can offer you their facilities and there are not too many conflicting events that might attract your participants elsewhere. Interest from Abarth Owners suggested that the date choice was not an issue, and indeed it proved that it was not, with over 400 display cars taking part.
Whenever an event is mentioned, it is almost inevitable that groups of people will try to find somewhere to meet up so that they can convoy in together, increasing the chances of parking up as a group. Sometimes there is a more obvious rendez-vous point than others. For this one, those heading south towards the Gaydon turning off the M40, the Warwick services pretty much chose itself. Indeed it is close enough to the Gaydon turn, and there is another junction just north of the Services that some Abarth drivers coming up from London promised that they would meet there as well. When I arrived there were already several Abarths parked up more or less next to each other in an area of the car park that was not that close to the main buildings, though that did not stop several interlopers decide to park amongst us in the twenty minutes or so that we were there.
I was not long after my arrival before I spotted a number of other Italian cars pulling in, so clearly some of the Alfa owners had had the same idea as us. Notable among them was this 2000 Berlina, which I have seen at many an event in the past, and which was indeed going to Gaydon.
And then I spotted this car come in. Now I know it was not particularly well regarded when new, but when did you last see one? I went over to talk to the driver. Admiring his car, I was puzzled as there were Nissan Cherry Europe badges on the back and the Alfa grille on the suggesting that it could be an Arna. Both were of course sold in the UK, and both are almost completely extinct now, with only a couple of known survivors of each. It turned out that this one had, as is so often the case with “ordinary” cars that have survived, spend most of the last 30 years tucked up in a garage, not being used at all. The owner had only recently acquired it, and said that it was in pretty good condition generally, with little needed to recommission the car and get it going, though the bodywork will need some attention to preserve it. The car is indeed the Nissan version, but he had put the Alfa front on it to make sure that he was not turned away at the gates.
The Cherry Europe duly admired, we got a message from some fellow Abarth owners who said that the gates had opened earlier than advertised, and cars were starting to pour in, so we hastily returned to our cars and set off to see what the day would hold in store. Indeed, there were already a number of cars on site. As everyone was being photographed by one of those companies who hope you will buy a picture of your car, I can advise that I was the 74th car on site. Parking, on the tarmac area in front of the museum was strictly by marque, something which was adhered to throughout the day. Cars poured in for most of the morning.
We amassed over 60 Abarths, which made this the second most present marque of the day, which is a remarkable achievement considering the relative number of these cars registered in the UK compared to some of the other brands. This is clear testament to the enthusiasm of many of the owners and their willingness to turn out in all weathers, and in many cases, to drive long distances just to show off their cars and to meet fellow devotees.
The majority of the Abarths here were 500 and 595 models, and these were parked in a double row right around one side of the car park. As ever, no two were alike, though in some cases, you would have to look quite carefully to be sure that this was the case.
At the request of the first Punto owners to arrive, they parked in a separate line, and by late morning they had amassed 8 cars. Although they were massively outnumbered by the 500s, when you consider that the model has not been sold since 2013 and that when the two were on offer, the sales ratio was typically about 1 Punto for every 10 of the 500, then 8 cars out of the 60 was not an under-representation.
Sited on the grass opposite these cars was a dealer display from Johnson’s of Solihull who had not just a couple of the latest Series 4 595s available for inspection but also one of the three Abarth 124 Spiders currently in the country. Needless to say, this was almost besieged during the day, with lots of people wanting a closer look.
It was no surprise that Alfa was the dominant marque, with over 200 of them attending. There was a nice variety, with plenty of really beautifully turned out cars.
Oldest car of the day was this fabulous Alfa Romeo. I have seen this particular car before, as it made an appearance at the Spring Alfa Day at Beaulieu earlier in the year, but am still unsure as to who provided the body. It is not of the style of the usual Touring or Zagato ones that you see most often on 6C 1750 cars, so my guess is it could be a James Young creation, but no-one came forward after the Beaulieu to answer the question.
Looking as if it might be almost as old is this one, which belongs to David Roots, who had driven it all the way up from Frome in Somerset. There is an information plaque which is displayed with the car, which tells of some of the background and history of the car. David was attracted by 1930s Alfas but also knew that as their values rocketed up, he would never be able to afford one. So he has ended up with a car which takes them as its inspiration but manifest in a unique car that he created himself. I had always assumed that it was designed an homage to the 1935 8C Tipo C 35 Monoposto, a race car of which just 8 were built in 1935 and in which Tazio Nuvolari won the 1936 Coppa Ciano, but in fact, the real inspiration, and car of David’s dreams was the 8C2900. This was produced at around the same time in 1935, but to understand it, you have to go back a bit earlier in the 1930s to the equally desirable 8C2300. This was the first car with the now legendary 8 cylinder engine, developed by Vittorio Jano and which went on to score at least one victory in every major race and championship. In its initial 1931 configuration, the engine displaced 2336 cc, it grew gradually to 2905 cc, primarily by increasing the stroke. The engine was created by mounting two alloy blocks of four cylinders on a single crankcase. On top of the two blocks an alloy head was installed, housing two camshafts. Aspiration was forced, through two Roots-Type Superchargers. Although the engine increased in size throughout its career, its layout and auxiliaries remained very much similar to Jano’s 1931 design. One of the best known racing cars powered by the 8 cylinder engine was the Tipo B or P3 of 1932, which is to date considered as one of the finest Grand Prix racers ever constructed. Run by Enzo Ferrari’s Scuderia Ferrari, the Alfa Romeos were almost unbeatable. From its 1931 introduction, the 8C 2300 took four straight victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, driven by talented drivers like Tazio Nuvolari and Luigi Chinetti. Tazio Nuvolari’s brilliance was even more visible when driving the P3, the first single seater racer ever. The P3 was unbeaten in 1933, but eventually succumbed to defeat by the greater budgets being spent by Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union. With the rise of the German Grand Prix teams, Alfa Romeo focused more of its attention on sportscar and road racing. Designed specifically for Italy’s most legendary road race, the Mille Miglia, was the 8C 2900. Much like the contemporary Grand Prix racers, the 8C 2900 featured all-round independent suspension, with wishbones at the front and swing-axles at the rear. Installed in the chassis was a 220 bhp version of the 2905cc eight cylinder engine, which was created by mounting two four-cylinder alloy blocks on a single crankcase with twin Roots-type superchargers attached. The suspension was all-independent with wishbones in the front and the rear had swing-axles. A total of six of these road racers, later known as 8C 2900A, were constructed. Three of these were entered in the 1936 running of the Mille Miglia. The new cars were immediately successful and occupied the first three places at the finish with the Brivio and Ongaro driven 8C on top. A year the cars secured a second victory and the next two places. With the winning cars as a base, a road going customer version was constructed. Dubbed 8C 2900B, the road car featured a de-tuned engine, with 40 hp less, but other than that were very similar to the racer and even in this guise they were the fastest production vehicle in the world at the time. Two versions were available, the 2800 mm short wheelbase (Corto) and 3000 mm long wheelbase (Lungo) versions. Most of these were sent to Touring to be fitted with Berlinetta, Spyder and Roadster bodies. With its competition chassis and high top speed it was faster and quicker than anything its competition had to offer. Due to its high price, only a very few of these supercars were constructed, just 10 Lungo and 20 Corto chassis cars. Being very similar to the competition 8C 2900A, it came as no surprise the 8C 2900B was used as a racer as well. To suit this purpose Alfa Romeo constructed a further 13 8C 2900B chassis fitted with the 220 bhp engine. Many of these were fitted with roadster bodies and were entered in road races like the Mille Miglia. After the two 8C 2900A victories in 1936 and 1937, another two victories were scored by the 8C 2900B in 1938 and 1947. No other Alfa Romeo has scored as many Mille Miglia victories as the 8C 2900. Needless to say, on the rare occasions that one of these legends comes up for sale, there is an eight figure price tag, putting the car well out of reach of most of us. Like many of us, David dreamed of owning a car like the original, but unlike most of us, he did the next best thing to paying the millions and decided to create his own. The story starts back in 1989, somewhat deterred by the thought of the hours that could be spent lying underneath a rusty wreck at the side of the road, missing some obscure part that would need to be made specially, he decided to opt for a special combining retro styling with new bodywork and reasonably modern mechanics. A company called Classic Specials created that something, combining a bespoke chassis using MGB mechanics with a Lenham Healey bodyshell. Ten years later, in 1999, at the Castle Combe Classic Action Day he ‘blew’ the trusty B Series engine and that was the turning point which caused him to wonder if he could not actually design his own car. Many of us dream of doing this, but he actually decided to set about the task. Using the MG-Lenham chassis and Lenham Healey rear bodywork, the MG engine and gearbox were replaced with those from a 1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV. Then a body had to be designed and constructed. This was done by making a buck from the aeroscreens forward, which was used to make a mould and moulding. Whilst it is not a precise rendering of the classic 8C2900, the result, the result which is variously described as an Alfa Special or a “Bitsarrini”, looks very professional, and the car always generates lots of positive and appreciative comments whenever it is displayed. Today was no exception.
Alfa’s first “regular” production car was the 1900 Saloon of 1951. Unlike the last couple of year, when Quentin Blake’s magnificent example was present, and indeed was accoladed in 2014 as the overall winner of the day, there were no examples of that model here, but there were a number of the model which joined it in Alfa’s range in the mid 1950s. This was the Giulietta, the 750 and later 101 Series, a family car made from 1954 to 1965, and Alfa Romeo’s first, successful, foray into the 1.3-litre class. A total of 177,690 Giuliettas were made, the great majority in Berlina saloon, Sprint coupé or Spider roadster body styles, but there were also Sprint Speciale and Sprint Zagato coupés, and the very low volume Promiscua estate. Renowned Alfa specialist Southwood Cars had a trio of immaculate models here – Sprint, Spider and SS – and there were a number of other models in the main display. The first Giulietta to be introduced was the Giulietta Sprint 2+2 coupé which was premiered at the 1954 Turin Motor Show. The Sprint had been designed by Franco Scaglione at Bertone, and it was produced at the coachbuilder’s Grugliasco plant, near Turin. A year later, at the Turin Motor Show in April 1955, the Sprint was joined by the 4-door saloon Berlina. In mid 1955, the open two-seat Giulietta Spider, featuring convertible bodywork by Pininfarina arrived. The Giulietta used unibody construction and a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. Front suspension was by control arms, with coaxial coil springs and hydraulic dampers. At the rear there was a solid axle on coil springs and hydraulic dampers. The axle was located by a longitudinal link on each side, and by a wishbone-shaped arm linking the top of the aluminium differential housing to the chassis. All Giuliettas (save for the last SZ examples) had hydraulic drum brakes on all four corners. When leaving the Portello factory it originally fitted Pirelli Cinturato 155 HR15 tyres (CA67). The Giulietta used an Alfa Romeo Twin Cam straight-four of 1290 cc, with an aluminium alloy engine block and cast iron inserted sleeves. Bore and stroke measured 74.0 mm and 75.0 mm. The aluminium alloy cylinder head was of a crossflow design and featured hemispherical combustion chambers. The double overhead camshafts were driven by two timing chains, and acted on two valves per cylinder, angled 80°. In 1957 a more powerful Berlina version, called Giulietta T.I. (Turismo Internazionale) was presented with minor cosmetic changes to the bonnet, the dial lights and rear lamps. Carrozzeria Colli also made the Giulietta station wagon variant called Giulietta Promiscua. Ninety-one examples of this version were built. Carrozzeria Boneschi also made a few station wagon examples called Weekendina. new version of the Giulietta Berlina debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1959. Mechanical changes were limited to shifting the fuel pump from the cylinder head to a lower position below the distributor, and moving the previously exposed fuel filler cap from the tail to the right rear wing, under a flap. The bodywork showed a revised front end, with more rounded wings, recessed head lights, and new grilles with chrome frames and two horizontal bars. The rear also showed changes, with new larger tail lights on vestigial fins, which replaced the earlier rounded rear wings. The interior was much more organised and upholstered in new cloth material; the redesigned dashboard included a strip speedometer flanked by two round bezels, that on the T.I. housed a tachometer and oil and water temperature gauges. The T.I. also received a front side repeater mounted in a small spear, unlike the Normale which kept the earlier small round lamp with no decorations. During 1959 the type designation for all models was changed from 750 and 753 to 101. In February 1961 the 100,001st Giulietta rolled off the Portello factory, with a celebration sponsored by Italian actress Giulietta Masina. In Autumn 1961 the Giulietta was updated a second time. Both Normale and T.I. had revised engines and new exhaust systems; output rose to 61 bhp and 73 bhp. With this new engine the car could reach a speed of almost 100mph. At the front of the car square mesh side grilles were now pieced together with the centre shield, and at the rear there were larger tail lights. Inside the T.I. had individual instead of bench seats, with storage nets on the seatbacks. June 1962 saw the introduction of the Alfa Romeo Giulia, which would eventually replace the Giulietta. As until 1964 the Giulia only had a larger 1.6-litre engine, production of the standard Berlina ended with 1963, whilst the T.I. continued for a full year more. A last T.I. was completed in 1965. The Giulietta sport models had a different fate: Sprint, Sprint Speciale and Spider were fitted with the new 1.6-litre engine, received some updates and continued to be sold under the Giulia name until they were replaced by all-new Giulia-based models during 1965.
There was a second Coupe model in the Giulietta range. Known as the SS, or Sprint Speciale, it really does live up to the name, as it is rather special. The Sprint Speciale was first shown at the 1957 Turin Show as a prototype. Production cars were launched at the Monza circuit in June 1959. The SS boasted the lowest drag coefficient ever seen in a production car, with a cd of just 0.28, a figure which was not surpassed for 20 years. In 1963, it was updated, taking the Giulia name, when a larger 1600cc engine was put under the bonnet, giving it a top speed of 120 mph, an astonishing figure at the time. It did not come cheap, though, costing a lot more than the Giulia GT that was also first shown in 1963. 1,366 of the earlier Giulietta Sprint Speciale and 1,400 of the later Giulia Sprint Speciale were produced before production ceased in 1963. Just 25 cars were converted to right hand drive by RuddSpeed. You don’t see these cars very often, and of the ones I recall seeing in the past few years, they have all been Giulia versions, so it was a pleasant surprise to come across this Giulietta version.
Alfa followed up the Giulietta with a larger car, designed to replace the 1900, the 102 Series cars and called the 2000. Launched in 1958, it was with these models that Alfa marked the brand’s transition from being a maker of exclusive coachbuilt and racing cars to one that offered volume production models. The 102 was never likely to be a big seller, in a world that was still recovering economically from the ravages of the Second World War, but it was an important flagship, nonetheless. The 2000 models ran for 4 years, from 1958 to 1962, at which point they were updated, taking on the name of 106 Series, with minor styling changes being accompanied by a larger 2600cc engine under the bonnet. As with the 2000 models, the new 2600 cars were sold in Berlina (Saloon), Sprint (Coupe) and Spider (Convertible) versions, along with a dramatically styled SZ Coupe from Italian styling house Zagato and a rebodied Berlina from OSI, all of them with an inline twin overhead cam six cylinder engine of 2.6 litres, the last Alfas to offer this configuration. Just 6999 of the Sprint models were made and 2255 Spiders, very few of which were sold new in the UK where they were exceedingly expensive thanks to the dreaded Import Duty which made them much more costly than an E Type. Many of the parts were unique to these cars, so owning one now is far harder than the more plentiful 4 cylinder Alfas of the era. Whilst the rather square styling of the Berlina, which won it relatively few friends when new and not a lot more in recent times means that there are few of these versions to be seen, the Sprint and Spider models do appear from time to time, and market interest in the cars is now starting to accelerate, with values rise accordingly. Seen here was a fabulous 2600 Spider . It was not just me who loved this car, as it was awarded the “Camshaft Trophy” for “Car of the Day” by public vote.
First up in the 105 Series of cars, known as the Giulia, because it was larger than the Giulietta, was the Berlina model launched in 1962. The Giulia was produced from 1962 to 1978 in a bewildering array of similar models, which even the marque enthusiast can find hard to untangle. The styling was quite straight forward, but great attention was paid to detail. The engine bay, cabin and boot were all square shaped. But the grille, the rooflines and details on the bonnet and boot made for an integrated design from bumper to bumper. Thanks to Alfa Romeo using a wind tunnel during its development, the Giulia was very aerodynamic with a drag coefficient of Cd=0.34, which was particularly low for a saloon of the era and not a bad figure even for cars of today. Couple that with the fact that Alfa Romeo was one of the first manufacturers to put a powerful engine in a light-weight car (it weighed about 1,000 kilograms) and thanks to an array of light alloy twin overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine, similar to that of the earlier Giulietta models range, the car had a lively performance which bettered that of many sports cars of the day. The Tipo 105.14 was the first model introduced in 1962. with a 1,570 cc Twin Cam engine with single down-draft carburettor generating 91 hp at 6500 rpm. The “TI” nomenclature referred to a class of Italian saloon car racing known as “Turismo Internazionale”, and had previously been applied to higher-performance versions of the 1900 and Giulietta saloons in the 1950s. However, for the Giulia saloon, the Ti was at first the only version available, and later, with the introduction of the TI Super and Super, the TI became the base version for the 1,600 cc engine class. The steering column gearchange (the only one in the Giulia range) was replaced with a floor change for 1964 (Tipo 105.08). Right hand drive cars, available from 1964, only ever had a floor change (Tipo 105.09). Brakes were by drums all around at first. Discs were introduced later, first at the front, and later all around. A brake servo was not fitted at first, but was introduced in later cars. The steering wheel featured the only horn ring ever in the Giulia range. The dashboard with a strip speedo is a notable feature, as is the steering wheel with a horn ring. The Giulia TI was phased out in 1968 and re-introduced as the austerity model 1600 S. Tipo 105.16 was a special racing model introduced in 1963. Quadrifoglio Verde stickers on the front wings were a distinguishing feature. Only 501 were made for homologation and today it is very rare and desirable. The 1,570 cc engine was fitted with two double-choke horizontal Weber 45DCOE carburettors for 110 hp at 6500 rpm. The body was lightened and a floor gearchange was fitted as standard, as were alloy wheels of very similar appearance to the standard steel ones of the TI. The TI’s instrument cluster with its strip speedometer was replaced with a three-instrument binnacle comprising speedometer, tachometer and a multi-gauge instrument (fuel, water temperature, oil temperature and pressure) – these instruments were similar to those fitted to the contemporary Giulia Sprint and Sprint Speciale coupes and Spider convertibles. The steering wheel was a three-spoke item with centre hornpush, also similar to that of the more sporting models. Braking was by discs all around, although the first cars used drums and early disc models lacked a servo which was introduced later. The police cars seen in The Italian Job were of this type. Tipo 105.06 was an austerity model made from 1964 to 1970 with a 1,290 cc single-carburettor engine for 77 hp at 6000 rpm. Four-speed gearbox with floor change fitted as standard (the 1300 was the only Giulia model not fitted with a five-speed gearbox). Though the engine was given a 105 series type number, it was basically the engine from the 101 series Giulietta Ti. This model appears not to have been exported to many markets outside Italy, if at all. Braking was by discs all around, without a servo at first, later with a servo. Tipo 105.26 was introduced in 1965. It transferred the technology from the racing TI Super to a road car, to make the most successful Giulia saloon. 1,570 cc engine with two double-choke Weber 40DCOE carburettors for a milder, but torquier tune than the TI Super – 97 hp at 5500 rpm. There was a new dashboard with two large round instruments (speedo and tacho) and clock, a sportier steering wheel with three aluminium spokes and centre horn push, similar to that of the Ti Super, later changed for one with the horn pushes in the spokes. All-around disc brakes with servo were fitted as standard from the outset. The serpent crest of the Sforza family appears in a badge on the C-pillar and is a distinguishing feature of the Super. For 1968, there was a suspension update, including revised geometry and a rear anti-roll bar. The wheels were changed in size from 5J x 15 to 5J x 14, and tyres from 155/15 to 165/14. For 1970, updates included dual-circuit brakes, centre-mounted handbrake lever to replace under-dash “umbrella handle”, larger external doorhandles, and top-hinged pedals (the latter in left hand drive models only; right hand drive continued with bottom-hinged pedals to the end of production). In 1972, Tipo 105.26 was rationalised into the Giulia 1.3 – Giulia 1.6 range. Tipo 105.39 built from 1965 to 1972. Right hand drive model replaced in 1970 by the 1300 Super. 1,290 cc engine with single down-draft carburettor for 81 hp at 6000 rpm. Unlike the re-deployed 101-series Giulietta engine of the austerity-model 1300, the 1300 ti motor was a 105 series engine, basically that of the sportier GT1300 Junior coupe with different camshaft timing (but the same camshafts) and induction system. Five-speed gearbox. Three-spoke bakelite steering wheel with plastic horn push covering the centre and spokes. Dashboard initially with strip speedo like that of the TI. For 1968, updates included a dashboard based on that of the Super, but with a simpler instrument binnacle, still featuring two large round instruments (speedo and tacho) and a separate fuel gauge, and the same suspension, wheel and tire updates applied to the Giulia Super in the same year. For 1970, updates included dual-circuit brakes, centre handbrake, larger external doorhandles and top-hinged pedals (on left hand drive cars only), again as applied to the Super for that year. Tipo 105.85 was basically a Giulia TI re-introduced in 1968 as a lower-level model to come between the 1300 and 1300 ti on one hand, and the Super on the other. It had a re-interpretation of the 1,570 cc single-carburettor engine for 94 hp at 5500 rpm and similar trim to the 1300 ti. Replaced in 1970 by the 1300 Super which offered similar performance in a lower tax bracket. The last cars from 1970 featured the top-hinged pedals, centre handbrake and dual-circuit brakes as for the Super and 1300 ti. Tipo 115.09 was introduced in 1970. It was basically a 1300 ti fitted with the engine from the GT 1300 Junior coupe that featured two double-choke horizontal carburettors; the engine actually had the GT 1300 Junior type number. This model was rationalised into the Giulia Super 1.3 – Giulia Super 1.6 range in 1972. In 1972 a rationalisation of the Giulia range saw the Super 1300 (Tipo 115.09) and the Super (Tipo 105.26) re-released as the Super 1.3 and Super 1.6. The two models featured the same equipment, interior and exterior trim, differing only in engine size (1,290 cc and 1,570 cc) and final drive ratio. The 1300 ti was dropped. A small Alfa Romeo badge on the C-pillar is a distinguishing feature, as are hubcaps with exposed wheel nuts. In December 1972 Alfa-Romeo South Africa released the 1600 Rallye. This locally developed more powerful 1600 cc version of the 1300 Super, using the 1300’s single-headlight body shell. The car was largely ready for competition and was only planned to be built in limited numbers, and was fitted with racing-style rear-view mirrors, rally lamps, fully adjustable seats, and a limited-slip differential. Claimed power was 125 hp. The Giulia Super range was re-released in 1974 as the Nuova Super range, including the Giulia Nuova Super 1300 and 1600 This and featured a new black plastic front grille and a flat boot lid without the characteristic centre spine. Otherwise the cars differed little from their Giulia Super predecessors and bore the same Tipo numbers with an S suffix. A Nuova Super fitted with a Perkins 1,760 cc diesel with 54 hp at 4000 rpm, the firm’s first attempt at diesel power. The same Perkins diesel was used also in Alfa Romeo F12 van. The diesel version was slow, 138 km/h (86 mph), and the engine somehow unsuitable for a sport sedan so it was not big seller, only around 6500 examples were made in 1976 and the car was not sold in the UK. Production of the Giulia ceased in 1977. There are relatively few of these cars in the UK, and many of these are left hand drive models which have been re-imported relatively recently, which is the case for the one example seen here, a Nuova Giulia.
A Coupe model followed a year later. It also evolved over a 14 year production life, though its history is rather easier to understand. The first car was called the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT. It was revealed at a press event held at the then newly opened Arese plant on 9 September 1963, and displayed later the same month at the Frankfurt Motor Show. In its original form the Bertone body is known as scalino (step) or “step front”, because of the leading edge of the engine compartment lid which sat 1/4 an inch above the nose of the car. The Giulia Sprint GT can be distinguished from the later models by a number of features including: Exterior badging: Alfa Romeo logo on the front grille, a chrome script reading “Giulia Sprint GT” on the boot lid, and rectangular “Disegno di Bertone” badges aft of the front wheel arches; flat, chrome grille in plain, wide rectangular mesh without additional chrome bars; single-piece chrome bumpers; no overriders. Inside the cabin the padded vinyl dashboard was characterised by a concave horizontal fascia, finished in grey anti-glare crackle-effect paint. Four round instruments were inset in the fascia in front of the driver. The steering wheel was non-dished, with three aluminium spokes, a thin bakelite rim and a centre horn button. Vinyl-covered seats with cloth centres and a fully carpeted floor were standard, while leather upholstery was an extra-cost option. After initially marketing it as a four-seater, Alfa Romeo soon changed its definition of the car to a more realistic 2+2. The Giulia Sprint GT was fitted with the 1,570 cc version of Alfa Romeo’s all-aluminium twin cam inline four (78 mm bore × 82 mm stroke), which had first debuted on the 1962 Giulia Berlina. Breathing through two twin-choke Weber 40 DCOE 4 carburettors, on the Sprint GT this engine produced 105 hp at 6,000 rpm. Like all subsequent models, the Sprint GT was equipped with an all-synchromesh 5-speed manual transmission. The braking system comprised four Dunlop disc brakes and a vacuum servo. The rear brakes featured an unusual arrangement with the slave cylinders mounted on the axle tubes, operating the calipers by a system of levers and cranks. According to Alfa Romeo the car could reach a top speed of “over 180 km/h (112 mph)”. In total 21,902 Giulia Sprint GT were produced from 1963 to 1965, when the model was superseded by the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce. Of these 2,274 were right hand drive: 1,354 cars fully finished in Arese, and 920 shipped in complete knock-down kit form for foreign assembly. For 1966, the Giulia Sprint GT was replaced by the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, which was very similar but featuring a number of improvements: a revised engine—slightly more powerful and with more torque—better interior fittings and changes to the exterior trim. Alongside the brand new 1750 Spider Veloce which shared its updated engine the Sprint GT Veloce was introduced at the 36th Geneva Motor Show in March 1966, and then tested by the international specialist press in Gardone on the Garda Lake. Production had began in 1965 and ended in 1968. The Giulia Sprint GT Veloce can be most easily distinguished from other models by the following features: badging as per Giulia Sprint GT, with the addition of round enamel badges on the C-pillar—a green Quadrifoglio (four-leaf clover) on an ivory background—and a chrome “Veloce” script on the tail panel; black mesh grille with three horizontal chrome bars; the grille heart has 7 bars instead of 6; stainless steel bumpers, as opposed to the chromed mild steel bumpers on the Giulia Sprint GT. The bumpers are the same shape, but are made in two pieces (front) and three pieces (rear) with small covers hiding the joining rivets. Inside the main changes from the Giulia Sprint GT were imitation wood dashboard fascia instead of the previous anti-glare grey finish, front seats revised to a mild “bucket” design, and a dished three aluminium spoke steering wheel, with a black rim and horn buttons through the spokes. The Veloce’s type 00536 engine, identical to the Spider 1600 Duetto’s, featured modifications compared to the Giulia Sprint GT’s type 00502—such as larger diameter exhaust valves. As a result it produced 108 hp at 6,000 rpm, an increase of 3 hp over the previous model, and significantly more torque. According to the manufacturer top speed now exceeded 185 km/h (115 mph). Early Giulia Sprint GT Veloces featured the same Dunlop disc brake system as the Giulia Sprint GT, while later cars substituted ATE disc brakes as pioneered on the GT 1300 Junior in 1966. The ATE brakes featured an handbrake system entirely separate from the pedal brakes, using drum brakes incorporated in the rear disc castings. Though the Sprint GT Veloce’s replacement—the 1750 GT Veloce—was introduced in 1967, production continued throughout the year and thirty final cars were completed in 1968. By then total Giulia Sprint GT Veloce production amounted to 14,240 examples. 1,407 of these were right hand drive cars, and 332 right hand drive complete knock-down kits. The Alfa Romeo 1750 GT Veloce (also known as 1750 GTV) appeared in 1967 along with the 1750 Berlina sedan and 1750 Spider. The same type of engine was used to power all three versions; this rationalisation was a first for Alfa Romeo. The 1750 GTV replaced the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce and introduced many updates and modifications. Most significantly, the engine capacity was increased to 1779 cc displacement. Peak power from the engine was increased to 120 hp at 5500 rpm. The stroke was lengthened from 82 to 88.5 mm over the 1600 engine, and a reduced rev limit from 7000 rpm to 6000 rpm. Maximum torque was increased to 186 N·m (137 lb·ft) at 3000 rpm. A higher ratio final drive was fitted (10/41 instead of 9/41) but the same gearbox ratios were retained. The result was that, on paper, the car had only slightly improved performance compared to the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, but on the road it was much more flexible to drive and it was easier to maintain higher average speeds for fast touring. For the United States market, the 1779 cc engine was fitted with a fuel injection system made by Alfa Romeo subsidiary SPICA, to meet emission control laws that were coming into effect at the time. Fuel injection was also featured on Canadian market cars after 1971. Carburettors were retained for other markets. The chassis was also significantly modified. Tyre size went to 165/14 from 155/15 and wheel size to 5 1/2J x 14 instead of 5J x 15, giving a wider section and slightly smaller rolling diameter. The suspension geometry was also revised, and an anti-roll bar was fitted to the rear suspension. ATE disc brakes were fitted from the outset, but with bigger front discs and calipers than the ones fitted to GT 1300 Juniors and late Giulia Sprint GT Veloces. The changes resulted in significant improvements to the handling and braking, which once again made it easier for the driver to maintain high average speeds for fast touring. The 1750 GTV also departed significantly from the earlier cars externally. New nose styling eliminated the “stepped” bonnet of the Giulia Sprint GT, GTC, GTA and early GT 1300 Juniors and incorporated four headlamps. For the 1971 model year, United States market 1750 GTV’s also featured larger rear light clusters (there were no 1970 model year Alfas on the US market). Besides the chrome “1750” badge on the bootlid, there was also a round Alfa Romeo badge. Similar Quadrofoglio badges to those on the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce were fitted on C pillars, but the Quadrofoglio was coloured gold instead of green. The car also adopted the higher rear wheelarches first seen on the GT 1300 Junior. The interior was also much modified over that of earlier cars. There was a new dashboard with large speedometer and tachometer instruments in twin binnacles closer to the driver’s line of sight. The instruments were mounted at a more conventional angle, avoiding the reflections caused by the upward angled flat dash of earlier cars. Conversely, auxiliary instruments were moved to angled bezels in the centre console, further from the driver’s line of sight than before. The new seats introduced adjustable headrests which merged with the top of the seat when fully down. The window winder levers, the door release levers and the quarterlight vent knobs were also restyled. The remote release for the boot lid, located on the inside of the door opening on the B-post just under the door lock striker, was moved from the right hand side of the car to the left hand side. The location of this item was always independent of whether the car was left hand drive or right hand drive. Early (Series 1) 1750 GTV’s featured the same bumpers as the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, with the front bumper modified to mount the indicator / sidelight units on the top of its corners, or under the bumper on US market cars. The Series 2 1750 GTV of 1970 introduced other mechanical changes, including a dual circuit braking system (split front and rear, with separate servos). The brake and clutch pedals on left hand drive cars were also of an improved pendant design, instead of the earlier floor-hinged type. On right hand drive cars the floor-hinged pedals were retained, as there was no space for the pedal box behind the carburettors. Externally, the series 2 1750 GTV is identified by new, slimmer bumpers with front and rear overriders. The combined front indicator and sidelight units were now mounted to the front panel instead of the front bumper, except again on the 1971-72 US/Canadian market cars. The interior was slightly modified, with the seats retaining the same basic outline but following a simpler design. 44,269 1750 GTVs were made before their replacement came along. That car was the 2000GTV. Introduced in 1971, together with the 2000 Berlina sedan and 2000 Spider, the 2 litre cars were replacements for the 1750 range. The engine displacement was increased to 1962 cc. Oil and radiator capacities remained unchanged. The North American market cars had fuel injection, but everyone else retained carburettors. Officially, both versions generated the same power, 130 hp at 5500 rpm. The interior trim was changed, with the most notable differences being the introduction of a separate instrument cluster, instead of the gauges installed in the dash panel in earlier cars. Externally the 2000 GTV is most easily distinguished by its grille with horizontal chrome bars, featuring protruding blocks forming the familiar Alfa heart in outline, smaller hubcaps with exposed wheel nuts, optional aluminium alloy wheels of the same size as the standard 5. 1/2J × 14 steel items, styled to the “turbina” design first seen on the alloy wheels of the Alfa Romeo Montreal, and the larger rear light clusters first fitted to United States market 1750 GTV’s were standard for all markets. From 1974 on, the 105 Series coupé models were rationalised and these external features became common to post-1974 GT 1300 Junior and GT 1600 Junior models, with only few distinguishing features marking the difference between models. 37,459 2000 GTVs were made before production ended and these days they are very sought after with prices having sky-rocketed in recent years. There were several of these cars here, mostly from the later production, with a number of 1750 GTV, 2000 GTV, and a GT Junior 1600.
Alfa replaced the Giulia-based Spider model with an all-new design which finally made its debut in 1966 together with the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce at an event organised in Gardone Riviera. With its boat tailed styling, it quickly found favour, even before taking a starring role in the film “The Graduate”. The original 1600cc engine was replaced by a more powerful 1750cc unit at the same time as the change was made to the rest of the range, and the car continued like this until 1970, when the first significant change to the exterior styling was introduced on the 1750 Spider Veloce, with the original’s distinctive elongated round tail changed to a more conventional cut-off tail, called the “Kamm tail”, as well as improving the luggage space. Numerous other small changes took place both inside and out, such as a slightly different grille, new doorhandles, a more raked windscreen, top-hinged pedals and improved interior trim. 1971 saw the Spider Veloce get a new, larger powerplant—a 1962 cc, 132 hp unit—and consequently the name was changed from 1750 Spider Veloce to 2000 Spider Veloce. The 1600 Spider restarted production a year later as the Spider 1600 Junior, and was visually identical to the 1300. 1974 saw the introduction of the rare, factory request, Spider-Targa. Based upon the Spider, it featured a Porsche style solid rear window and lift out roof panels, all made out of black GRP type material. Less than 2,000 models of such type were ever made and was the only part solid roof Spider until the introduction of the factory crafted hard top. The 1300 and 2000 cars were modified in 1974 and 1975 respectively to include two small seats behind the front seats, becoming a “two plus two” four seater. The 1300 model was discontinued in 1977. Also, between 1974 and 1976, the early-style stainless-steel bumpers were discontinued and replaced with black, rubber-clad units to meet increasingly stringent North American crash requirements. 4,557 examples of the 1300 Junior were made and 4,848 of the 1600 Junior as well as 16,320 2000 Spider Veloces and 22,059 of 2000 Spider Veloce US version. There were also 4,027 1750 Spider Veloces produced.
The Series 3 Spider was previewed in North America for the 1982 model year with the introduction of 2.0 litre Bosch electronic fuel injection to replace the SPICA mechanical injection. The Spider underwent a major styling revamp in 1983, which saw the introduction of black rubber front and rear bumpers. The front bumper incorporated the grille and a small soft rubber spoiler was added to the trunk lid. The change altered the exterior appearance of the car considerably and was not universally praised by enthusiasts. Various other minor mechanical and aesthetic modifications were also made, and the 1600 car (never available in North America) dropped the “Junior” name. The Quadrifoglio Verde (Green Cloverleaf) model was introduced in 1986, with many aesthetic tweaks, including sideskirts, mirrors, new front and rear spoilers, hard rubber boot mounted spoilers with integral 3rd stoplight, unique 15″ alloys and optional removable hardtop. Different interior trim included blood red carpets and grey leather seats with red stitching. The QV was offered in only 3 colours: red, silver and black. It was otherwise mechanically identical to the standard Spider Veloce model, with a 1962 cc double overhead cam, four-cylinder engine (twin two-barrel carburettors in Europe; North American models retained the Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection introduced for the 1982 model year except that the VVT mechanism was now L-Jet activated) and five-speed manual transmission. The interior was revised with a new centre console, lower dash panels (to meet U.S. regulations) and a single monopod gauge cluster (with electronic gauges). For the North American market a model dubbed the Graduate was added in tribute to the car’s famous appearance in the 1967 film, The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman. The Graduate was intended as a less expensive “entry-level” Alfa. While it had the same engine and transmission as the Quadrifoglio and Veloce, it lacked the alloy wheels and luxury features of the other two models. The Graduate model had manual windows, basic vinyl seats, a vinyl top, and steel wheels as standard. Air conditioning and a dealer-installed radio were the only options. It first appeared in 1985 in North America and continued until 1990. Minor changes occurred from 1986 to 89, including new paint colours, a centre high mount stop lamp midway through 1986 for North American models, a move away from the fade-prone brown carpet and new turn signal levers. Some 1988 models featured automatic seatbelts that extended from a large device between the front seats.
The S4, the final major change to the long running Spider came in 1990, and mechanically, the biggest different was the use of Bosch Motronic electronic fuel injection with an electric fan. Externally, the Spider lost its front under-bumper spoiler and the rather ungainly rear boot spoiler of the S3, and picked up 164-style rear lights stretching across the width of the car as well as plastic bumpers the same colour as the car. This also marked the first generation of the car with automatic transmission, as well as on-board diagnostics capabilities. The car had remained in production largely thanks to continued demand in North America, though this market had to wait until 1991 for the changes to appear on their cars. European markets were offered a car with a 1600cc engine and carburettors as well as the 2 litre injected unit. Production finally ended in 1993, with an all new model, the 916 Series Spider appearing a year later. The S4 car was not officially sold in the UK, but plenty have found their way to our shores since then.
The 1750 and 2000 Berlina models are largely ignored these days in favour of the GTV models, and whereas you would also say the Coupe cars are genuinely pretty whereas the Berlina is, in its own rather boxy way, more of an elegant car, it still seems a shame to me that this car is so little known outside Alfa enthusiast circles. With the commercially unsuccessful 2600 Berlina out of production, Alfa’s only Saloon car of the mid 1960s was the Giulia, and it was clear that they needed something larger to compete against the Ford Corsair, BMW 2000 and Lancia Flavia, the result being the 1750 Berlina which as introduced in Italy in January 1968, along with the 1750 engined versions of the established GT Veloce Coupé and Spider Veloce. Based on the Giulia saloon, which continued in production, and indeed would outlast its larger sibling, the 1750 had a longer wheelbase and revised external panels, but it shared many of the same internal panels and the windscreen. The revisions were carried out by Bertone, and while it resembled the Giulia some of that vehicle’s distinctive creases were smoothed out, and there were significant changes to the trim details. The car’s taillights were later used on the De Tomaso Longchamp. The new car had a 1,779 cc twin-carb engine which produced 116 hp with the help of twin carburettors on European cars and SPICA fuel injection in the US. There was a hydraulic clutch. In 1971, the 1750 Berlina was fitted with an experimental three-speed ZF automatic gearbox. The model designation was 1750A Berlina. The automatic gearbox wasn’t well-suited to the four-cylinder motor due to baulky shifting and ill-chosen gear ratio. Because of this, its fuel consumption was frighteningly high and acceleration was a bit too slow. According to official Alfa Romeo archives, just 252 of these were produced with very few surviving to this day. During 1971 the 1750 series was superceded across the Alfa Romeo range by the 2000 series; creating, in this case, the 2000 Berlina. Key difference was a larger engine, bored and stroked out to 1,962 cc. With two carburettors, this 2 litre Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine produced 130 hp, giving a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph) and 0-100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration took 9 seconds. The gearbox was a 5-speed manual though the 3-speed automatic was also offered. A different grille distinguishes the 2000 from 1750, and the lights were also changed. The 1750 had 7 inch diameter outboard headlights, whereas on the 2000 all four units were of 5 3/4 inch diameter. The tail light clusters were also of a simpler design on the 1750. . In USA this engine was equipped with mechanical fuel injection.. A direct replacement for the car in the 1.8-litre saloon class came that same year, in the form of the all-new Alfa Romeo Alfetta, though the two models ran in parallel for the next five years and it was only in 1977 with the launch of the Alfetta 2000, that the 2000 Berlina was finally discontinued. version, replaced the 2000 Berlina. Total sales of the 1750/2000 amounted to 191,000 units over a 10 year production life, 89,840 of these being 2000 Berlinas, of which just 2.200 units were fitted with the automatic gearbox. You don’t see these cars that often, though of those left in the UK, Ian Jephcott’s metallic green 2000 which was here pops up at plenty of events. It was nice to see a second example to join it.
It was nice to see a number of AlfaSud models here, almost all of them the more sporting Ti version. These characterful small cars evoke a very positive reaction, with many people wistfully recollecting one that they, or their parents, owned back in the 1970s, but observing that the car, whilst divine to drive, simply rusted away almost before your very eyes. There are a lot more of these cars left in the UK than you might imagine, but most of them are on SORN, needing massive restorations that may or may not ever happen. That should not detract from the splendour of the models on show at this event. 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 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 an 1,186 cc Boxer 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 a low bonnet line, making it very aerodynamic (for its day), and in addition gave 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 roadholding and handling that would not be equaled in its class for another ten years. Despite its two-box shape, the Alfasud did not initially have a hatchback. 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.
In November 1973 the first 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 engine, brought to 67 hp by adopting a Weber twin-choke carburettor; the small saloon could reach 160 km/h. 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 were a three-spoke steering wheel, auxiliary gauges, leatherette/cloth seats, and carpets in place of rubber mats. 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. Recognisable by its bumper overriders and chrome strips on the door sills and on the tail, the Lusso was better appointed than the standard Alfasud (now known as “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. It had the same equipment of the Alfasud “L”. It was never sold in the UK and these models are particularly rare now. The Lusso model was produced until 1976, by then it was replaced with 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 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 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 two-tone cloth seats. Similar upgrades were applied to the Giardinetta. In May 1978 the Sprint and “ti” got new engines, a 78 hp 1.3 (1,350 cc) and a 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 a single-choke carburettor. All Alfasuds were upgraded in 1980 with plastic bumpers, new instrument panel, headlamps and rear lights as well as other revisions. The Ti version was now fitted with a twin-carburettor version of the 1490 cc engine that had been fitted to the Sprint the previous year, developing 95 bhp 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 this 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 this size, although some also produced a saloon alternative. The range was topped by the five-door Gold Cloverleaf, featuring the 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 Now named Quadrifoglio Verde (Green Cloverleaf) this model was also fitted with Michelin low profile TRX tyres on metric rims as well as an enhanced level of equipment. The five-door Alfasud saloons were replaced by the 33 models in 1983. The 33 was an evolution of the AlfaSud’s floorpan and running gear, including minor suspension changes and a change from four-wheel disc brakes to front disc and rear drum brakes to reduce costs. 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.
There was a much longer wait for a Coupe version of the AlfaSud than there had been for the larger Alfetta, the Alfasud Sprint being presented to the press in September 1976 in Baia Domizia and shown at the Turin Motor Show in November some five years after the launch of the saloon. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro like the AlfaSud, whose mechanicals it was based on, it had a lower, more angular design, featuring a hatchback, although there were no folding rear seats. The AlfaSud Sprint was assembled together with the AlfaSud in the Pomigliano d’Arco plant, located in southern Italy—hence the original “Sud” moniker. Under the Alfasud Sprint’s bonnet there was a new version of the AlfaSud’s 1186 cc four-cylinder boxer engine, stroked to displace 1,286 cc, fed by a twin-choke carburettor and developing 75 hp at 6,000 rpm. Mated to the flat-four was a five-speed, all-synchromesh gearbox. The interior was upholstered in dark brown Texalfa leatherette and tartan cloth. Options were limited to alloy wheels, a quartz clock and metallic paint. In May 1978 the AlfaSud Sprint underwent its first updates, both cosmetic and technical. Engine choice was enlarged to two boxers, shared with the renewed AlfaSud ti, a 78 hp 1.3 (1,350 cc) and a 84 hp 1.5 (1,490 cc); the earlier 1286 cc unit was not offered anymore, remaining exclusive to the AlfaSud. Outside many exterior details were changed from chrome to matte black stainless steel or plastic, such as the wing mirrors, window surrounds and C-pillar ornaments; the B-pillar also received a black finish, the side repeaters changed position and became square, and the front turn signals switched from white to amber lenses. In the cabin the seats had more pronounced bolsters and were upholstered in a new camel-coloured fabric. Just one year later, in June 1979, another engine update arrived and the AlfaSud Sprint became the AlfaSud Sprint Veloce. Thanks to double twin-choke carburettors (each choke feeding a single cylinder) and a higher compression ratio engine output increased to 85 hp and 94 hp, respectively for the 1.3 and 1.5. In February 1983 Alfa Romeo updated all of its sports cars; the Sprint received a major facelift. Thereafter the AlfaSud prefix and Veloce suffix were abandoned, and the car was known as Alfa Romeo Sprint; this also in view of the release of the Alfa Romeo 33, which a few months later replaced the AlfaSud family hatchback. The Sprint also received a platform upgrade, which was now the same as that of the Alfa Romeo 33; this entailed modified front suspension, brakes mounted in the wheels instead of inboard like on the AlfaSud, and drum brakes at the rear end. Three models made up the Sprint range: 1.3 and 1.5, with engines and performance unchanged from the AlfaSud Sprint Veloce, and the new 1.5 Quadrifoglio Verde—1.5 Cloverleaf in the UK. A multitude of changes were involved in the stylistic refresh; there were a new grille, headlamps, wing mirrors, window surrounds and C-pillar ornaments. Bumpers went from chrome to plastic, and large plastic protective strips were added to the body sides; both sported coloured piping, which was grey for 1.3 cars, red for the 1.5 and green for the 1.5 Quadrifoglio. At the rear new trapezoidal tail light assemblies were pieced together with the license plate holder by a black plastic fascia, topped by an Alfa Romeo badge—never present on the AlfaSud Sprint. In the cabin there were new seats with cloth seating surfaces and Texalfa backs, a new steering wheel and changes to elements of the dashboard and door panels. Sprint 1.3 and 1.5 came with steel wheels with black hubcaps from the AlfaSud ti. The newly introduced 1.5 Quadrifoglio Verde sport variant was shown at the March 1983 Geneva Motor Show. Its engine was the 1,490 cc boxer, revised to put out 104 hp at 6,000 rpm; front brake discs were vented and the gearing shorter. In addition to the green bumper piping, also specific to the Quadrifoglio were a green instead of chrome scudetto in the front grille, a rear spoiler and 8-hole grey painted alloy wheels with metric Michelin TRX 190/55 tyres. Inside a three-spoke leather-covered steering wheel, green carpets and sport seats in black cloth with green embroidery. In November 1987 the Sprint was updated for the last time; the 1.3 variant was carried over, while the 1.5 engine was phased out and the 1.5 QV was superseded by the 116 hp Sprint 1.7 Quadrifoglio Verde. The 1,286 cc engine was directly derived from the 33 1.7 Quadrifoglio Verde, and could propel the Sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.3 seconds; to cope with the increased engine power, the 1.7 QV adopted vented brake discs upfront. the coloured piping and side plastic strips were deleted, and the Quadrifoglio had alloy wheels of a new design. A fuel injected and 3-way Catalytic converter-equipped 1.7 variant, with an engine again derived from a 33, was added later for sale in specific markets. There were a total of 116,552 Sprints produced during its lifespan, which lasted from 1976 to 1989. 15 of these formed the basis of the Australian-built Giocattolo sports car, which used a mid-mounted Holden 5.0 group A V8 engine. The Sprint had no direct predecessor or successor.
There were no Alfetta Berlina models here, but there were several of its Coupe derivative, the Alfetta GT and GTV. As was still the practice in the 1970s, Alfa followed up the launch of the Alfetta Berlina with a very pretty coupe. Styled by Giugiaro, this car, initially called the GT, and premiered in the autumn of 1974, looked completely unlike the saloon on which it was based. The first cars had 1.8 litre four cylinder engines and there was one of those on show. In 1976 the range was expanded both up and down with a 1.6 and a 2.0 model, the latter adopting the legendary GTV name. A rare SE model from this period was part of the display, complete with period vinyl roof (look closely), and although the pain does appear a bit like a lot of older Alfa reds, having gone rather pink, this was the actual shade when the car was new. In 1981, with the 2.5 litre V6 engine that had been developed for the ill-fated Alfa 6 luxury saloon available, Alfa was able to create a true rival for the 2.8 litre Capri with the GTV6. A facelift modernised the look of the car with plastic bumpers front and rear and a new interior looked rather better as well as being more ergonomically logical. There was a good mix of the earlier chrome bumpered and later plastic bumpered models, the last with 2.0 and 2.5 GTV6 versions both represented. There was also a car sporting 3.0 badging and right hand drive. This is a South African car. From 1974 South African Alfetta’s were manufactured at Alfa Romeo’s own Brits plant. South Africa was one of two markets to have a turbocharged GTV6, with a Garrett turbocharger and a NACA intake. An estimated 750 were assembled before all production ceased in 1986. The South African range included a 3.0 litre GTV-6, predating the international debut of the factory’s 3.0 litre engine in 1987 (for the Alfa 75). and 212 of these were built in South Africa for racing homologation. The last 6 GTV-6 3.0’s were fuel injected. To this day, the GTV-6 remains the quintessential Alfa Romeo for South Africans.
Those who attend events in the Bristol(ish) area are frequently treated to the sight of Nick Grange’s Alfa 33, one of a handful of survivors of Alfa’s medium-sized hatch that was introduced as a replacement for the much loved AlfaSud. It is only at sizeable gatherings of Italian cars that you ever see any other examples of the model. Needless to say, this was just such an occasion, with around 10 survivors here. Despite the low survival rate, believe it or not, the 33 is actually the best selling Alfa in history, with just under a million of them sold between 1983 and 1994. One reason why precious few seem to have survived is that the 33 struggled even new to gain the affections of the enthusiasts in the way that the model’s predecessor, the AlfaSud, did, so when rust and old age came on, the vast majority of the cars were simply scrapped. There were two distinct generations of the 33. The first ran from 1983 until 1990 and then a major facelift was applied with new front and rear styling to bring the looks more into line with the new 164. A mild facelift was applied to the first 905 series cars in late 1986. Exterior alterations were limited to clear indicator lens, wheel covers and alloy wheels of new design, the adoption of side skirts on all models, and a new front grille. Two-tone paint schemes were discontinued. There were more significant changes inside, with a more conventionally designed dashboard and steering wheel, which superseded the innovative moveable instrument binnacle. All 1.5 variants now had the 105 PS engine from the now discontinued 1.5 QV; a TI (Turismo Internazionale) trim level was exclusive to the front-wheel drive 1.5 hatchback. Changes were made to the suspension, brakes and gearbox, with closer-spaced ratios. A new 1,712 cc 116 bhp engine was introduced on the 1.7 Quadrifoglio Verde, which replaced the 1.5 QV. The 1.7 engine was developed from the 1.5 by enlarging bore and stroke; it also used new cylinder heads, incorporating hydraulic tappets. To cope with the increased power the new QV was equipped with vented front brake discs. The 1.7 QV looked close to its predecessor, but had lost the grey mid-body stripe and gained new alloy wheels, wind deflectors on the front windows, more pronounced side skirts and a rear body-colour spoiler on the boot lid. Inside it featured a leather-covered steering wheel, red carpets, and leatherette-backed sport seats upholstered in a grey/black/red chequered cloth. Diesel models were offered in some continental markets, but these were not sold in the UK, where only 1.5 and 1.7 Green Cloverleaf hatchback models were sold, as well as a market-specific 1.7 Sportwagon estate; all three were also available in “Veloce” versions, outfitted by Alfa Romeo GB with a colour-matching Zender body kit. After the big showing of 33s at the Spring Alfa Day, at this event there were far fewer cars present, reflecting the low survival rate of the model. Nick Grange’s much Veloce model was conspicuous by its absence, as he had come in his (also nice) white 156 V6 instead, leaving just a couple of facelift models to present here.
Having seen it earlier, there was ample chance to have a closer look at the Cherry Europe. The car was the result of a 50:50 joint venture between Alfa Romeo S.p.A. and Nissan Motor Company, which gave us a new company, Alfa Romeo Nissan Autoveicoli S.p.A, which was founded on 9th October 1980. The idea was, despite political and auto-industry opposition, to bolster the fortunes of the state-owned manufacturer, which had a cult following but was losing money. The immediate priority of Alfa management, including Massacesi and managing director Corrado Innocenti was to field a competitor in the increasingly lucrative family hatchback market sector where the compact Volkswagen Golf and Lancia Delta were proving successful, and they hoped an alliance with Nissan would bring a competitive model to market quicker and more cheaply. During that period, European countries were engaging in protectionism to guard their domestic car industries, with France even banning the import of Japanese-made vehicles. Working with Alfa Romeo, who controlled a respectable amount of European auto sales at the time was seen as a good hedge for Nissan and a chance to establish a foothold in the European market. For the joint venture, a new plant was constructed in Pratola Serra, near Naples. The body panels of the car were constructed in Japan by Nissan, then shipped to Italy for final assembly. The product of the relationship was launched at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show; the car’s name was an acronym meaning Alfa Romeo Nissan Autoveicoli. The Arna was essentially a twin of the N12 series Nissan Pulsar / Nissan Cherry, already on sale in Europe, but which would be known as the Nissan Cherry Europe when sold with Alfa Romeo engines. These were carried over from the Alfasud. and were initially limited to the Alfasud 1.2 boxer engine (63 PS), but in 1984, a 3-door TI version, with an 86 PS 1.3 litre boxer-four engine, was introduced, which was capable of reaching 170 km/h (110 mph) top speed. Later, there were also some TI trim cars built with 1.5 litre engines, sold also as the Nissan Cherry Europe GTI. The cars had an Alfa transmission and front suspension, but used independent rear suspension from Nissan. Alfa-badged cars were offered in S and SL trim. Italian-built cars badged as Nissan Cherry Europe can be readily identified by their rear lighting clusters, which match those of the Arna rather than the Japanese-built Cherry. It soon became obvious that the Arna exhibited the worst qualities of each of its parents, with tempestuous mechanicals and indifferent build quality courtesy of Alfa Romeo, married to a Nissan body of questionable build and frumpy styling, with insipid handling common to Japanese cars of the time. This mismatch of technical strengths served to kill the sales of the Arna very rapidly. By 1986, Alfa Romeo’s parent company, the Italian-government owned Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale was suffering from heavy losses, and IRI president Romano Prodi put Alfa Romeo up for sale, with Fiat ultimately emerging as the new owner of Alfa. Fiat’s first decision was to cease Arna production owing to its poor reputation and poor sales, and to terminate the unsuccessful Alfa Romeo-Nissan alliance. Production ceased in 1987, with Fiat intending to strengthen the competitiveness of the Alfa Romeo 33 as Alfa’s entry in that segment. Accordingly, it is perhaps no surprise that so few survive.
It is well documented on this site that I had the pleasure of driving an Alfa 164 for 4 years and 160,000 miles and that I regret parting with this car more than any other of the fleet that I have owned over the years. So it is always a joy to see examples of the remaining models, And sadly there are not that many of them in the UK. Much to my delight there were a number of them here. Most people who know anything about the history of the 164 will be aware that this is one of 4 of the so-called Type 4 cars, a join venture involving Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Saab. In 1978 these four marques jointly agreed to each develop an executive saloon based on a shared platform to compete against the likes of the Ford Granada and Opel Rekord (Vauxhall Carlton) as well as more premium saloons by BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the form of the 5-Series and E-Class, respectively. Alfa’s Project 164 started life as Project 154 and was completed in 1981, then still under Alfa Romeo. A year later, that project morphed into the 164 based on the Type Four platform. This new model was designed by Enrico Fumia of Pininfarina, with a wedge shape that afforded it a leading drag coefficient of Cd=0.30. The design would later influence the rest of the Alfa Romeo range starting in 1990 with the major redesign of the 33 and culminating with the 155, and Pininfarina also adapted it (much to the maker’s chagrin) for the 1987 Peugeot 405 and the 1989 Peugeot 605 saloons. Initial testing of the 164’s dynamic elements (engine and drivetrain) began in 1984, where mules based on the then contemporary Giulietta were used. In 1985, the first pre-production 164’s were put through their paces on the road. Heavily disguised, with many false panels and even a false nose design (borrowing heavily from the then equally undeveloped 155), sporting 4 round headlamps, these vehicle mules served to test the 164 for the gruelling 1 million kilometre static and road testing demanded of the design. In 1986 and 1987, the first 150 164’s were given their pre-production testing. In terms of engineering demands, these exceeded every Alfa before, and by quite a substantial margin. In Morocco, desert testing saw 5 grey 164 Twinsparks and V6’s undergo the equivalent of the Paris-Dakar rally. Road conditions varied from good tarmac to off-road conditions, and accelerometers confirmed the superiority of the 164 in terms of passenger comfort. This data was cross-confirmed in the engineering laboratory with a sophisticated dummy in the driver’s seat, with accelerometers both in its seat, and in its ears to mimic that of the semi-circular canals of the ear. The Twinspark and the V6 underwent handling trials at Arese. The Twinspark displayed very mature driving manners at the limit, with minimal skid. The V6 displayed a 25% increase in at-the-limit skid, a natural consequence of its greater nose weight. ABS testing confirmed that the Twinspark has superior braking to the V6. Brake linings of the 164’s were run at maximum braking until they literally glowed with heat, and displayed no deviation in form. The 164 was the first Alfa to feature slotted double-walled disc brakes. At no point were the discs drilled to release excess heat, the original design being demonstrated to be excellent. Sound production was tested in an anechoic chamber, the car being subjected to stress and road noise testing, with instruments and with live subjects at the wheel, on a specially designed rig. Electromagnetic stability of the complex electronic system was also tested, in an anechoic chamber equipped with EM emitters (radar). The 164 engines were run to destruction, the Twinspark proving to be the most robust, and with the longest possible engine life. The V6 displayed only 10% shorter overall engine life. All this testing meant that by the time the production car, called the 164 was unveiled at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show – the last model to be developed while the Alfa Romeo was still a fully independent company, even though the launch was a few months after the takeover by Fiat – that the car was far more thoroughly developed and tested than any Alfa preceding it. There were plenty of innovations in the build, too, thanks to the extensive use of galvanised steel for the frame and various body panels for the first time in the brand’s history. Moreover, the car featured advanced electronics thanks to the most complex wiring harness fitted to any Alfa Romeo. For example: it had three onboard computers (one for air conditioning, one for instrumentation, and one for the engine management); air conditioning and instrument functions shared a multiple-mode coded Zilog Z80-class microcontroller for dashboard functioning). The instrumentation included a full range of gauges including an advanced check-panel.. The car was a sensation at launch. For a start, it looked fantastic thanks to Enrico Fumia of Pininfarina’ design. The first 1:1 scale model of the car had been produced in 1982 and design cues had been publicly revealed on the Alfa Romeo Vivace concept car, which was exhibited at the 1986 Turin Motorshow that went on to influence the design of the Alfa Romeo GTV and Spider (916 series) launched in 1993, but the result was distinctive and elegant and very different from any of its rivals, or indeed any of the other Tipo 4 cars. The 164 became the first Alfa to benefit from extensive use of computer aided design, used to calculate structural stresses that resulted in a very rigid but still relatively lightweight chassis. Although sharing the same platform as that of the Lancia Thema, Fiat Croma and Saab 9000, by virtue of the fact that it was the last of the four to enter production, it featured unique front suspension geometry and the most distinctive styling of the lot. In fact, for example, the other cars all shared identical side door panels. Though still voluminous, the 164 had the tightest aperture to the boot, which had a 510-Litre capacity. The interior was spacious and modern, available with standard velour seating or leather trim depending on the model. Its dashboard continued the avantgarde design of the exterior with a centre dashboard that was dominated by a large number of seemingly identical buttons arranged in rows. Air-direction within the ventilation system was controlled by a pair of servomechanisms, which were constructed using notoriously fragile plastic gears that were prone to failure (prompting at least one aftermarket company to develop metal replacement parts). Depending on the model, the 164 could feature automatic climate control and electronically controlled damping suspension – the latter, for example, in the sports-oriented Quadrifoglio Verde (“Green Cloverleaf “) and 164S models. This suspension actively reduced damping in response to conditions to provide a dynamic compromise between road holding and comfort. At launch, the original 164 range comprised three models: a 148 bhp 2.0 Twin Spark, the 192 bhp 3.0i V6 12-valve and a 2.5 Turbodiesel (badged “TD”). It took a year before the first cars reached the UK and the first eighteen months saw only the 3 litre model offered. The bigger selling 2.0 TS arrived in the simmer of 1990, just before the range was expanded by the 4-cylinder 2.0i Turbo, the sports-oriented 3.0i V6 Quadrifoglio Verde (badged “QV” or “S”) and North American export versions that included the luxury-oriented 164 L (“L” for Lusso in Italian) and the 164 S (in essence, the “QV”). Apart from minor running production upgrades, the next change came in 1993 with the launch of the 164 Super. Key differences on the outside consisted of larger bumpers with chrome trimmings added to the upper edge and revised headlights with a slimmer profile. Inside, there were revised instruments and a centre console that featured more delineated switchgear. The range was now also bolstered by a 3.0 V6 24V with a 24-valve engine upgrade and the 3.0 V6 Quadrifoglio 4 (badged “Q4”), which was the most powerful and sole all wheel drive variant built. Production ended in late 1997, with a gap of nearly two years before the replacement mode would go on sale. There are disappointingly few survivors, so it was good to see a handful of really nice 164s here.
It was more than 10 years after the Montreal had ceased production before Alfa offered another high-end and costly Coupe model, and the result, seen for the first time in 1989, could hardly have been more different than its forebear. That car had been praised for its looks, whereas this one, the SZ, and cruelly nicknamed “Il Mostro”, was almost wilfully, well, “different”. First seen at the 1989 Geneva Show, the car was also first shown simply as a concept, called the ES-30, for Experimental Sports car 3 litre. It was produced by Zagato. Robert Opron of the Fiat design studio was responsible for the initial sketches while Antonio Castellana was largely responsible for the final styling details and interior. Only the ‘Z’ logo of Zagato was kept. The car possessed unusual headlights positioned in a trio on each side – a styling used more subtly on later Alfa Romeos in the 2000s. Mechanically and engine-wise, the car was based on the Alfa 75, production being carried out by Zagato at Terrazzano di Rho near the Alfa factory in Arese. The thermoplastic injection moulded composite body panels were produced by Italian company Carplast and French company Stratime Cappelo Systems. The suspension was taken from the Alfa 75 Group A/IMSA car, and modified by Giorgio Pianta, engineer and team manager of the Lancia and Fiat rally works team. A hydraulic damper system was made by Koni. The SZ was originally equipped with Pirelli P Zero tyres (front 205/55 ZR 16, rear 225/50 ZR 16) and is able to sustain over 1.1 G in cornering, some drivers have measured a cornering force of 1.4 G, which remains an excellent performance figure. Low volume production got underway late in 1989, and over the next three years, 1036 were built, slightly more than planned. With the exception of a black car made for Zagato, all of them were red. Subsequently a convertible version, the RZ (for Roadster Zagato), was produced from 1992 until December 1994. Although almost identical to look at the two cars had completely different body panels save for the front wings and boot. The RZ had a revised bumper and door sills to give better ground clearance and the bonnet no longer featured the aggressive ridges. Three colours were available as standard: black yellow and red, with black and yellow being the more popular choices. Yellow and red cars got a black leather interior and black cars burgundy. Although the interior layout was almost unchanged from the SZ, the RZ had a painted central console that swept up between the seats to conceal the convertible roof storage area. 350 units were planned but production was halted after 252 units when the Zagato factory producing the cars for Alfa Romeo went in to receivership, a further 32 cars were then completed under the control of the receivers before production finished at 284 units. Of those final three were painted silver with burgundy interior and another pearlescent white.
There is quite a following for the 155 these days, so it was surprising not to see more of these rather boxy saloons here. The 155 was one of a series of cars built by the Fiat Group on a shared platform, the so called Tipo 3 or Tipo Tre, which sat under the Fiat Tipo, and Lancia Delta 2, as well as the Fiat Coupe. Built to replace the rear wheel drive 75, the 155 was somewhat larger in dimension than its predecessor. The 155 was designed by Italian design house I.DE.A Institute which achieved an exceptional drag coefficient of 0.29, and the rather boxy design gave the car a sizeable boot, as well. The single most significant technical change from the 75 was the change to a front-wheel drive layout. This new configuration gave cost and packaging benefits but many Alfa die-hards and the automotive press lamented the passing of the “purer” rear-wheel drive layout on a car from this sporting marque. Not even the availability of the 155 Q4, which had a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and a permanent four-wheel drive powertrain, both derived from the Lancia Delta Integrale; making the car essentially a Lancia Delta Integrale with a different body was enough to win the sceptics over. Reception of the model was generally lukewarm. The 75 had been conceived prior to Fiat’s acquisition of the Alfa brand, so as “the last real Alfa” it cast rather a shadow over the 155; the loss of rear-wheel drive was frequently cited as the main cause of the disappointment. Nevertheless, the 155 was entered in Touring Car racing and was successful in every major championship it entered, which gradually improved its image. Belatedly, the factory introduced a wider version in 1995 (the “wide-body”) which as well as a wider track and revised steering based on racing experience or requirements, also brought in new 16-valve engines for the 1.8 and 2.0-litre whilst retaining the 2.5 V6 and making some improvements to cabin materials and build quality. There were several Sport Packs available, including a race-inspired body kit (spoiler and side skirts) and black or graphite-coloured 16-inch Speedline wheels. The more genteel could opt for the Super which came with wood inserts in the cabin and silver-painted alloy wheels. With this version, the 155 really came good. When production ceased in 1998, following the launch of the 156, 192,618 examples had been built.
When it came to replacing the 33, Alfa decided that they needed not just a five door hatch, but a three door as well, just as had been offered with the AlfaSud. The three door model, the Alfa Romeo 145 (Tipo 930A) was first to appear, making its debut on static display at the April 1994 Turin Motor Show and then at the Paris Motor Show in July. A simultaneous European commercial launch was planned for 9 September, but it was delayed until October. It was only in April 1992 that work had begun on a second car, the 146 or Tipo 930B, derived from and to be sold alongside the 145; with its more traditionally Alfa Romeo style it was aimed at a different clientele, that of the outgoing Alfa Romeo 33. The 146 premiéred in November 1994 at the Bologna Motor Show and went on sale in May 1995. The two cars shared design plans and interior components from the B-pillar forwards, but with very different looking rear ends. Based, as they were, on the Fiat Group’s Tipo Due (Type Two) platform, the 145 and 146 had a unibody structure, front MacPherson strut and rear trailing arm suspensions. A peculiarity of these cars is that they were designed to be fitted with both longitudinal engines (the older Boxers) and with transverse engines (the diesels and the Twin Spark). The former were mounted in the same configuration as on the 33 or Alfasud, that is longitudinally overhanging the front axle with the gearbox towards the cabin; the latter in the conventional transverse position with the gearbox to the left side. All engines were coupled to 5-speed manual transmissions. Steering was rack and pinion, with standard hydraulic power assistance. At launch the engine line-up for both cars comprised a 1.9-litre inline-four turbo diesel and the boxer petrol engines from the 33, in 1.3 8-valve, 1.6 8-valve and range topping 1.7 16-valve flat four forms. Depending on the market, the engines were available in either or both base and better equipped L (for “Lusso”) trim levels; L trim standard equipment was richer on larger engined cars. Flagship sport models with the two-litre 16-valve Twin Spark inline-four engine from the Alfa Romeo 155 arrived a year after the début: the 145 Quadrifoglio and 146 ti. Each of the two-litre versions had a unique trim level; both included richer standard equipment than L trims, like ABS, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob and available Recaro sport seats. The 145 Quadrifoglio (145 Cloverleaf in the UK), launched at the September 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show and on sale from October,had deep body-colour side skirts with “green cloverleaf” badges and 5-hole alloy wheels. The 146 ti went on sale in February 1996. It came with painted side skirts, a boot spoiler and 12-hole alloy wheels. Two-litre cars were equipped with stiffer suspension, uprated all-disk braking system, ABS, wider, lower-profile tires and ‘quick-rack’ direct steering (also seen on the 155, GTV and Spider) which improved responsiveness, but also compromised the turning circle. The sporty suspension set-up was harsher than many others in its category at the time, but this was in line with the Fiat Group’s marketing of Alfa Romeo as a sporting brand and it is said to have resulted in class leading handling. From January 1997 all the boxer engines were phased out in favour of 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8 versions of the Twin Spark 16-valve engine.1.8-litre cars adopted the sport chassis, steering and brakes of the Quadrifoglio/ti, and also offered some of their optional equipment such as the sport seats. At the same time the interior was updated: a new air conditioning system, a redesigned dashboard an upholstered insert were fitted. Outside changes were minor: new wheel covers and alloy wheels and a wider choice of paint colours. In late 1997 Alfa Romeo introduced the Junior, a trim level targeted at young buyers that combined the sport styling and chassis setup of the range topping models with the affordable entry-level 1.4 powertrain, later with 1.6 engine too. Based on the 1.4, Junior cars were distinguished by the Quadrifoglio’s side skirts with “Junior” badges, specific 15 inch alloy wheels, and by the stainless steel exhaust tip (as well as, on the 146, the boot spoiler) from the ti. A year later 1.8 and 2.0 Twin Spark engines received the updates first introduced on the Alfa Romeo 156; thanks to variable length intake manifolds the two powertrains gained 4-5 PS and reached peak torque at engine speeds some 500 rpm lower. At the Geneva Motor Show in March 1999 Alfa Romeo introduced the restyled ’99 line-up for both models. The new common rail direct injection 1.9 JTD turbo diesel replaced the 1.9 TD. The main changes outside were new, body-colour bumpers with round fog lights and narrow protection strips; the interior got new upholstery and detail trim changes such as chrome vent surrounds. Optional side airbags complemented the already available passenger and standard driver airbags. The Junior trim level was discontinued, in favour of “pack sport” option package that included side skirts, rear spoiler, alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel and sport seats, all standard features on the two-litre models. A second “pack lusso” package offered leather steering wheel, velour upholstery and mahogany wood trim. In September of the next year, at the Paris Motor Show the all-new Alfa Romeo 147 was presented Eventually, in 2000, the 145/146 cars were superseded by the all-new 147, which was a far bigger commercial success, with its acclaimed styling front end and improved quality. Still, many enthusiasts feel that it lost a little of the special feel and Alfa Romeo that the 145 had. 221,037 145s and 233,295 146s were built, There are depressingly few survivors of either model in the UK, so it was nice to see an example of both here.
I did not make an accurate count, but my subjective assessment is that there were more of the 916 Series GTV and Spider cars here than any other individual model. That is perhaps not a huge surprise, as this was one of those cars which achieved classic status almost before production ceased, and thanks to the much improved rust protection and build quality standards of the late 90s, the survival rate is good. Prices for the remaining cars did continue to diminish for some time but in recent months they have started to increase suggesting that the market has seen the appeal of these cars, something the owners (and I write as someone who did own a GTV 2.0 TS Lusso for eighteen months) did not need to be told. The 916 Series cars were conceived to replace two very different models in the Alfa range. First of these was the open topped 105 Series Spider which had been in production since 1966 and by the 1990s was long overdue a replacement. Alfa decided to combine a follow on to the Alfetta GTV, long out of production, with a new Spider model, and first work started in the late 1980s. The task was handed to Pininfarina, and Enrico Fumia’s initial renderings were produced in September 1987, with the first clay models to complete 1:1 scale model made in July 1988. Fumia produced something rather special. Clearly an Italian design, with the Alfa Romeo grille with dual round headlights, recalling the Audi-based Pininfarina Quartz, another design produced by Enrico Fumia back in 1981, the proposal was for a car that was low-slung, wedge-shaped with a low nose and high kicked up tail. The back of the car is “cut-off” with a “Kamm tail” giving improved aerodynamics. The Spider would share these traits with the GTV except that the rear is rounded, and would feature a folding soft-top with five hoop frame, which would completely disappear from sight under a flush fitting cover. An electric folding mechanism would be fitted as an option. Details included a one-piece rear lamp/foglamp/indicator strip across the rear of the body, the minor instruments in the centre console angled towards the driver. The exterior design was finished in July 1988. After Vittorio Ghidella, Fiat’s CEO, accepted the design, Alfa Romeo Centro Stile under Walter de Silva was made responsible for the completion of the detail work and also for the design of the interiors, as Pininfarina’s proposal was not accepted. The Spider and GTV were to be based on the then-current Fiat Group platform, called Tipo Due, in this case a heavily modified version with an all new multilink rear suspension. The front suspension and drivetrain was based on the 1992 Alfa Romeo 155 saloon. Chief engineer at that time was Bruno Cena. Drag coefficient was 0.33 for the GTV and 0.38 for the Spider. Production began in late 1993 with four cars, all 3.0 V6 Spiders, assembled at the Alfa Romeo Arese Plant in Milan. In early 1994 the first GTV was produced, with 2.0 Twin Spark engine. The first premiere was then held at the Paris Motor Show in 1994. The GTV and Spider were officially launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1995 and sales began the same year. The cars were well received. At launch, many journalists commented that Alfa had improved overall build quality considerably and that it came very close to equalling its German rivals. I can vouch for that, as I owned an early GTV for eighteen months, and it was a well built and reliable car. In 1997 a new engine, a 24-valve 3.0 litre V6, was available for the GTV along with bigger, 12.0 inch brakes and red four-pot calipers from Brembo. The console knobs were changed from round central to rectangle ones and to a three-spoke steering wheel. Some versions were upgraded with different front bumper mesh to bring the wind noise down to 74 dBA. In May 1998 the cars were revamped for the first time, creating the Phase 2 models. Most of the alterations were inside. The interior was changed with new centre console, painted letters on skirt seals, changed controls and switches arrangement and different instrument cluster. Outside, the main changes included chrome frame around the grille and colour-coded side skirts and bumpers. A new engine was introduced, the 142 hp 1.8 Twin Spark, and others were changed: the 2.0 Twin Spark was updated with a modular intake manifold with different length intakes and a different plastic cover. Power output of the 2.0 TS was raised to 153 hp. Engines changed engine management units and have a nomenclature of CF2. The dashboard was available in two new colours in addition to the standard black: Red Style and Blue Style, and with it new colour-coded upholstery and carpets. The 3.0 24V got a six-speed manual gearbox as standard and the 2.0 V6 TB engine was now also available for the Spider. August 2000 saw the revamp of engines to comply with new emission regulations, Euro3. The new engines were slightly detuned, and have a new identification code: CF3. 3.0 V6 12V was discontinued for the Spider and replaced with 24V Euro3 version from the GTV. 2.0 V6 Turbo and 1.8 T.Spark were discontinued as they did not comply with Euro3 emissions. By the 2001-2002 model year, only 2 engines were left, the 2.0 Twin.Spark and 3.0 V6 24V, until the Phase 3 engine range arrived. The Arese plant, where the cars had been built, was closing and, in October 2000, the production of GTV/Spider was transferred to Pininfarina Plant in San Giorgio Canavese in Turin. In 2003 there was another and final revamp, creating the Phase 3, also designed in Pininfarina but not by Enrico Fumia. The main changes were focused on the front with new 147-style grille and different front bumpers with offset numberplate holder. Change to the interior was minimal with different centre console and upholstery pattern and colours available. Instrument illumination colour was changed from green to red. Main specification change is an ASR traction control, not available for 2.0 TS Base model. New engines were introduced: 163 hp 2.0 JTS with direct petrol injection and 237 hp 3.2 V6 24V allowing a 158 mph top speed. Production ceased in late 2004, though some cars were still available for purchase till 2006. A total of 80,747 cars were made, and sales of the GTV and Spider were roughly equal. More V6 engined GTVs than Spiders were made, but in 2.0 guise, it was the other way round with the open model proving marginally more popular.
When the 156 was launched in 1997, things looked very bright for Alfa. Striking good looks were matched by a driving experience that the press reckoned was better than any of its rivals. The car picked up the Car of the Year award at the end of the year. and when it went on sale in the UK in early 1998, waiting lists soon stretched out more than 12 months. Reflecting the way the market was going, Alfa put a diesel engine under the bonnet, launched a (not very good, it has to be admitted) automated transmission with the SeleSpeed, added a very pretty if not that commodious an estate model they called Sport Wagon and then added a top spec 3.2 litre GTA with its 250 bhp engine giving it a performance to outrun all its rivals. And yet, it did not take long before the press turned on the car, seduced by the latest 3 Series once more, citing build quality issues which were in fact far from universal. The 156 received a very minor facelift in 2002 and a more significant one in late 2003 with a new front end that was a clue to what would come with the car’s successor. Production ceased in 2005.
The 156 GTA cars were launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2001. Named after the Alfa Romeo GTA from the 1960s, the letters GTA meaning Gran Turismo Alleggerita (English: lightened Grand Tourer). 2,973 berlinas and 1,678 Sportwagons were built until the GTA production stopped in October 2005 as the 156 gave way to the Alfa Romeo 159. The GTA came with the 3.2 litre Bussone V6 engine (The big Busso, so called after legendary Ferrari engineer Giuseppe Busso), the largest capacity version of the much loved V6 engine. With a 93 mm bore and a 78 mm stroke giving it a capacity of 3,179 cc, it generated 250 PS (247 hp) and 300 N·m (220 lb/ft) of torque. After market Alfa Romeo specialist Autodelta produced performance versions up to 3.7 litres and 400 PS. The European Touring Car Championship winning 156 GTA was however running a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder 300 PS engine due to class regulations. The GTA variants were equipped with either a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed Selespeed (paddles in steering wheel, hydraulically operated robotised) gearbox, had a lowered and stiffened suspension, a distinctive body kit, wider rear arches and leather interior. The suspension was specifically made for the GTA by Fiat Research Centre and Fiat Auto Design and Development Department. Steering was also made faster, only 1.7 turns from lock to lock compared to 2.1 in normal models. The GTA had also larger brakes (Brembo), with 12″ front discs and 10.8″ at the rear. The front discs were later upgraded to 13 ” to cope with the performance potential. Even though the name suggests a light car, the GTA isn’t any lighter than other 156s, as it was actually 91 kilograms (201 lb) heavier than the 2.5 litre V6 engined version. The GTA did not get the Giugiaro designed facelift introduced to the 156 in 2002, but continued with the acclaimed Walter de Silva design to the very end of production.
Alfa followed the 156 a couple of years later, in late 1998, with a larger saloon, the 166, hoping to receive the same sort of acclaim with this executive car which was a direct replacement for the 164. It was not forthcoming. For a start, the styling with its drooping and very small headlamps and pointed nose was quite unlike anything else on the market at the time. Part of the difficulty came from the fat that the car had been designed some years before its launch and then put on the back burner as the 156 was given priority. The 166 was initially available with a 155 PS 2.0-litre Twin Spark, a 190 PS 2.5 V6, a 220 PS 3.0 V6 and in some markets a 205 PS V6 2.0 Turbo petrol engine along with a diesel powered L5 2.4 10v common rail turbodiesel version with 136 PS, 140 PS and 150 PS (148 hp) output. The 2.0 TS model used a 5-speed manual gearbox, whilst the 2.5 and 3.0 had the option of a Sportronic automatic gearbox. The 3.0 V6, L5 2.4 and V6 Turbo were otherwise supplied with a six-speed manual gearbox. The top models were named “Super”, and included MOMO leather interior, 17″ alloy wheels, rain sensitive wipers, cruise control, climate control and ICS (Integrated Control System) with colour screen. Options included xenon headlamps, GSM connectivity and satellite navigation. Suspension systems comprised double wishbones at the front and a multi-link setup for the rear. Though the car’s handling characteristics, engine range and elegant exterior design received praise from many, including Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson, it did not become a strong seller to rival the dominant German brands, in the European executive car sector. In September 2003, the 166 underwent a substantial revamp, with the début at the Frankfurt Motor Show. As well as upgrades to the chassis, interior, and the engine range, the styling was substantially altered. The new front end resembled the also recently revamped 156, and lost its famous drooping headlights. The 2.0 V6 Turbo model was dropped because of marketing problems, the V6 2.5 was re-rated at 188 PS and a 3.2 litre V6 with 240 PS was introduced. Both the 3.2 litre and the 2.0 Twin Spark models now featured the six-speed manual gearbox, whilst the 3.0 model was retained, but made available only in Sportronic form. In the diesel sector, the L5 2.4 was re-engineered with Multi-Jet technology which allows up to 5 injections per cycle, second stage common rail, with maximum injection pressure of 1400 bar and 4 valves per cylinder, to output a class leading 175 PS, but these changes made little impact on sales volumes. In October 2005, the Alfa Romeo 166 was officially withdrawn from sale in markets for RHD. Sales of the 166 never grew as Alfa had hoped, following the facelift in September 2003, and the additional lack of a diesel engine in the United Kingdom, Australian, and Irish markets limited its reach into company car sectors. In June 2007, production of the 166 effectively ended, with no direct successor. In September 2008, the platform was sold to the Chinese state run manufacturer GAC Group. In total, less than 100,000 units were made.
The 166 may have failed to hit the jackpot, but the next Alfa certainly did. This was the 147, launched at the 2000 Turin Motor Show as a replacement for the 145 and 146 hatchbacks, and based on the running gear of the larger 156 saloon. Designed by Walter de’Silva and Wolfgang Egger, the 147 received considerable praise for its styling on launch, later it was awarded with some styling awards. It was available initially with 1.6, 2.0, petrol engines and a 1.9-litre diesel engine. A sequential, paddle operated ‘Selespeed’ transmission was available from launch. Two trim levels were available, Turismo and Lusso. The 147 was the first Alfa Romeo to feature dual-zone climate control and electronic traction control. Although some thought the car had lost of some of the Alfa magic, it was well received and was awarded the Car of the Year trophy a few weeks after launch. The entire 147 range was revamped in 2004, with the exterior styling changed considerably to be more reminiscent of the new 159 and Brera models, and Alfa Romeo Visconti concept car, most notably for its more aggressive look, with a new front grille, new headlights, new rear lights and the interior was updated on all models besides the GTA version. A new more powerful diesel engine arrived and suspension was also tweaked. In 2006, the 147 1.9 JTD Q2 version was launched, which featured a front Torsen limited slip differential. Alfa Romeo presented a new limited edition 147 called Ducati Corse at the 2007 Bologna Motor Show. The car came equipped with a 170 PS (68 hp) JTD diesel engine and Q2, a front Torsen limited slip differential. The 147 was in production for ten years, making it one of the oldest small family cars on sale in Europe at the time of its replacement by the Alfa Romeo Giulietta in late May 2010. In total around 580,000 cars were made.
Alfa augmented the range with a GTA model in 2002. which was intended to compete with the most sporting Golf and Focus models of the day. as well as injecting more potency into a range which always seemed like it needed more power. Fitted with a 3.2 V6 engine which produced 247 bhp, the 147GTA was the most powerful hot hatch available at the time, and the modifications to the body, including lower sills and wider wheel arches, if anything, made it look even better rather than endowing it with the sort of “after market look” that can afflict some high end performance versions of regular family cars. Performance figures were impressive, with the car able to achieve a top speed of 153 mph. It had a widened body by 15 mm at each side to accommodate the 225/45R17 tyres. Most models had a 6-speed manual transmissions; whilst a smaller number of other models used the semi automatic Selespeed system. Production ran through to 2004 and in total 5,029 147 GTAs were built, 1004 of which were Selespeeds. Only around 300 came to the UK, so this was never a common sighting on British roads.
Rather than replacing the 916 Series GTV with a single model, Alfa elected to produce two successors., The more commodious of the two, the GT, was the first to appear, making its debut in March 2003 at the Geneva Motor Show, finally going on sale in early 2004. It was built at the Pomigliano plant, alongside the 147 and 159. The GT was based on the Alfa 156 platform, which was also used for the 147, providing the 2-door coupé with genuine five-passenger capacity. It was styled by Bertone. Most mechanicals were taken directly from the 156/147 using the same double wishbone front suspension and MacPherson rear setup. The interior was derived form the smaller hatchback 147 and shared many common parts. The GT shared the same dash layout and functions, the climate control system as well as having a similar electrical system. Some exterior parts were taken from 147 with same bonnet, wing mirrors and front wings (from 147 GTA). The engine range included both a 1.8 TS, and 2.0 JTS petrol engine, a 1.9 MultiJet turbodiesel, and a top-of-the-range 240 bhp 3.2 V6 petrol. There were few changes during the GT’s production life. In 2006 Alfa introduced a 1.9 JTD Q2 version with a limited slip differential, and also added a new trim level called Black Line. In 2008 Alfa introduced the cloverleaf model as a limited edition complete with new trim levels, lowered suspension, body kit, 18 inch alloy wheels and was only available in the colours black, Alfa red, or blue. with 1.8 and 2.0 litre petrol engines as well as the 1.9 litre Multijet turbo diesel. The GT was acclaimed for its attractive styling and purposeful good looks, in 2004 being voted the world’s most beautiful coupe in the annual ‘World’s Most Beautiful Automobile’ (L’Automobile più Bella del Mondo) awards. The car sold reasonably well, with 80,832 units being produced before the model was deleted in 2010.
Replacement for the much loved 156 was the 159. The Alfa Romeo 159 had a troubled development, being designed in the midst of the Fiat-General Motors joint venture which was terminated in 2005. Originally, the 159 was intended to use GM’s Epsilon platform; however, late during its development it was changed to the GM/Fiat Premium platform. The Premium platform was more refined and expensive, being intended for E-segment executive cars such as an Alfa Romeo 166 successor but that never materialised, so Alfa Romeo attempted to recoup some of the platform development costs with the 159. General Motors originally planned Cadillac, Buick and Saab models for this platform but ending up discarded them over cost concerns. Unfortunately, the 159’s late transition to what was fundamentally made as an E-segment platform resulted in the 159 having excessive weight, a problem shared by its sisters, the Alfa Romeo Brera coupe and Spider convertible. The 159 was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro in collaboration with the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo. The nose featured a traditional Alfa Romeo V-shaped grille and bonnet, and cylindrical head light clusters. Similar to its coupé counterpart, front of the car was influenced by the Giugiaro designed 2002 Brera Concept. Several exterior design cues were intended to make the car appear larger, supposedly to appeal to potential buyers in the United States; however, the 159 was never exported to that region. The interior featured styling treatments familiar from earlier cars, including the 156, such as deeply recessed instruments which are angled towards the driver. Alfa Romeo intended for the 159 to compete more directly with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi by using higher quality interior materials; however, it has been said that Alfa Romeo misjudged their brand’s positioning relative to the more well-known German luxury automakers. Several levels of trim were available, depending on market. Four trim levels: Progression, Distinctive, Exclusive and Turismo Internazionale (TI) featured across Europe. In the UK there were three levels of trim: Turismo, Lusso and Turismo Internazionale (TI). A Sportwagon variant was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 2006. The 159’s size made it considerably more comfortable than the 156 due to its larger, roomy interior. However, the considerable growth in dimensions deterred many 156 owners from considering the 159 as a direct replacement model, and something seemed to be lost in the character of the new car. Initially offered with a choice of 1.9 and 2,2 litre 4 cylinder and 3.2 litre V6 petrol engines and 1.9 and 2.4 litre diesel units, and an optional four wheel drive system. An automatic gearbox option for the 2.4 JTDM diesel model was also launched in late 2006, and later extended to other versions. In 2007 a four-wheel drive diesel model was released and the 2.4-litre diesel engines’ power output increased to 210 hp, with a newly reintroduced TI trim level also available as an option. For model year 2008 the mechanics and interiors of the 159 were further developed. The 3.2 litre V6 model was offered in front wheel drive configuration, achieving a top speed of 160 mph. All model variants came with Alfa’s electronic “Q2” limited slip differential. As a result of newly introduced aluminium components, a 45 kilograms (99 lb) weight reduction was achieved. For 2009, Alfa introduced a new turbocharged petrol engine badged as “TBi”. This 1742 cc unit had direct injection and variable valve timing in both inlet and exhaust cams. This new engine had 200 PS (197 hp) and would eventually replace the GM-derived 2.2 and 1.9 JTS units.In 2010, all petrol engines except for the 1750 TBi were retired, ending the use of General Motors-based engines in the 159. The only remaining diesel engines were the 136 PS and 170 PS 2.0 JTDm engines. In 2011, the 159 was powered only by diesel engines. In the UK, Alfa Romeo stopped taking orders for the 159 on 8 July 2011. Production for all markets ceased at the end of 2011, after 240,000 had been built. A “Special Award” was given to Steve McCall’s 159 Carabinieri, which seemed fitting as it was really rather splendid.
Follow on to the 916 series GTV and Spider were the Brera models. Visually similar to the 159 models at the front, the Brera and Spider boasted unique styling from the A pillars rearwards. They were offered with the same range of engines as the 159, and thanks to that strong, but rather heavy platform on which they were built, even the 3.2 litre V6 cars were more Grand Tourer than rapid sports car. Pininfarina was responsible for both models. The Brera was first to market, in 2005, with the Spider following in 2006. Production of both ceased in late 2010, by which time 12,488 units of the Spider and 21,786 units of the Brera had been built. It will be very surprising if these do not attain classic status, and the consequent rise in values, though that has not happened yet.
There is now an enthusiastic MiTo Owners Club, so where Italian cars are gathered together, it is quite common to get a whole line of the smallest current Alfa assembled, and there were certainly plenty of them here. Known internally as the Tipo 955, the MiTo (the name allegedly standing for Mi-lano and To-rino, where it was designed and is built, respectively, and a pun on the Italian word for “myth”), the smallest Alfa ever made is a three-door only supermini, which was officially introduced on June 19, 2008, at Castello Sforzesco in Milan,, going on sale a few weeks later, with UK supplies reaching the country after the British Motor Show in 2008. Built on the Fiat Small platform used on the Grande Punto, and also employed by the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, the MiTo was intended to compete with the MINI and the newer Audi A1. Designed by Centro Stile Alfa Romeo, the design is believed to be inspired by the 8C Competizione. A range of engines has been offered since launch, though sadly the GTA Concept that was shown at the 2009 Geneva Show never made it to production.
The current Giulietta arrived in 2010 as a much awaited replacement for the 147. Spy photos had suggested that the car was going to look very like Fiat’s ill-fated Bravo, but the reality was that it had a style all of its own. A range of very efficient petrol and diesel engines were among the most emissions-efficient in their class at the time, and a 250 bhp Quadrifoglio version at the top of the range made sure there was something for the man who wanted a rapid, but quite subtle hatch. The car has enjoyed reasonable success in the UK, and certainly there tend to be plenty of them on show at Alfa and Italian car events like this one.
Although I am sure there are those who would beg to differ, my contention is that car styling in the twentyfirst century has gone through a period which will not be viewed particularly positively in years to come, with a myriad of forgettable designs and more recently plenty which in trying to be distinctive are just downright ugly. There have been a few high points, though, and top of that list for me must be the Alfa 8C Competizione, a lone example of which was to be seen here. As well as the looks, this car also has noise on its side, with a sound track which must rate as one of the best of recent times. So that is two boxes ticket for me. The press saw it rather differently, and were rather critical of the car when it was new, but for me, finding plenty to fault with the way the car drove. First seen as a concept car at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2003, the concept was conceived as a reminder for people who were perhaps slightly disillusioned with contemporary Alfa products that the company could still style something as striking in the 21st century as it had been able to do in the 1950s and 1960s. Public reaction was very positive, but Fiat Group Execs were very focused on Ferrari and Maserati and they were not entirely convinced that a car like this was appropriate as it could encroach on those brands’ territory. It was only in 2006, with new management in place that it is decided that a limited production run of just 500 cars would give the once proud marque something of a boost. Announcement of the production version, visually little different from the 2003 concept car was made at the 2006 Paris Show, and it was soon evident that Alfa could have sold far more than 500 cars To turn the concept into reality, Alfa used a shortened Maserati Quattroporte platform with a central steel section, subframes front and rear and main outer panels that were all made from carbon fibre, with the result that the complete car weighed 300 kg less than the GranTurismo. Final assembly was carried out by Maserati, with the cars being built between 2007 and 2010. Competiziones (Coupes) first, and then 500 Spiders. Just 40 of the Competizione models came to the UK. Most of them were sent to the US, so this car is exceptionally rare and is much sought after by collectors. They were fearsomely expensive when new, listing for around £150,000, but prices have never dipped far below this, so anyone who bought one, should they ever feel the need to sell it, is not going to lose money on the car.
There had been around half a dozen of the 4C Competizione at this event in 2015, but that number was doubled this time, with a long line of 12 of them parked up, a mix of Coupe and Spider versions. First seen as a concept at the 2011 Geneva Show, the production model did not debut for a further 2 years. Production got underway later that year at the Maserati plant in Modena, and the first deliveries were late in 2013. Production was originally pegged at 1000 cars a year and a total of just 3500, which encouraged many speculators to put their name down in the hope of making a sizeable profit on selling their cars on. That plan backfired, and in the early months, there were lots of cars for sale for greater than list price. The Spider model started to reach owners at the end of 2015, and although this is even more expensive than the Coupe, there are plenty of people who have bought one, even though Press reaction to the car has been mixed, with everyone loving the looks, but most of them feeling that the driving experience is not as they would want. Owners generally disagree – as is so often the case! – and most love their car. I know I would if I could find space (and funds!) for one in my garage!
You don’t tend to get many Ferrari at this event, and 2016 was no exception. There was just one car in the main display and one as part of a dealer assembly of cars.
Introduced at the 1985 Frankfurt Show alongside the Mondial 3.2 series, the Ferrari 328 GTB and GTS (Type F106) were the successors to the Ferrari 308 GTB and GTS which had first been seen in October 1975. While mechanically still based on the 308 GTB and GTS respectively, small modifications were made to the body style and engine, most notably an increase in engine displacement to 3185 cc for increased power and torque output. As had been the case for a generation of the smaller Ferraris, the model name referred to the total cubic capacity of the engine, 3.2 litres, and 8 for the number of cylinders. Essentially the new model was a revised and updated version of the 308 GTS, which had survived for eight years without any radical change to the overall shape, albeit with various changes to the 3-litre engine. The 328 model presented a softening of the wedge profile of its predecessor, with a redesigned nose that had a more rounded shape, which was complemented by similar treatment to the tail valance panel. The revised nose and tail sections featured body colour bumpers integral with the valance panels, which reflected the work done concurrently to present the Mondial 3.2 models, with which they also shared a similar radiator grille and front light assembly layout. Thus all the eight-cylinder cars in the range shared fairly unified front and rear aspects, providing a homogeneous family image. The exhaust air louvres behind the retractable headlight pods on the 308 series disappeared, coupled with an increase in the size of the front lid radiator exhaust air louvre, which had been introduced on the 308 Quattrovalvole models, whilst a new style and position of exterior door catch was also provided. The interior trim also had a thorough overhaul, with new designs for the seat panel upholstery and stitching, revised door panels and pulls, together with more modern switchgear, which complemented the external updating details. Optional equipment available was air conditioning, metallic paint, Pirelli P7 tyres, a leather dashboard, leather headlining to the removable roof panel plus rear window surround, and a rear aerofoil (standard on Japanese market models). In the middle of 1988 ABS brakes were made available as an option, which necessitated a redesign of the suspension geometry to provide negative offset. This in turn meant that the road wheel design was changed to accommodate this feature. The original flat spoke “star” wheels became a convex design, in the style as fitted to the 3.2 Mondial models, whether ABS was fitted or not. The main European market 328 GTS models had a tubular chassis with a factory type reference F 106 MS 100. Disc brakes, with independent suspension via wishbones, coil springs, and hydraulic shock absorbers, were provided all round, with front and rear anti roll bars. There were various world market models, each having slight differences, with right and left hand drive available. The V8 engine was essentially of the same design as that used in the 308 Quattrovalvole model, with an increase in capacity to 3185 cc. The engine retained the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system of its predecessor, but was fitted with a Marelli MED 806 A electronic ignition system, to produce a claimed power output of 270 bhp at 7000 rpm. As with the preceding 308 models the engine was mounted in unit with the all synchromesh five-speed manual transmission assembly, which was below, and to the rear of the engine’s sump. The 328 GTS continued in production for four years, until replaced by the 348 ts model in the autumn of 1989, during which time 6068 examples were produced, GTS production outnumbering the GTB (1344 produced) version almost five to one.
Second Ferrari here was an 348 Challenge race car.
Final Ferrari here was an F430 Spider, the successor to the Ferrari 360. This car debuted at the 2004 Paris Motor Show. Designed by Pininfarina, under the guidance of Frank Stephenson, the body styling of the F430 was revised from its predecessor, the Ferrari 360, to improve its aerodynamic efficiency. Although the drag coefficient remained the same, downforce was greatly enhanced. Despite sharing the same basic Alcoa Aluminium chassis, roof line, doors and glass, the car looked significantly different from the 360. A great deal of Ferrari heritage was included in the exterior design. At the rear, the Enzo’s tail lights and interior vents were added. The car’s name was etched into the Testarossa-styled driver’s side mirror. The large oval openings in the front bumper are reminiscent of Ferrari racing models from the 60s, specifically the 156 “sharknose” Formula One car and 250 TR61 Le Mans cars of Phil Hill. Designed with soft-top-convertible. The F430 featured a 4.3 litre V8 petrol engine of the “Ferrari-Maserati” F136 family. This new power plant was a significant departure for Ferrari, as all previous Ferrari V8’s were descendants of the Dino racing program of the 1950s. This fifty-year development cycle came to an end with the entirely new unit. The engine’s output was 490 hp at 8500 rpm and 465 N·m (343 lb/ft) of torque at 5250 rpm, 80% of which was available below 3500rpm. Despite a 20% increase in displacement, engine weight grew by only 4 kg and engine dimensions were decreased, for easier packaging. The connecting rods, pistons and crankshaft were all entirely new, while the four-valve cylinder head, valves and intake trumpets were copied directly from Formula 1 engines, for ideal volumetric efficiency. The F430 has a top speed in excess of 196 mph and could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, 0.6 seconds quicker than the old model. The brakes on the F430 were designed in close cooperation with Brembo (who did the calipers and discs) and Bosch (who did the electronics package),resulting in a new cast-iron alloy for the discs. The new alloy includes molybdenum which has better heat dissipation performance. The F430 was also available with the optional Carbon fibre-reinforced Silicon Carbide (C/SiC) ceramic composite brake package. Ferrari claims the carbon ceramic brakes will not fade even after 300-360 laps at their test track. The F430 featured the E-Diff, a computer-controlled limited slip active differential which can vary the distribution of torque based on inputs such as steering angle and lateral acceleration. Other notable features include the first application of Ferrari’s manettino steering wheel-mounted control knob. Drivers can select from five different settings which modify the vehicle’s ESC system, “Skyhook” electronic suspension, transmission behaviour, throttle response, and E-Diff. The feature is similar to Land Rover’s “Terrain Response” system. The Ferrari F430 was also released with exclusive Goodyear Eagle F1 GSD3 EMT tyres, which have a V-shaped tread design, run-flat capability, and OneTRED technology. The F430 Spider, Ferrari’s 21st road going convertible, made its world premiere at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show. The car was designed by Pininfarina with aerodynamic simulation programs also used for Formula 1 cars. The roof panel automatically folds away inside a space above the engine bay. The conversion from a closed top to an open-air convertible is a two-stage folding-action. The interior of the Spider is identical to that of the coupé. Serving as the successor to the Challenge Stradale, the 430 Scuderia was unveiled by Michael Schumacher at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show. Aimed to compete with cars like the Porsche RS-models and the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera it was lighter by 100 kg/220 lb and more powerful (510 PS) than the standard F430. Increased power came from a revised intake, exhaust, and an ion-sensing knock-detection system that allows for a higher compression ratio. Thus the weight-to-power ratio was reduced from 2.96 kg/hp to 2.5 kg/hp. In addition to the weight saving measures, the Scuderia semi-automatic transmission gained improved “Superfast”, known as “Superfast2”, software for faster 60 millisecond shift-times. A new traction control system combined the F1-Trac traction and stability control with the E-Diff electronic differential. The Ferrari 430 Scuderia accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds, with a top speed of 202 miles per hour. Ferrari claimed that around their test track, Fiorano Circuit, it matched the Ferrari Enzo, and the Ferrari F430’s successor, the Ferrari 458. To commemorate Ferrari’s 16th victory in the Formula 1 Constructor’s World Championship in 2008, Ferrari unveiled the Scuderia Spider 16M at World Finals in Mugello. It is effectively a convertible version of the 430 Scuderia. The engine produces 510 PS at 8500 rpm. The car has a dry weight of 1,340 kg, making it 80 kg lighter than the F430 Spider, at a curb weight of 1,440 kg (3,175 lb). The chassis was stiffened to cope with the extra performance available and the car featured many carbon fibre parts as standard. Specially lightened front and rear bumpers (compared to the 430 Scuderia) were a further sign of the efforts Ferrari was putting into this convertible track car for the road. Unique 5-spoke forged wheels were produced for the 16M’s launch and helped to considerably reduce unsprung weight with larger front brakes and callipers added for extra stopping power (also featured on 430 Scuderia). It accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, with a top speed of 315 km/h (196 mph). 499 vehicles were released beginning early 2009 and all were pre-sold to select clients.
There were rather more Fiat models, with a great mix, including some of the rarest cars of the day. The Coupe and X1/9s which were present seem to have eluded my camera, but there were plenty of cars that did not.
Not surprisingly there were plenty of Nuova 500 cars. First launched in 1957, as the Nuova 500, to replace the older “Topolino” 500C, Dante Giacosa’s cheeky little car was an instant hit. Replacing the original Nuova 500 in 1960, the D looks very similar to the Nuova, but there are two key differences. One is the engine size: the D features an uprated 499 cc engine producing 17 bhp as standard, an engine which would be used right through until the end of the L in 1973; and the other is the roof: the standard D roof does not fold back as far as the roof on the Nuova, though it was also available as the “Transformable” with the same roof as the Nuova. The D also features “suicide doors”. The D was produced until 1965 when it was replaced by the 500F, which finally moved the door hinges from back to the front. The 500F ran through to 1975, from 1968 alongside the more luxurious 500L which was added to the range in 1968. The L is easy to tell apart, with its bumper overriders. There were several 500Ls, a few 500Fs and a 500D Trasformabile here. These cars attracted lots of attention all day – everyone, it seems, has a soft spot for them.
A very different sort of Fiat, but also quite an eye-catcher was this 900T Van. There were quite a few of these, and other derivatives of the 850T and 900T bodyshell on our roads throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but like almost everything else of that era, suddenly they all disappeared and there are very few of them left now, and certainly not as nice as this one. The model is part of the 850 family that first appeared in 1964, with this overall shape first offered as the 850 Familiare, a boxier and slightly larger heir to the Fiat 600 Multipla, and as a Panel Van. The Familiare featured space for seven passengers in three rows, which made it suitable for groups including children and thin adults. It was too small to accommodate in comfort seven large adults. In Van guise, it was known as the 850T. The 850 Familiare and related 850T continued in production till 1976 long after the saloon version of the 850 had been replaced by the Fiat 127. In 1976 the Fiat 900T was introduced, retaining most of the body panels of the 850 Familiare, but featuring the 903 cc engine from the Fiat 127 (although, in this application, still mounted behind the rear axle). The 900T benefitted from significant enhancements in 1980, at which point it was renamed the 900E. A number of them were sold as camper vans, and in the UK, these were badged as the FIAT Amigo, and the 7 seater model was called the Pandora. Production finally ended in 1985. This splendid example was given the prize of “Italian Rarity of the Day”.
Arriving a little later than most was this 124 Spider. Comparisons with the latest open Fiat which resurrects the name were almost inevitable, so it was no surprise to find that it was moved over and parked next to the new (Abarth) model, for photos. The first 124 Spider made its debut at the Turin Show in 1966, and continued in production until the mid 1980s, bearing its desginer, Pininfarina’s badges in later years when it remained popular in the American market. Early cars had 1400 and 1600cc engines, and these were gradually enlarged first 1800cc and then 2 litre, with fuel injection being added for more power and emissions compliance during the 1970s. Fiat spotted the potential of the car for more than just boulevard cruising, though, so in November 1972 they announced the Fiat Abarth 124 Rally, an overtly sporting version. Its main purpose was to receive FIA homologation in the special grand touring cars (Group 4) racing class, and replace the 1.6-litre Fiat Sport Spider rally car which had been campaigned. At the time, the 124 had already won the 1972 European Rally Championship at the hands of Raffaele Pinto and Gino Macaluso. The 124 Rally was added to the Sport Spider range, which included the 1600 and 1800 models; the first 500 examples produced were earmarked for the domestic Italian market. Amongst the most notable modifications over the standard spider there were independent rear suspension, engine upgrades, lightweight body panels, and a fixed hard top. In place of the usual rear solid axle, there was a Chapman-type McPherson strut independent suspension, supplemented by a longitudinal torque arm. At the front a radius rod on each side was added to the standard double wishbones. The Abarth-tuned type 132 AC 4.000 1.8-litre, twin-cam engine was brought from the standard 118 to 128 PS DIN by replacing the standard twin-choke carburettor with double vertical twin-choke Weber 44 IDF ones, and by fitting an Abarth exhaust with a dual exit exhaust The 9.8:1 compression ratio was left unchanged. The transmission was the all-synchronised 5-speed optional on the other Sport Spider models, and brakes were discs on all four corners. Despite the 20 kg (44 lb) 4-point roll bar fitted, kerb weight was 938 kg (2,068 lb), roughly 25 kg (55 lb) less than the regular 1.8-litre Sport Spider. The bonnet, boot lid and the fixed hard top were fibreglass, painted matt black, the rear window was perspex and the doors aluminium. Front and rear bumpers were deleted and replaced by simple rubber bumperettes. A single matte black wing mirror was fitted. Matte black wheel arch extensions housed 185/70 VR 13 Pirelli CN 36 tyres on 5.5 J × 13″ 4-spoke alloy wheels. Inside, the centre console, rear occasional seats, and glovebox lid were eliminated; while new features were anodised aluminium dashboard trim, a small three-spoke leather-covered Abarth steering wheel, and Recaro corduroy-and-leather bucket seats as an extra-cost option. The car carried Fiat badging front and rear, Abarth badges and “Fiat Abarth” scripts on the front wings, and Abarth wheel centre caps. Only three paint colours were available: Corsa red, white, and light blue.
There were two examples of the very elegant 130 Coupe, a car which the market still does not rate anything like as highly as you might expect. Looking very different to the 130 Berlina which had launched in 1969, the 130 Coupé appeared in 1971 at Geneva Show exhibiting a completely new 2-door body and a completely new interior, both the exterior and interior of which were the work of Paolo Martin at Pininfarina. The car won a design prize, attributed to Pininfarina, and this helped Pininfarina begin a new life after all those years relying on the “Fiat 1800/Peugeot 404/Austin A60” concepts. Pininfarina extended the Fiat 130 Coupé line with two proposals that were rejected by Fiat: the Maremma in 1974 (2-door shooting brake) and the Opera in 1975 (4-door saloon). Paolo Martin never got involved in these Fiat 130 Coupé variations, as he left the company soon after the design prize in 1971. The car was mechanically the same as the 130 Saloon, which meant it had a 165 bhp 3.2 litre V6 unit and a standard Borg Warner 3 speed automatic gearbox with the option of a 5 speed ZF manual. The interior was particularly luxurious by the standards of the day (and other Fiats). It was costly, though, and sales were modes, with 347 being sold in the first year. This ramped up to 1746 in 1972, but then fell steadily every year, reaching 4,491 when production ceased in 1977. There are thought to be fewer than 20 examples in the UK now.
Another small Fiat on show here was the 126, seen in De Ville (or Personal, as it was known in Europe) guise. The 126 arrived in the autumn of 1972 and was produced alongside the 500, which stayed in production until 1976. The 126 used much of the same mechanical underpinnings and layout as its Fiat 500 rear-engined predecessor with which it shared its wheelbase, but featured an all new bodyshell resembling a scaled-down Fiat 127, also enhancing safety. Engine capacity was increased from 594 cc to 652 cc at the end of 1977 when the cylinder bore was increased from 73.5 to 77 mm. Claimed power output was unchanged at 23 PS, but torque was increased from 39 N·m (29 lb/ft) to 43 Nm (32 lb/ft). A slightly less basic DeVille version arrived at the same time, identified by its large black plastic bumpers and side rubbing strips. A subsequent increase in engine size to 704 cc occurred with the introduction of the 126 Bis in 1987. This had 26 PS, and a water cooled engine, as well as a rear hatchback. Initially the car was produced in Italy in the plants of Cassino and Termini Imerese, with 1,352,912 of the cars made in Italy, but from 1979, production was concentrated solely in Poland, where the car had been manufactured by FSM since 1973 as the Polski Fiat 126p. Even after the introduction of the 126 Bis the original model continued to be produced for the Polish market. The car was also produced under licence by Zastava in Yugoslavia. Western European sales ceased in 1991, ready for the launch of the Cinquecento, but the car continued to be made for the Polish market. In 1994, the 126p received another facelift, and some parts from the Fiat Cinquecento, this version was named 126 EL. The 126 ELX introduced a catalytic converter. Despite clever marketing, the 126 never achieved the popularity of the 500, with the total number produced being: 1,352,912 in Italy, 3,318,674 in Poland, 2,069 in Austria, and an unknown number in Yugoslavia.
Surviving examples of the Strada are rare., with more of the sporting cars left than the regular family hatch models that sold in far greater quantities in the late 70s and early 80s. This is one of the cars that you are most likely to see and is a 105TC. Launched in May 1981, this was the first sports version of the Ritmo (as the car was known everywhere other than English speaking markets). Available only as a 3-door, it was powered by a 105 PS Fiat DOHC engine with a displacement of 1,585 cc, which was derived from that used in the 131 and 132 models. This car had the same 14-inch wheels as the Ritmo Super, but with black centre hubcaps. British and Irish models had black and silver Speedline alloy wheels (5.5 x 14) as standard. Other distinguishing features relative to the normal range included: front fog lights integrated into the front bumper; integrated front spoiler combined with wheel arch extensions; black lower door paint; black mesh air intake; rear spoiler at the base of the rear window. A more potent 125TC model followed later in the year, but this was not made available in the UK, as there were technical issues in converting it to right hand drive. The 105TC stayed in the range after the 1982 facelift, but never sold in the sort of quantity of rivals such as the Excort XR3i and Golf GTi.
At least as rare as the Nissan Cherry Europe was this Regata 70S. A conventional four-door three-box design, the Regata, unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1983, was developed from the pre-facelift Ritmo (Strada) although it bore very little external resemblance to that car. The wheelbase was stretched slightly, to create a car which was intended to replace the 131 Mirafiori range and as such needed to compete with cars a class above the Ritmo. Mechanically, it was similar to the Ritmo, sharing the same engines, which were the 1,301 cc inline-four rated at 68 PS for the Regata 70 and the 1,498 cc unit rated at 82 PS for the Regata 85. Both of these were SOHC engines. A DOHC 1,585 ccunit rated at 100 PS topped the range in the Regata 100) and there were two SOHC diesels, a 1,714 cc straight-four rated at 58 PS (Regata D) and a 1,929 cc straight-four rated at 65 PS (Regata DS), the latter of which was added in 1984. An economy model called the “ES” (“Energy Saving”) was also available, it featured an early start-stop system. It featured some detail modifications to the aerodynamics, an optimised (higher compression ratio and different valve timing) 1,301 cc engine rated at 65 PS), an engine shut-off system (when idling) and electronic ignition. Aside from the lowest-priced versions, a five-speed manual transmission came as standard. The Regata Weekend estate was introduced in November 1984. It was available with the same engines as the saloon. The Weekend replaced the 131 Panorama, which had been kept in production alongside the Regata. It featured a folding rear bumper, enabling easier access to the load area. The suspension and brakes were uprated to cope with the extra weight. Alongside there was also a two-seater Van derivative called the Marengo, only available with the larger diesel engine. A mid-life update was carried out in 1986, in which numerous small details were changed, most notably new doors with an altered window line. New door handles, grille, bumpers and wheel trims also featured. The 1,585 cc engine gained fuel injection to become the 100S i.e. (also available with a catalytic converter, losing some power and becoming the 90i.e.) whilst a catalysed and fuel-injected 1,498 cc unit powered the 75i.e. The 85 Automatic was also replaced by the 70 Automatic with a 1.3 litre engine rated at 65 PS. The diesel-powered models also changed slightly. An 80 PS 1,929 cc turbodiesel engine was introduced (badged Regata Turbo DS) whilst the 1,714 cc unit dropped in capacity to 1,697 cc (but gained power to 60 PS and had reduced fuel consumption). This model was simply badged as the Regata D. The weight was also reduced slightly. Production ceased in 1990, when the Tempra was introduced. It is many years since I last saw one of these in the UK. It turned out that this car had recently been brought here from Cyprus. It was not perfect, despite having only covered 45,000 miles., and the guyg who brought it wanted an ambitious amount of money for a car with minority interest. But still very nice to see.
The first generation Panda was well represented. Introduced at the 1980 Geneva Show, the Panda (Tipo 141) was designed as a cheap, easy to use and maintain, no-frills utility vehicle, positioned in Fiat’s range between the 126 and 127. It can be seen as a then-modern approach to the same niche which the Citroën 2CV and Renault 4 were designed to serve. The first Panda was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign. In an interview to Turinese newspaper La Stampa published in February 1980, Giugiaro likened the Panda to a pair of jeans, because of its practicality and simplicity, and he has often said that this is his favourite of all the cars he designed. Mechanically the first Pandas borrowed heavily from the Fiat parts bin. Engines and transmissions came from the Fiat 127 and, in certain territories, the air-cooled 652 cc two-cylinder powerplant from the Fiat 126. The plan for a mechanically simple car was also evident in the rear suspension, which used a solid axle suspended on leaf springs. Later versions of the car added various mechanical improvements but this spirit of robust simplicity was adhered to throughout the life of the model. Many design features reflect the Panda’s utilitarian practicality. Examples include a seven-position adjustable rear seat which could be folded flat to make an improvised bed, or folded into a V shape to support awkward loads, or easily and quickly removed altogether to increase the overall load space. The first Pandas also featured removable, washable seat covers, door trims and dashboard cover, and all the glass panels were flat making them cheap to produce, easy to replace and interchangeable between left and right door. Much like its earlier French counterparts the Panda could be specified with a two piece roll forward canvas roof. At launch two models were available: the Panda 30, powered by a longitudinally-mounted air cooled 652 cc straight-two-cylinder engine derived from the 126, or the Panda 45, with a transversely-mounted water cooled 903 cc four-cylinder from the 127. As a consequence of the different drivetrain layout the 45 had the radiator grille to the right side, the 30 to the left. In September 1982 Fiat added another engine to the line-up: the Panda 34 used an 843 cc water-cooled unit, derived from that in the 850. It was originally reserved for export to France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. Fiat launched the Panda 45 Super at the Paris Motor Show later in 1982, with previous specification models continuing as the “Comfort” trim. The Super offered numerous improvements, most significant being the availability of a five-speed gearbox as well as improved trim. There were minor styling changes to the Super including the introduction of Fiat’s new black plastic “corporate” grille with five diagonal silver bars. The earlier grille design (metal with slots on the left for ventilation) continued on the Comfort models until the next major revision of the line-up. A 30 Super was added to the range in February 1983, offering the Super trim combined with the smaller engine. The Panda 4×4 was launched in June 1983, it was powered by a 965 cc engine with 48 bhp derived from that in the Autobianchi A112. Known simply as the Panda 4×4, this model was the first small, transverse-engined production car to have a 4WD system. The system itself was manually selectable, with an ultra-low first gear. Under normal (on-road) conditions starting was from second, with the fifth gear having the same ratio as fourth in the normal Panda. Austrian company Steyr-Puch supplied the entire drivetrain (clutch, gearbox, power take-off, three-piece propshaft, rear live axle including differential and brakes) to the plant at Termini Imerese where it was fitted to the reinforced bodyshell. Minor revisions in November 1984 saw the range renamed “L”, “CL”, and “S”. Specifications and detailing were modified across the range including the adoption of the Fiat corporate grille across all versions. Mechanically, however, the cars remained largely unchanged. In January 1986, the Panda received a substantial overhaul and a series of significant mechanical improvements. Most of these changes resulted in the majority of parts being changed and redesigned, making many of the pre-facelift and post-facelift Panda parts incompatible between models. The 652 cc air-cooled 2-cyl engine was replaced by a 769 cc (34 bhp) water-cooled 4-cyl unit, and the 903/965cc by a 999cc (45 bhp, 50 bhp in the 4×4) unit. Both new engines were from Fiat’s new FIRE family of 4-cylinder water-cooled powerplants with a single overhead camshaft. The rear suspension was also upgraded, the solid axle with leaf springs being replaced by a more modern dependent suspension system using a non-straight rigid axle (known as the ‘Omega’ axle) with a central mounting and coil springs (first seen on the Lancia Y10, which used the same platform). The 4×4 retained the old leaf sprung live axle set-up, presumably to avoid having to redesign the entire 4WD system. Improvements were also made to the interior and the structure. The body was strengthened and fully galvanised on later models, virtually eliminating the earlier car’s strong tendency to rust. The rear panel design was also revamped to include flared arches that mirrored those of the front wings, replacing the un-sculpted style seen on earlier models, and the doors received a slight redesign with the earlier car’s quarter light windows being removed and replaced by a full width roll-down window. The bottom seam of the facelifted model’s doors unfortunately retained much the earlier car’s susceptibility to rust. In ascending order of specification and cost, the revised range was as follows: 750L, 750CL, 750S, 1000CL, 1000S, 4×4. April 1986 saw the introduction of a 1,301 cc diesel engine with 37 bhp (a detuned 127/Uno unit). Fitted as standard with a five-speed gearbox it was only available in the basic “L” trim. A van variant of the Panda was also introduced, with both petrol and diesel engines. The van was basically a standard Panda without rear seats. The rear windows were replaced with plastic blanking panels and a small (always black) steel extension with side hinged doors was fitted instead of the usual hatchback tailgate. Neither the van nor the diesel were available in right hand drive markets. In 1987, a new entry-level model badged “Panda Young” was added to the range. This was essentially an L spec car with a 769 cc OHV engine based on the old 903 cc push-rod FIAT 100 engine and producing the same 34 bhp (25 kW) as the more sophisticated 769 cc FIRE unit. The Panda 4×4 Sisley limited edition was also released; this was based on the standard 4×4, but came with metallic paint, inclinometer, white painted wheels, roof rack, headlamp washers, bonnet scoop, “Sisley” badging and trim. Although originally limited to the production of only 500, in 1989 the Sisley model became a permanent model due to its popularity. In 1991, a facelift was introduced. This entailed a new front grille with a smaller five-bar corporate badge, plus revisions to trim and specifications across the range. New arrivals included the ‘Selecta’, which had a continuously variable transmission with an electromagnetic clutch. This advanced transmission was available either with the normal 999 cc FIRE engine (revised with single-point fuel injection and a catalytic converter) or an all new 1108 cc FIRE unit, fitted with electronic fuel injection and a three-way catalytic converter and producing 51 bhp. The new CLX trim also featured a five-speed gearbox as standard. The range now comprised the 750 Young (769 cc ohv), 750 and 750 CLX (both 769 cc FIRE sohc), 900 Dance (903 cc ohv), 1000 Shopping, CLX, CL Selecta and S (all with 999 cc sohc, available with or without SPI and catalytic converter depending on the market), 1100 CL Selecta (1108 cc sohc with SPI and cat) and the 4×4 Trekking (999 cc, again available with and without a cat depending on the market). The Elettra concluded the range. In 1992, the 1108 cc engine, complete with SPI and catalytic converter, replaced the 999 cc unit in the 4×4 (with 50 bhp) and also in 1992 an 899 cc (with injection and catalyst) became available, in the ‘Cafe’ special edition. This was a reduced capacity 903 cc unit, designed to meet tax requirements in some markets. From 1996 onwards, the Panda was gradually phased out across Europe, due to tightening emissions and safety legislation. The car remained in production in Italy until May 2003. Its total production run of 23 years makes the Panda one of Europe’s longest-lived small cars. Over 4,5 million were built and the car is still popular in Italy. There were several here, including a very rare “Country Club” version. which was never sold in the UK, and which combined the 1.,1 FIRE engine with mud and snow tyres (fitted to the car, as you can see) as well as the 4 x 4 system.
Fiat launched the Uno in January 1983, just one day before the equally iconic Peugeot 205. Both were huge sellers, and deservedly so too, but it was the Fiat that sold in greater quantity, with over 8 million examples produced. It was Italy’s best selling car, and by some margin, throughout its 10 year production life, though you might find that hard to believe now, as they were are not a common sight even in Italy. Seen here is an example of the facelifted model which was first shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1989, an attempt to keep the car competitive with newer designs like the new Ford Fiesta and Citroen AX, and Renault’s forthcoming new Clio. The bodywork at the nose was updated and a different tailgate was fitted, improving the drag coefficient to Cd 0.30, and matching the corporate look of the then new Fiat Tipo. The interior was also revised. The pod switchgear was replaced by stalks and an effort was made to stop the dashboard rattles of the Mark I. At this time, the old 1.1 litre engine was replaced by a new FIRE version, and a new Fiat Tipo-derived 1.4 litre (1,372 cc) engine replaced the Ritmo/Strada-derived 1.3 litre in both naturally aspirated and turbo versions. A 1.4 litre Uno Turbo could reach a claimed 204 km/h (127 mph), while the 1.0 version only managed 140–145 km/h (87–90 mph) depending on which transmission was fitted. The Uno was replaced by the Punto in late 1993, although production for some markets continued for some time after that.
Far rarer than that even when new, was the original Croma (Type 154). This five-door notchback liftback penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Ital Design was built on the Type Four platform, shared with the Saab 9000, Lancia Thema and Alfa Romeo 164. Although these other models were executive cars, the Croma was marketed in the large family car segment, replacing the Fiat Argenta in the Fiat lineup. It was the first large car produced by Fiat to feature a transverse-mounted engine and front wheel drive. The Croma was available with a variety of petrol and diesel engines, the former from the Fiat DOHC engine family. Base models had the 1585 cc, 83 PS and 1995 cc, 90 PS “Controlled High Turbulence” (CHT) powerplants, followed by two fuel injected 2.0 litre units, one with 120 PS and the other a turbocharged and intercooled version giving 155 PS. The later 2.5 L petrol V6 unit was from Alfa Romeo, but as with the 1.6 litre engine, was not available in all markets. The 2.0 CHT was designed specifically to provide low fuel consumption under light and medium loads thanks to two separate inlet manifolds of different diameters. The Fiat Croma was the first passenger car in the world to have a direct injection Diesel (Turbo D i.d.) engine, in 1986. Other diesel engines were the Fiat’s 1.9 litre fitted with a turbocharger with direct injection, giving 92 PS, and the 2499 cc unit supplied by Iveco, with a normally aspirated version giving 75 PS and a turbocharged one with 115 PS. This one replaced the original 2446 cc with 100 PS. Diesel engined variants of this car were not marketed in the UK.The Croma received a light facelift for 1988, first shown in Frankfurt in September 1987. The black plastic between the rear lamps was now ridged rather than smooth, the lower portion of the bumpers were body-colored, and the turn signals received clear glass rather than amber. A more significant facelift in 1991 with new front design including changes to the lights, bumpers grille and sheet-metal changes to wings and bonnet. Also in 1991 the direct injected diesel engine was equipped with a variable geometry turbocharger (“VNT”). Production ceased in 1996, and Fiat abandoned the large family car segment. Because the Bravo/Brava-based Fiat Marea small family car débuted at the same time, it is sometimes said that the Marea replaced the Croma, but in fact Fiat never had a large family car after the Croma (until the resurrection in 2005), and Fiat eventually abandoned this segment of the worldwide market altogether. The car seen here was a pre-facelift Turbo ie and was absloutely fabulous. It was awareded the “Organisers’ Choice” prize.
It was nice to see this Punto GT. Internally codenamed Project 176, the Punto was announced in September 1993 as a replacement for the aging Fiat Uno and launched in late 1993/early 1994 depending on the market. The Fiat Punto was voted European Car of the Year for 1995, defeating rival Volkswagen Polo by only 78 points. The Punto was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and was available as a three-door or five-door hatchback, and a two-door cabriolet. It proved to be a massive success for Fiat, just at the time that they needed it, much like its predecessor. the Uno had been, 10 years earlier. Ignoring the Cabriolet, the GT was the top of the range. At launch it had a 136 PS 1400cc turbocharged engin(e, an evolution of the one used in the Uno Turbo, which gave it a top speed of over 200 km/h (120 mph). Few have survived.
Representing Fiat’s family sized cars was this 3 door Stilo. Developed as the Tipo 192, this C-segment mode was launched in November 2001, at the Bologna Motor Show, to replace the Fiat Bravo/Brava, with the Stilo MultiWagon following in 2002, a successor to the Bravo and Brava hatches and the Marea Weekend. Originally, its petrol engines were the 1242 cc DOHC 16 valve engine also powering the Punto and Lancia Ypsilon with an output of 80 PS combined with a 6 speed manual gearbox, a 103 PS, 1.6 litre with a 5 or 6 speed manual gearbox, a 133 PS 1.8 litre with a 5 speed manual gearbox and a 170 PS 5 cylinder, 2.4 litre engine combined with Fiat’s Selespeed 5 speed semi-automatic gearbox, similar to the gearbox used on the Alfa Romeo 147 and Alfa Romeo 156. An 8 valve, 1.9 JTD unit with 80 PS, 100 PS, 116 PS, 120 P or 16 valve 140 PS and 150 PS diesel unit were/are also available. The Stilo’s styling received mixed reviews, with many journalists and enthusiasts criticising it as being too bland and too German-looking (somewhat ironically as the styling of the preceding Bravo and Brava had been criticised for being too “Italian”). Critics also attacked the car’s excessive weight and its semi-independent rear torsion beam suspension / twist-beam rear suspension, (like a previous generation Volkswagen Golf), which was seen as a step backwards from the acclaimed fully independent rear suspension used in the Bravo/Brava, and which resulted in handling many found uninspired and uninvolving. Although the Bravo/Brava IRS was prone to suspension bush wear. The engine range, particularly the 1.2 litre petrol, was also criticised for being underpowered. The car’s fuel economy was also seen as poor for its class, a result of the car’s heavy weight and the transmission, which used very long gear ratios. Another point of criticism was the Selespeed gearbox, which was seen as too slow in its reactions and particularly inappropriate for the high-powered Abarth version. In the UK, different trim levels available were: Active, Active Aircon, Blue, Dynamic, Sporting, Abarth, GT, Prestigio, Xbox limited edition, Michael Schumacher and the Schumacher GP, with general modifications by British car specialists, Prodrive. Sales were sluggish from the start, and only got worse. As the model range aged, the range of available options was reduced. The Stilo was originally offered in some markets with a radar guided cruise control option; it included sensors in the front bumper and rear of the car to adjust the speed of the car according to other vehicles’ speed. This was soon dropped as it became apparent that other interferences were creating undesired results for the driver. A keyless entry, named ‘Easy Go’, push button start, similar in function to Citroen’s, Mercedes’s and BMW Mini’s systems, was also an available option. For 2006, the Stilo was updated with a new front grille, different seat fabric, a relocation of the electric mirror controls from the window control console to just behind the gear stick. The entry models also had the centre arm-rest removed (which when in the downward position prevented comfortable use of the handbrake as in the Audi A3) and the deletion of the rear air vent. The model was replaced in 2007 by the new Bravo, another sales disappointment. There is some interest in the stylish 3 door models these days, but the 5 doors have sunk almost without trace.
Far more popular among enthusiasts is the Panda 100HP, and several of these were on show. It is widely believed that this sporting version of Fiat’s diminutive city car was going to be the car to reintroduce the Abarth brand, but a last minute declaration (unbroken for now, but rumours suggest it may well be rescinded) that Abarth models do not have 4 or 5 doors meant that it was branded the 100HP instead.
Of the modern Fiats, it was this 500S which stood out.
It was nice to see a Grifo here, the best known of the small number of different models produced by ISO in the 1960s and early 70s. The prototype ‘Grifo A3/L’ was revealed at the Turin show in 1963 to overwhelming approval. First production Iso Grifo’s followed and all used reassembled and blueprinted Chevrolet Corvette 5.4 litre engines until a 7.0 litre option was introduced in 1968. The larger engined cars were distinguished by some detail modifications, such as a “subtle” bonnet scoop, necessary to accommodate the taller engine and a black band across the rear roof pillar. 322 Series I Grifos were produced before the design received a facelift in 1972 after which time a further 78 Series II Grifo’s were built. In total 90 Grifos were specified in seven-litre form, with only four being built in right-hand drive. The 7 litre cars had a 454 cubic inch Chevrolet V8 engine, and following a rebuild, this car recorded dynamometer results of 490bhp at 5,500rpm. The engine is mated to a modern Tremec TKO600 five-speed gearbox capable of handling this mighty power house.
Sadly, there were none.
Lancia fared little better, which was both a disappointment and a surprise, as in previous years, there have been quite a few models of this almost defunct marque here, but for 2016, it was down to a handful of cars, which were as follows:
Oldest of the Lancia models was this Fulvia Coupe S2. Like the larger Flavia which had been shown 3 years earlier, the Fulvia came with front wheel drive, and a host of exquisite engineering which ensure that even though it was expensive, it was actually not profitable for its maker, and was a direct contribution to the marque’s bankruptcy and take over by Fiat in 1969. It was not long before the initial Berlina saloon model of 1963 was joined by a Coupe. First seen in 1965. the Coupe proved to be the longest lived of all Fulvia variants, surviving until 1976 when it was effectively replaced by the 1300cc version of the Beta Coupe. Before that, it had undergone a steady program of updates, with more powerful engines, including a capacity increase from the initial 1200cc of the narrow angle V4 to 1300 and then later 1600cc, and the car was developed into a successful rally machine for the late 60s.
The other Lancia models on display were Delta Integrale cars, the best known these days of the brand’s back catalogue. These days it is the 4WD models, most of which were badged Delta Integrale which are the best known and the ones you see surprisingly often, considering how few were sold when they were new, thanks to a combination of the fact that they were quite costly and that they only ever came with left hand drive. The Integrale evolved over several years, starting off as the HF Turbo 4WD that was launched in April 1986, to homologate a new rally car for Lancia who needed something to fill the void left by the cancellation of Group B from the end of 1986. The Delta HF 4X4 had a four-wheel drive system with an in-built torque-splitting action. Three differentials were used. Drive to the front wheels was linked through a free-floating differential; drive to the rear wheels was transmitted via a 56/44 front/rear torque-splitting Ferguson viscous-coupling-controlled epicyclic central differential. At the rear wheels wa a Torsen (torque sensing) rear differential. It divided the torque between the wheels according to the available grip, with a maximum lockup of 70%. The basic suspension layout of the Delta 4WD remained the same as in the rest of the two-wheel drive Delta range: MacPherson strut–type independent suspension with dual-rate dampers and helicoidal springs, with the struts and springs set slightly off-centre. The suspension mounting provided more isolation by incorporating flexible rubber links. Progressive rebound bumpers were adopted, while the damper rates, front and rear toe-in and the relative angle between springs and dampers were all altered. The steering was power-assisted rack and pinion. The car looked little different from the front wheel drive models. In September 1987, Lancia showed a more sophisticated version of the car, the Lancia Delta HF Integrale 8V. This version incorporated some of the features of the Delta HF 4WD into a road car. The engine was an 8-valve 2 litre fuel injected 4-cylinder, with balancing shafts. The HF version featured new valves, valve seats and water pump, larger water and oil radiators, more powerful cooling fan and bigger air cleaner. A larger capacity Garrett T3 turbocharger with improved air flow and bigger inter-cooler, revised settings for the electronic injection/ignition control unit and a knock sensor, boosting power output to 185 bhp at 5300 rpm and maximum torque of 224 lb/ft at 3500 rpm. The HF Integrale had permanent 4-wheel drive, a front transversely mounted engine and five-speed gearbox. An epicyclic centre differential normally split the torque 56 per cent to the front axle, 44 per cent to the rear. A Ferguson viscous coupling balanced the torque split between front and rear axles depending on road conditions and tyre grip. The Torsen rear differential further divided the torque delivered to each rear wheel according to grip available. A shorter final drive ratio (3.111 instead of 2.944 on the HF 4WD) matched the larger 6.5×15 wheels to give 24 mph/1000 rpm in fifth gear. Braking and suspension were uprated to 284 mm ventilated front discs, a larger brake master cylinder and servo, as well as revised front springs, dampers, and front struts. Next update was to change the engine from 8 valves to 16. The 16v Integrale was introduced at the 1989 Geneva Motorshow, and made a winning debut on the 1989 San Remo Rally. It featured a raised centre of the bonnet to accommodate the new 16 valve engine, as well as wider wheels and tyres and new identity badges front and rear. The torque split was changed to 47% front and 53% rear. The turbocharged 2-litre Lancia 16v engine now produced 200 bhp at 5500 rpm, for a maximum speed of 137 mph and 0–100 km/h in 5.5 seconds. Changes included larger injectors, a more responsive Garrett T3 turbocharger, a more efficient intercooler, and the ability to run on unleaded fuel without modification. The first Evoluzione cars were built at the end of 1991 and through 1992. These were to be the final homologation cars for the Lancia Rally Team; the Catalytic Evoluzione II was never rallied by the factory. The Evoluzione I had a wider track front and rear than earlier Deltas. The bodyside arches were extended and became more rounded. The wings were now made in a single pressing. The front strut top mounts were also raised, which necessitated a front strut brace. The new Integrale retained the four wheel drive layout. The engine was modified to produce 210 bhp at 5750 rpm. External changes included: new grilles in the front bumper to improve the air intake for engine compartment cooling; a redesigned bonnet with new lateral air slats to further assist underbonnet ventilation; an adjustable roof spoiler above the tailgate; new five-bolt wheels with the same design of the rally cars; and a new single exhaust pipe. Interior trim was now grey Alcantara on the Recaro seats, as fitted to the earlier 16V cars; leather and air conditioning were offered as options, as well as a leather-covered Momo steering wheel. Presented in June 1993, the second Evolution version of the Delta HF Integrale featured an updated version of the 2-litre 16-valve turbo engine to produce more power, as well as a three-way catalyst and Lambda probe. A Marelli integrated engine control system with an 8 MHz clock frequency which incorporates: timed sequential multipoint injection; self-adapting injection times; automatic idling control; engine protection strategies depending on the temperature of intaken air; Mapped ignition with two double outlet coils; Three-way catalyst and pre-catalyst with lambda probe (oxygen sensor) on the turbine outlet link; anti-evaporation system with air line for canister flushing optimised for the turbo engine; new Garrett turbocharger: water-cooled with boost-drive management i.e. boost controlled by feedback from the central control unit on the basis of revs/throttle angle; Knock control by engine block sensor and new signal handling software for spark park advance, fuel quantity injected, and turbocharging. The engine now developed 215 PS as against 210 PS on the earlier uncatalysed version and marginally more torque. The 1993 Integrale received a cosmetic and functional facelift that included. new 16″ light alloy rims with 205/45 ZR 16 tyres; body colour roof moulding to underline the connection between the roof and the Solar control windows; aluminium fuel cap and air-intake grilles on the front mudguards; red-painted cylinder head; new leather-covered three-spoke MOMO steering wheel; standard Recaro seats upholstered in beige Alcantara with diagonal stitching. In its latter years the Delta HF gave birth to a number of limited and numbered editions, differing mainly in colour, trim and equipment; some were put on general sale, while others were reserved to specific markets, clubs or selected customers.
Contemporary with the Grifo was this fabulous Maserati Ghibli. First unveiled in prototype form on the Maserati stand at the November 1966 Turin Motor Show, this grand tourer with an all steel body, characterised by a low, shark-shaped nose, was designed by a young Giorgetto Giugiaro, then working at Carrozzeria Ghia. Deliveries started in March of the following year. While the 1966 Ghia prototype was a two-seater, on the production car two emergency rear seats were added—consisting of nothing more than a cushion without backrest—and the Ghibli was marketed as a 2+2, though everyone tends to think of this car as a 2 seater, and the later Indy as the real 2+2 from the range. The first Ghibli cars were powered by a front placed quad-cam 4.7 litre dry sump V8 engine that prodiuced 306 bhp, mated to a five-speed manual or, on request, to a three-speed automatic transmission. It had a 0-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds, a top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph). The car also featured pop-up headlamps, leather sport seats and alloy wheels. A convertible version, the Ghibli Spyder, went into production in 1969. Its convertible top folded away under a flush fitting body-colour tonneau cover behind the front seats; thus the Spyder eschewed any vestigial rear passenger accommodation, and was a strict two-seater. A removable hard top was available as an option. The 4.9-litre Ghibli SS was released later in 1969. Its V8 engine was stroked 4 mm to displace 4930 cc, and put out 330 bhp; its top speed of 280 km/h (174 mph) made it the fastest Maserati road car ever produced. In all, 1,170 coupés and 125 Spyders (including 25 Spyder SS) were produced.
After producing BiTurbo based cars for 17 years, Maserati replaced their entire range with a new model in July 1998. Known internally as the Tipo 338, and christened the Maserati 3200 GT, this very elegant 2+2 grand tourer was styled by Italdesign, whose founder and head Giorgetto Giugiaro had previously designed, among others, the Ghibli, Bora and Merak. The interior design was commissioned to Enrico Fumia. Its name honoured the Maserati 3500 GT, the Trident’s first series production grand tourer. Sold mainly in Europe, the 3200 GT was powered by the twin-turbo, 32-valve, dual overhead cam 3.2-litre V8 engine featured in the Quattroporte Evoluzione, set up to develop 370 PS (365 hp). The car was praised for its styling, with the distinctive array of tail-lights, consisting of LEDs, arranged in the shape of boomerang being particularly worthy of comment. The outer layer of the ‘boomerang’ provided the brake light, with the inner layer providing the directional indicator. The car was also reviewed quite well by the press when they got to drive it in early 1999, though it was clear that they expected more power and excitement. That came after 4,795 cars had been produced, in 2001, with the launch of the 4200 models. Officially called the Coupé and joined by an open-topped Spyder (Tipo M138 in Maserati speak), these models had larger 4.2 litre engines and had been engineered so the cars could be sold in America, marking the return to that market for Maserati after an 11 year gap. There were some detailed styling changes, most notable of which were the replacement of the boomerang rear lights with conventional rectangular units. Few felt that this was an improvement. The cars proved popular, though, selling strongly up until 2007 when they were replaced by the next generation of Maserati. Minor changes were made to the model during its six year production, but more significant was the launch at the 2004 Geneva Show of the GranSport which sported aerodynamic body cladding, a chrome mesh grille, carbon fibre interior trim, and special 19-inch wheels. It used the Skyhook active suspension, with a 0.4 inch lower ride height, and the Cambiocorsa transmission recalibrated for quicker shifts. The exhaust was specially tuned to “growl” on start-up and full throttle. The GranSport was powered by the same 4244 cc, 90° V8 petrol engine used on the Coupé and Spyder, but developing 400 PS (395 hp) at 7000 rpm due primarily to a different exhaust system and improvements on the intake manifolds and valve seats. A six-speed paddle shift transmission came as standard. The GranSport has a claimed top speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) and a 0–62 mph (0–100 km/h) time of 4.8 seconds. There were examples of the 3200GT, the 4200GT, the Spyder and the GranSport here.
This was a splendid event, bathed in sunshine for all but a brief early afternoon rain shower. That so many people stayed for so long into the afternoon suggests that I was far from alone in enjoying it. Years ago, there used to be an Italian Car event at Gaydon, at around this time of year. It was organised by Gingerbeer Promotions, the events company run by Phil Ward of Auto Italia magazine, and was dropped from the schedule thanks to dwindling attendances. Based on the success of this one, this may be a decision which should be reviewed, as the organisers here amassed something at least as diverting as the last time Italian cars were gathered here. Indeed, so compelling was it, that I completely failed to find the time to look at the revamped museum. The 2017 MITCAR event will take place at Ragley Hall, just outside Alcester, on 20th August. That is a great venue, and I will certainly be there myself.