Ashtrays: 1973 Alfa Romeo 2000

The glory days of the sports saloon and smoking occurred around the late 60s to early 70s. At this time Alfa Romeo produced a car for the determined driver who also enjoyed a rush of nicotine…

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The Alfa Romeo 2000 berlina shown here comes with all that is necessary in a performance saloon. In addition to the five-speed gearbox (when Fords and Opels made do with four), rear-wheel drive, independent suspension and a 1,962 cc four-cylinder engine (132 bhp) the 2000 had a very-well placed and sensibly-sized flip-top ashtray for the driver and front-passenger. The rear-passengers could use bottom-hinged ashtrays placed in the lower part of the doors. This, as we have seen, is probably one of two optimum locations for the rear passengers’ ashtrays, the other being behind the console between the front seats (where there is usually room for a large receptacle). The rear ashtray of the 2000 has a thoughtfully wrought tab on which to extinguish cigarettes. It might suit cigarillos and cheroots but not a larger cigar – a half corona at a stretch.

I have not had a chance in more than 2 point five decades to sit in such a car. Since then my judgement and perceptual capacities have improved somewhat. Features became apparent to me now that I did not see back then. I can report that in the 2000 we find an interesting example of a car which is very compact but which feels remarkably comfortable: this is noteworthy. Period reviews and modern classic magazines justifiably praise the 2000 for its performance and road-holding. It falls to DTW to add to the body of wisdom concerning this vehicle by saying that the 2000 does not sacrifice comfort for compactness.

You can have a comfortable (very comfortable) car without adding centimetres all around the passengers. If that sounds counterintuitive, an analogy might be that of a good office chair. It holds one in place and thus allows one to relax in a comfortable position. The rear of the 2000 has two snug seats and a smashing rear-armrest which includes an oddments store (this surprised me – how modern). What this means is that the car is not bulky (which is bad for performance) but is a pleasure to sit in (which is more than can be said for two-seater roadsters).

Up front you find a rather lovely, deeply dished steering wheel, a gear-stick well out of the way of the ashtray and three sensibly-placed pedals. As in the rear, the seat has a supportive and appealing construction. To charm one’s visual sense, there is wood veneer, chromed-bezels and very high quality plastic trim. Taking a look upwards I noticed how well-tailored the a-pillar, b-pillar and c-pillar were, all neatly abutting the taut headliner. Charming one’s ears is the sound of the doors fitting precisely into their frames as they shut.

A while back we had a look at a rather different version of the 60s “shoe-box” style, the Silver Shadow. Bertone’s 1967 design for Alfa Romeo (which is very similar to the 1971-1976 2000 shown here) also cleaves to this theme and demonstrates how versatile the basic format is while offering plenty of room for expression. Whereas the Silver Shadow has richly radiused edges, the 2000 draws more from the spirit of the best of Modernist architecture: sheer, crisp, reserved.

While the individual details are kept to a minimum, those that are there are working very hard, economically deployed. The bonnet has a subtle inflection over the wheel; there is a bevelled surface or chamfer running from the lamps to the tail; another one is carved over the gutter and the grille sits neatly inside an oblong formed from the rational junction of the wings, bonnet and valence. The rear wheel arch has a flat top that is defined by another subtle crease that shoots forward to the top of the front wheel. This kind of design is easily misidentified as boring: actually it’s lovingly finessed. I consider this a masterwork of industrial design.

An interesting exercise is to compare this with the Camry we discussed recently. If I could say more precisely why the Afla’s design hits the right note and the Camry doesn’t I’d be a lot wiser than I am now.

1973 Alfa Romeo 2000 Berlina: source
1973 Alfa Romeo 2000 Berlina: stelvio.dk

[This Alfa Romeo 2000 Berlina, in simply beautiful condition, can be viewed here.]

Author: richard herriott

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

19 thoughts on “Ashtrays: 1973 Alfa Romeo 2000”

    1. Thanks – that error was too big to spot. When I sat down to write that I promised I would do it in 18 minutes and it ended up taking 45 minutes and I also subbed the article on the train this morning too. And despite all that I missed out the blooper in the headline.
      I enjoyed the 2000 experience. They are very likeable cars, to look at, to sit in and to drive. Great ashtrays too.

  1. It’s hard to believe that the same company that gave the world such a lovely cockpit (and not just by mass-production standards) would dare to insult its clientele with the Nuova Giulietta’s cockpit just a few years later. Were British and Italian Interior Designers’ Unions at the forefront of the picket lines in the 1970s?

    1. The step-change in quality is stark, What could have made for better interior design? I think prototyping would have been a good idea and the fact that Fiat, Alfa and Lancia turned out such bad mouldings must be down to the lack of research. I have no evidence to back this up though. It would be be hard to find out now. My guess is that cooperation between the plastics suppliers and the manufacturers and designers allowed for a certain amount of experience to be gained before the new plastic interiors were put into production. Ever after the Italians were one or two model cycles behind.

  2. Was it compulsory for every manufacturer to have a model named 2000? Using engine capacity for a name seems terribly unimaginative, otherwise 75% of all BMWs would be called 20d. The Alfa 2000 is among the loveliest, however.

  3. Looking at the Alfa 2000 and a lot of Detroit iron from the same era, it strikes me that car styling is now at the entirely opposite end of the cycle.

    In the 1960s, simple forms were de rigueur. Proportion and detail was everything, with flourishes relegated to brightwork. The results were restrained, yes, but observed within the context of the whole, simple embellishments would sing. Cars styled in this way were easily read: engine here, people here, stuff here. This is a window, this is a door. The designs could be easily unpacked visually, giving the eye more time to linger on individual elements.

    Nowadays the entire car is an embellishment, with flourish upon flourish laid upon complicated shapes. The current Opel Astra, for example, has any number of graphics applied to a shape not far off that of a King Edward potato. Such is the current crop, I find. I need not discuss the Nissan Juke, of course, except to invoke its name. Within this context the latest Mercedes C-Class, one of the most barroque models ever to wear a three pointed star, appears almost restrained.

    Such things are cyclical, of course. It will not be long until something else comes along and we are bemoaning the visual austerity of the next generation. I very much doubt that any car from the past few years will be held up as a high water mark, however.

  4. Really beautiful car. The only fly in the ointment for me is the fly window. A single front window would give it an even cleaner look.

    1. At least this window has a real purpose. Today’s horror vacui is more like: “This area looks a bit plain. Let’s add a crease / chrome strip / black panel”.

  5. God, what a beautiful car. Simple elegance. Stunning in that colour too. Reviving for me having been knocked sideways by today’s reveal of the new Citroen C6 in Beijing. I know I shouldn’t have, that I should have learnt by now, but, it’s true what they say, that one never really stops being an addict.

    1. Sorry Chris, I should have made myself clear. It’s a tragedy! Possibly, the worst Citroen ever designed. Quite foul.

    1. I’m put in mind of the Renault Talisman, which can actually be bought in Europe. Not sure if anyone does.

  6. Whatever badge they put on this Lada Passat 508, it leaves me without any emotion. Soon after I got my C6, it became quite clear that I will keep it for some time, as it might probably be my last Citroën – because there won’t be any to speak of afterwards. (Although I have to admit that I still have a slight crush on the Cactus.)

    This … “thing” now confirms that feeling, but I’m already detached enough not to care too much. What’s worse in my eyes, I don’t see any alternative that really re-ignites my passion for cars. Tesla Model 3 perhaps? Why don’t they give it a hatch? But otherwise…
    Or I switch to antiquities with clever ashtrays.

    1. While a kei car might not seem anything a C6 will long for, I actually check Copen ads from time to time. But for practical reasons, a boxy micro-van with a nice colour scheme would be a more stringent choice. Only, who will import such a thing into LHD Switzerland…?

  7. I have to prefer the Giulia Berlina that the 1750/2000 is based on. The details of the larger car are fine, but I miss the slight eccentricity of the smaller car. Also. the proportions of passenger cell to boot to bonnet look right on the Giulia, but the 1750’s boot and bonnet look a bit too long. But I’m hair splitting really.

    Odd that Bertone/Giugiaro designed this. The normal convention seemed that Alfa Centro Stile under Giuseppe Scarnati designed saloons, Bertone did coupes, Pininfarina did convertibles.

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