Rearview: Alfa Romeo Alfetta Berlina

FCA could learn something from the 1972 Alfetta, but it’s probably a bit late for that now.


While FCA’s Italian engineers have undoubtedly being imbibing industrial quantities of Alfa lore as they develop their forthcoming saloon, they’re unlikely to have this print ad posted up on their mood board. Perhaps they should, because journalistic hyperbole aside, it illustrates as eloquently as anything I can say not only how far Alfa Romeo has fallen since the early 1970’s, but how steep a climb FCA’s engineers now face.

In less than two months time, FCA will pull the wraps off the first of the new generation of Alfa Romeo saloons aimed at a global audience. There’s a lot riding on it being a stylistic success as well as a critical one, but of course, the ultimate arbiter will be whether it’s also a commercial one. As the first rear-wheel drive Alfa Romeo saloon since the 75, the shadow of the Alfa’s past looms large over the new car’s prospects. It’s easy to forget how well received the Alfetta was in 1974. Or indeed how quickly critical acclaim can morph into disillusionment and apathy.

In a few weeks time we may find out what the new Alfa looks like, and for those of us who retain affection for the marque, we can only hope it honours the Alfetta’s abilities without cleaving to its lacklustre commercial career. If this car fails, it will take most of FCA with it.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

14 thoughts on “Rearview: Alfa Romeo Alfetta Berlina”

  1. In its own way the Alfetta compares favourably with the S-class Mercedes: better fuel consumption? Cheaper? More interior lights? Head restraints fitted as standard in the rear? I salute the chaps who thought up such a vacuous bit of copy. It sounds good but can mean any mumber of things. In its own way a Kia Picanto is better than a McLaren. Still, the Alfetta was a class-leading drive. All the main masses were inside the wheel base leading to it having remarkable agility. I must grab a copy of the interior photo for my plastic car interiors article: thanks for that link, Sam. Note the Alfetta’s old-school doors and more modern IP. Fascinating stuff.

    1. The tyres I did recognize as well. They look tiny for today’s standards, accentuated by the fact that the wheel arches are fairly big. But it looks homogeneous and good. I wish today’s engineers and designers would have the guts to build something like that. Small tyres have more advantages than drawbacks.

  2. To me, the Alfetta is simply the most appealing Alfa saloon, full stop. I’ve never quite ‘gotten’ the Giulia – just like its most famous competitor, BMW’s Neue Klasse/02 – and the strangeness of 80s Alfas we’ve discussed recently. I like the ‘fetta’s stance, its engineering and its overall ‘vibe’. This is a good car. And its GTV siblings ought to become the next big thing in five years’ time.

  3. As known, I’m a big Giulia fan, but I’ll agree with Kris that the Alfetta is theoretically better all round than the Giulia and, come to that, its contemporary competitor the BMW 520. It should really have taken the post-war Alfa revival from strength to strength, especially since, unlike the BMW, its staid but handsome saloon styling was complemented by a very practical coupe. Why did BMW thrive and Alfa get lost? Italian labour relations aside, thinking back, there was always the feeling that Alfa weren’t really entirely in control. Their model range was fuzzy – basing the Giulietta on the same platform and wheelbase was penny pinching – and they didn’t engender the confidence that BMW did.

    I notice that Richard perceives the tyres as large, yet Daniel calls them tiny. Can I suggest you are both right? The rubber is fat and generous but, like its predecessor, the Alfetta rides high so there is a lot of space at the top of the wheelarches.

    1. No.
      And you’re right. What i meant was: The wheels are tiny, the tyres comparatively large. Still, both higher flanks for tyres and smaller wheels would be highly well received on my end.

  4. Very handsome to my eye, but the tiny vents on the C-pillar can only remind me of the Morris Ital. Remove the Alfa grille and it could be from any manufacturer; overall, it carries more than a whiff of Japan. This view is formed in hindsight as the Japanese set out to emulate the finest examples of Italian rationalism, which paralleled their own desire for manufacturing simplicity. If that damns the Alfetta with feint praise then it shouldn’t, as the car is a fine example of this epoch in car design.

  5. Chris is right that that the overall shape is a bit generic. BMW´s 520 had a more refined finish to the details. That might be one reason it “won” in the long run.

    1. And yet the E12 looks decidedly ‘old’ these days, more so than, say, the W123 or the SD1. Having recently watched a video of a classic touring car race at Goodwood, I was astonished at quite how tall and ‘on its toes’ the BMW appeared to be, while the Rover looked planted, purposeful and much more modern. The E12’s aerodynamics were also notoriously awful, which somewhat clashes with the Bavarian’s sporting image. I wonder what the Alfa would have looked like in that context.

  6. If I remember, at the time the similarity with the 520 was noted but it was felt the Alfa looked a bit too narrow – though it doesn’t seem particularly so in this picture.

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