Ranking in equal 7th place with the Datsun Cherry (N12) is the 1984 Alfa Romeo 33 Green Cloverleaf.
With the Alfa Romeo 33 Green Cloverleaf, the Milanese firm continued its struggle to march back to the front of the sporting pack, to chase the Peugeot’s 305 GT and VW’s Golf GTi. Building on the structural foundations of the 1971 Alfa Sud, the 33 had a 105 bhp 1.5 litre flat-four engine and the same basic mechanicals.
This Green Cloverleaf version of the car had stiffer springs and dampers than the standard model; it had extra aerodynamic fittings, a tendency to rust and a noisy, fizzy, raspy exhaust that other makers could only dream about.
Unlike the other cars in the 33 range the GC was fun to drive and faster than a Ford XR3i. And inside there were thicker side bolsters on the seats and a leather rimmed steering wheel too. This was no Escort, no Golf. Perhaps only Astra/Kadett owners managed to see clear blue water between them and the contender from southern Italy. Why was that?
Because the 1984 Kadetts’s designers used the most advanced computer software available to create the interior, a car with more room and luggage space than any of its peers. The cD was 0.30 compared to the Alfa’s (0.4 by some reckoning); the Kadett needed less servicing too.
It asked only 1.2 hours of servicing in its first 9,000 miles and it used less fuel than its predecessor; and finally the Kadett had far better ergonomics than was the norm at the time and even today the car, sleek and refined, is a useable, sturdy and smooth-driving machine. In contrast the boxy, rust-afflicted Alfa 33’s pedals were set too close together and the gearbox a real nuisance. The build quality remained dire throughout its long life.
Yet the Alfa has something the Astra/Kadett doesn’t: the Alfa badge, a characterful engine and a tradition of engineering excellence going back to the days of Fangio. And remember, Enzo Ferrari drove one to work (an Alfa but not a 33).