A Photo for Sunday: 1990 Alfa Romeo 75 Twin Spark

Alfa Romeo first showed the 75 in ’85. It replaced the Giulietta. 

1990 Alfa Romeo 75. Not very rusty.
1990 Alfa Romeo 75. Not very rusty.

Alfa Romeo’s in-house styling department handled the exterior and interior which explains the marked eccentricity. It does have a lot of lines down the side (not much parallelism) and most versions had a black plastic strip running along from nose to tail. I’ve only seen one 75 with no plastic, a base model French-market car.

These are narrow cars, based on a development of the Giulietta body.
These are narrow cars, based on a development of the Giulietta body.

In 1987 Car magazine tested the 2.0 twin spark and the 3.0 V6, giving both the thumbs up despite the odd ergonomics. “Every bit as good as equivalent BMW models,” wrote Gavin Green who is always a bit wrong about most things. He said the BMW 325i lacked the control and fail-safe handling of the 75. Balance and feedback were the 75’s other handling attributes, he said.

The 325i is a bad car to compare with in regard to dynamics as it was a markedly untrustworthy steer. Lift-off oversteer, for example. What headline did Car put on its front page for this: “Alfa Romeo is back. With good cars, we mean. These new 75s fully recapture the Alfa spirit.”

And the rear. The big, high boot seemed quite shocking in 1985, when the usual deck was lower and deeper.
And the rear. The big, high boot seemed quite shocking in 1985, when the usual deck was lower and deeper.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

10 thoughts on “A Photo for Sunday: 1990 Alfa Romeo 75 Twin Spark”

  1. The Ermanno Cressoni-era Alfas were a very idiosyncratic bunch o’ cars.

    Growing up during the 80s, I wondered why my dad always waxed lyrical about the panache of Alfas. One of Germany’s favourite detective tv programmes was ‘Ein Fall für Zwei‘, in which a supposedly cool, ‘maverick‘-type private investigator kept running around in a leather jacket and driving around in a succession of Alfas. Thus, my childhood image of the Milanese marque had been shaped by the 75s, 33s and their likes, which always appeared awkward, rather than dashing to my younger self. And they still do, despite my adult awareness of their transaxle chassis and lovely engines. It’s a pity the – considerably more handsome – Davide Arcangeli-penned Alfas didn’t feature the same kind of engineering, for I’d be seriously lusting after a RWD, transaxle 164 – that’s for sure.

  2. To my eyes the 75 has always been a poor design, looking like a mark 2 VW Jetta that the designer could not quite get to cohere. Who knows why Alfa decided to ditch the rational yet romantic styling of previous models. Perhaps they did they not want people to buy their cars?

    1. Well, 1980s car styling in general became more technocratic in appearance. Alfa probably thought it wise to follow suit, which doesn’t explain the awkward proportions of much of their eighties’ output.

      As stated above, I’m actually rather fond of the late ’80s/early ’90s cars, but by then, Fiat’s influence was becoming rather apparent on the engineering side, regrettably. I suppose Alfa’s clumsy styling period can be seen as a symbol of the company having somewhat lost its way during state ownership. Obviously, the men in charge – and I’m not including Cressoni himself, maybe unjustly – had no firm grasp of what Alfa should stand for, in aesthetic terms.

  3. No-one inside or outside the company seemed to understand Alfa’s intentions back then (or now of course). For a start, although the Alfetta and its successor the 90 were supposed to be a size up from the Giulietta and its successor the 75, they were all built on the same platform, wheelbase unaltered.

    That said, I’ve long found the 75 a tempting proposition, having a reasonably unique layout. But, as expected, it’s hard to find a good one.

    I didn’t actually know you could get a 75 without the black plastic strips. That must look odd. Or dull. Like Salvador Dali without a moustache.

  4. Robert Opron did the black plastic dividing strip better with the Renault Fuego – though interestingly, it was apparently not his preference, but the result of a production compromise.

    The grille on the front view you show above suggests that, as soon as Fiat got its hands on Alfa Romeo, they sent in the ‘facelift team’ to do its usual cack-handed job.

    1. Maybe Robert Opron took late revenge on Alfa for imitating the Fuego-stripe by creating the rolling brick Alfa Romeo RZ/SZ on the Alfa 75 base….

  5. The Alfa 75 was a very typical child of its time. in the 80ies, a new car had to be equipped with voluminous plastic parts, especially when the car was not actually really new. That was the way to make a car look more modern, bigger and sporty – all at once. And to hide the rusty regions of a car…

    So the Alfa 75 was in the same row of cars like the Opel Manta, the Porsche 944 or the Audi Quattro, Even Saab and Citroen, not known for following every fashion, are adding a lot of plastic at their flagships CX and 900.
    Looking back with a distance of 30 years we mostly prefer the pure line without plastic, forgetting all those rusty examples with signs of contact at both bumpers…

    Alfa, in my eyes, was at hat period not very good in bringing their cars in a modern shape. The 33 was their best result, the Alfa Spider of 1984 was one of the biggest crimes in italian car history. The Alfa 75 was in the middle of these two poles. Not as fina and pure as the giulietta, but more vigorius, dynamic and massive. And his arse did no longer remind some critics of the arse of an baboon…

  6. I had forgotten about the 33. I agree it worked better especially in the earlier versions which were simpler. That car soldiered on for 12 years, from 1983 to 1995. I wanted to buy one once. I was after a “classic car” and spotted one for sale for a small amount of money. It turned out to be a sodden and rusted white wreck in a barn somewhere in the midlands of Ireland. It started but I noticed the pedals were set too close together for me to easily drive it. I am thankful I walked away from that one.
    On the subject of the 33, it must be part of our design rationalism series. And to nod to Markus´point, it gained a lot of plastic as the years went by. They sold 1.1 million 33s over the years, did you know and it still one of Alfa´s most succesful models. That ought not to be the case. They have made much better cars since then but the sales have not matched the improvement. For the 147 this is especially unjust.
    We could do a series on plastic addenda of the 80s!

    1. Good thoughts all round, especially that re the 147 (and 156 for that matter) and the last point re plastic addenda. I always liked the earlier 33s, and at the time of its launch it looked very modern, nicely proportioned and has aged well. It was then “modernised” via a significant facelift, that looked ok at the time, but has aged less well. The 75 was pretty bad, although other Alfa’s of the time were worse (6!), but I always quite fancied a V6.

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