Going South (Part Two)

The Alfasud lands to great acclaim. But trouble is just around the corner. 

1971 Alfasud N.  Image: estrepublicain.fr

The Alfasud was launched at the 1971 Turin motor show and was greeted with widespread praise. The compact mechanical package allowed for a low bonnet line and a spacious interior. Despite appearances, the Alfasud, like many contemporaries, was not a hatchback, but a four-door saloon with a conventional boot. The exposed boot hinges were just a minor visual flaw in what was a notably modern, attractive and aerodynamic design.

The front end featured integrated headlamp/indicator units framing a simple horizontal grille that contained the traditional Alfa Romeo shield. Eagle-eyed observers would note that the Alfa Romeo badge had been altered to omit the word Milano from its script. To the disappointment of many Alfisti, this would become the norm for all future Alfa Romeo models, irrespective of where they were built.

What did not disappoint were the Alfasud’s dynamic qualities. Despite the relatively small-capacity engine, the car’s light weight, just 810kg (1,782lbs) low centre of gravity and sophisticated suspension resulted in excellent performance, with a top speed of almost 150km/h (93mph), superb steering and beautifully balanced, neutral handling. At a stroke, it raised the dynamic benchmark for FWD cars and was hardly bettered throughout its production life. Alfa Romeo, by all accounts, had a winner on its hands.

1971 Alfasud.  Image: mad4wheels.com

Despite some delays caused by strikes, production began in April 1972 at the Pomigliano d’Arco plant, where Hruska had been appointed managing director. Unfortunately, the plant was beset by many problems, the inevitable consequence of its poorly trained workforce of 15,000 being almost wholly unskilled in automotive (or any) manufacturing work. Early cars suffered many quality issues, a product of poor quality control and uneven assembly.

The atmosphere in the plant was tainted by mistrust between workers and management which resulted in high levels of militancy and absenteeism. Production volumes rarely exceeded half the plant’s theoretical capacity of 1,000 cars per day. Whatever his undoubted talents as an engineer, Hruska was temperamentally unsuited to managing the complex and often toxic relationships between workers, unions, Alfa Romeo senior management and the government.

An even more serious problem with the Alfasud emerged before long, that of corrosion. Early cars rusted prematurely because of poor working practices at the Pomigliano plant, primarily at the factory’s electrophoresis baths(1). This was attributed to the workforce’s lack of experience and training, and was exacerbated by strikes interrupting production and allowing moisture to settle on unpainted bodies.

Consequently, the Alfasud was prone to rust alarmingly quickly, particularly in the damp climate of northern Europe. A ‘quick and dirty’ fix of injecting the A-pillar box sections with expanding foam actually trapped moisture and exacerbated the problem; the Alfasud perpetuating Italy’s by now well-founded reputation for producing fragile and rust-prone cars.(2)

Alfa Romeo’s worsening financial position and ongoing issues at the Naples plant delayed further developments to the Alfasud family, which arrived very slowly. In November 1973, the company introduced the two-door ti model that featured an uprated 67bhp (50kW) engine coupled to a five-speed gearbox. Externally, apart from the absence of rear doors, and the fitment of front and rear spoilers, the ti was mainly distinguished by the adoption of twin circular headlamps, although this forced the relocation of the front indicators into slightly makeshift looking enclosures sitting atop the corners of the front bumper.

In May 1975, the Giardinetta three-door estate version was introduced. Although undoubtedly more practical, the boxy, upright rear end and rigidly geometric rear side window sat uncomfortably with the smooth curves elsewhere, so much so that Giugiaro allegedly disowned it, insisting that it was not his work, but centro stile’s own.

The long-awaited Sprint coupé version finally debuted in September 1976. This sharply geometric three-door model shared no external body panels or fittings with the saloon and, although both models were supposed to have been designed by Giugiaro concurrently, the Sprint looked much more a product of the mid-1970’s than the previous decade.

1979 Alfasud Sprint. Image: bwgarage.com

The Sprint featured an enlarged 1,286cc 75bhp (56kW) engine that was also offered in the ti from July 1977. An oddity of the Sprint’s design was that the rear seat back was fixed, limiting the versatility of its hatchback design. Perhaps there was a school of thought within Alfa Romeo that assumed its customers had ‘people’ to lug their chattels about and they did not themselves undertake such tasks? Joking aside, it is more likely that the bulkhead was retained to aid body rigidity. In any event, the Sprint was intended to be a fun car, so practicality was unlikely to be high on potential owners’ list of priorities.

That same year, the berlina range was topped by a new derivation. The 5M offered a similar specification to the outgoing Lusso model, but with the addition of the ti’s five-speed transmission. In late 1977, the Alfasud received a minor facelift, most noticeably deeper chrome bumpers with thick plastic inserts. Inside, a new dashboard moulding and improved soft furnishings lifted the cabin ambience. Technically, larger 1,350cc and 1,490cc engines would be offered in addition to the existing 1,186cc and 1,286cc units.

1980 brought the most significant facelift to the Alfasud range. The metal bumpers were replaced with rather cumbersome looking grey plastic items. Enlarged front indicators were no longer incorporated behind the headlamp glasses and looked less tidy as a result. An unfortunately placed side rubbing strip at bumper height interrupted the formerly smooth flanks. Wider tail lights bookended a new recess for a rectangular (rather than square, as previously) number plate. The revisions were certainly fashionable at the time, but they served to rob the Alfasud of much of its delicacy and elegance.

1981 Alfasud four-door.  Image: italpassion.fr

The hatchback that the Alfasud appeared to be designed for finally appeared in 1981 as a three-door and a year later a five-door. Unfortunately, this was too late to move the sales dial; the car’s reputation never having recovered from the early (and ongoing) build quality and corrosion problems. It limped on until 1983, very much as an also-ran outside its home market, before the more upmarket models were replaced by the new Alfa 33.

A year later the Arna, a rather poorly executed Nissan Cherry-based bodyshell with Alfasud running gear marked the new entry-point. The more modern looking Alfasud Sprint, actually closer in style to the 33 than the Alfasud, was renamed Alfa Romeo Sprint, remaining on sale until 1989. Despite retaining much of the hardware of the Alfasud(3), the 33 was a larger, heavier and more expensive car, never recapturing the verve and charm of its delightful predecessor.

Notwithstanding its exceptionally difficult birth, and tarnished reputation, the Alfasud sold a respectable 893,719 units over its twelve-year lifespan. The Sprint coupé sold an additional 121,434 units over thirteen years. One can only wonder how much more successful the model might have been, had it been built in Milan by properly trained people who loved Alfa Romeo and knew what they were doing.

1976 Alfasud 5M. Image: favcars.com

There is little doubt that the Alfasud was a brilliant conceptual design that marked the pinnacle of Rudolf Hruska’s long and distinguished career. His reward for this achievement was six years grappling with the multitude of problems at the Pomigliano plant, a period in his life that he later described simply as “terrible”. Hruska left Alfa Romeo in 1973 and returned to the calmer waters of the design world in Milan and Turin, joining the I.DE.A Institute in 1980. He died at the age of eighty in Turin on 4th December 1995.

A further meditation on the Alfasud will follow this article. (ED)

(1) The problem of premature corrosion has frequently been attributed to the supply of allegedly poor quality Russian steel, but this notion has been debunked by automotive historian (and DTW contributor), Matteo Licata. As published in The Road Rat magazine, Matteo shared the recollections of Achille Moroni, the Alfa Romeo production engineer sent from Milan to investigate the problem. (ED)

(2) Early Alfasuds had both front and rear screens bonded in place, which aided body rigidity, but this too was the cause of many problems with water ingress, further exacerbating the cars’ propensity to rust. Later in the Alfasud’s production life (around 1980), they admitted defeat, reverting to the more conventional rubber seal arrangement. (ED)

(3) Although technically near-identical to the Alfasud, the 33 model eschewed the former’s inboard-mounted front brakes – also reverting to drums at the rear – for ease of servicing and cost. The Sprint models which followed were similarly decontented. Late-era Sprints were fitted with a 1.7 litre version of the flat-four engine. (ED)

Author’s note: My thanks to DTW editor Eóin Doyle for his contributions to this series.

 

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

36 thoughts on “Going South (Part Two)”

  1. Hi Daniel, this is an excellent continuation to the first part, which was an extremely enjoyable and refreshing read. For the first time ever, someone bothers to mention the facts that the Italian South had been deprived of young, skilled personnel (as unemployment caused them to head north), that the personnel available had little – if any – experience with manufacturing processes, and that the personnel’s training was poor. This means that this is practically the first time someone bothers to mention that the blame for the dire employment and industrial situation in the Italian South should be sought with the government and with Alfa Romeo’s management – quite unlike the “mainstream” narrative that keeps yapping on about the “bad workers”. I have one request for a small addition to the first footnote, though: could you please point to the Road Rat issue where Matteo shared Moroni’s experiences regarding the way rust problems with the Alfasud were handled?

    1. Good morning, Konstantinos, and thank you for your kind words. We do try to avoid ‘received wisdom’ at DTW and were keen to put the record straight on the ‘Russian steel’ and ‘lazy workers’ issues. Regarding the former, it was Eóin who supplied the information here, so I’ll leave him to answer your question regarding The Road Rat magazine.

    2. Ah, the “Russian steel” thing. If only anyone who keeps rehashing it would be so kind as to provide even the slightest shred of a morsel of evidence that (i) Fiat were paid by the Soviets in recycled/salvaged steel for the AVTOVAZ plant; (ii) that any amount of this metal – if this particular transaction ever took place – ended up in Alfa Romeo’s hands; (iii) that this matters from a metallurgical point of view…

    3. Russia must have delivered steel to nearly the whole European car industry.
      Golf and Scirocco Mk1 were made from Russian steel, Audi 100 C2 was made from it, BMW E12 and E21, late /8 and early W123 and of course nearly all cars from Italy in particular.

    4. The plot thickens, Dave. If, as you’re saying, paragons of German build quality like the VW Golf and the Audi 100 C2 were made from Russian steel (which, according to car lore, is inherently inferior™), then this raises a few serious questions:

      1. If the VAG were using this inherently inferior™ steel, then why weren’t they blasted for it by the Press and the forum pundits?
      2. If the VAG were using this inherently inferior™ steel, then why didn’t these cars get crucified by the likes of Jeremy Klaxon for being made from bolshevik metal that rusted faster than you could roll your eyes at anything Ben Shapiro says?
      3. If the VAG thought this inherently inferior™ bolshie steel was good enough for their breadwinner (the Golf) and the mildly-coveted Audi 100 C2, maybe it wasn’t all that inherently inferior® after all?

      As to how “inherently inferior™” Russian steel is, I must say I know of several well-reputed gunsmiths who swear by Soviet-era Izh (now known as Baikal) and TOZ shotguns for having, as they say, superior metal even compared to more expensive marques, and they hold today’s Baikals in rather high regard.

      As a matter of fact, the Lada 2101 (the one that looked just like an early Fiat 124, with the small tail lights) was known for being very tough and hard-wearing. In fact, a white one is actually in my neighborhood – two buildings away from our home, actually – and, although it does have some rust stains here and there, I can only suppose it’s still someone’s daily driver: it’s still got its license plates on, I occasionally see it relatively clean, and I never see it parked in the same place each time I drive home from work.

      That said, Dave, I’d absolutely love to see what you have on the origin of the steel used by the VAG and other European car makers, given that they benefited greatly from the car “journalists” that branded the “Italian cars are rust buckets because their commie government and Fiat were cozy with the Bolsheviks and they made their cars from crap steel salvaged from Soviet ship breakers” narrative into the brains of two generations of car buyers.

    5. Dave, wait, even the super-duper high-quality W123 was made from inherently inferior™ steel supplied by the Bolsheviks? Wow, the plot thickens like flour-rich gravy!

    6. Wait!…What? Oh, I get it…irony.

      You had me going there for a moment, Konstantinos!

    7. Konstantinos: It was issue 7, Spring 2021. It was published as an addendum, in response to an article in the previous issue. It was quite short and consisted largely of what was outlined above. But given Matteo’s Alfa Romeo sources, I have little doubt about its accuracy.

    8. Thank you, Eóin. What Matteo brought up makes perfect sense – I only needed the issue number in order to know which issue to buy.

    9. Here’s a ‘Sud in as-new condition. A bottle of turtle wax and off you go

  2. Has there ever been a prettier, more pert little coupé than the early, chrome bumper Alfasud Sprint? Lovely clean lines, perfect proportions and stance. Thanks Daniel – your articles have sent me down an Sprint-shaped rabbit hole 🙂 Hours spent on reezocar.com “deciding” which one I’m going to buy. They are still reasonably priced, too. Surely a future classic?

    1. Good morning Ric. Yes, the Alfasud Sprint is indeed a lovely thing, as is the Alfasud saloon. I find it interesting and impressive that Giugiaro managed (supposedly concurrently) to employ two quite different styles to such good effect.

    2. The red Sprint pictured is a series 1 1/2, still with the chrome bumpers, but already without chrome frames around the windows and a black rear-view mirror – and a B-pillar covered with black foil. The latter is completely pathetic and unnecessary – to avoid the word “ugly”. (I know tastes vary).

    3. Hi Fred. Blacking out the B-pillar seems pointless when the window frames are still body-coloured. Here’s an original 1976 Sprint:

      I love the white front indicators that often featured on Italian market cars of different makes, but were replaced with orange for export cars.

    4. At that time white indicators were mandatory in Italy as were square number plates.
      The blue ‘Sud at the top of the article doesn’t have a rear view mirror becaue those weren’t mandatory in Italy.

    5. A cousin of mine had brought a pretty nice series 1 (full chrome) Alfasud Sprint back from Italy. I remember it had the Veloce badge on it, so perhaps it received a more powerful engine at some point. It was a very cool car.

    6. Ah, Dave, I’ve seen that picture before! It’s from a scrapyard which has or had all manner of gently decaying vehicles.

  3. The picture of the 1982 Alfasud does not show a five door. This car has the small bootlid as can be seen from the shutline that goes down to bumper level (the hatch ended above the rear lights) and the small black plastic strip below the rear screen that hides the hinges and obviously is not there on hatchback cars.
    The change from bonded screens to ones with rubber seals happened quite early in the ‘Sud’s life. One of our family’s numerous ‘Suds wss an early 5m which had a bonded rear screen and a windscreen with rubber.

    When the corrosion problems became known Alfa first blamed Rudolf Hruska for design faults.
    They then hired an external consulting agency specialised in automotive industry to investigate the problems. Giancarlo Catarsi’s phantastic book on the Alfasud has a summary of their shocking report.
    Some of their findings were:
    The phases of highest absenteeism (up to hundred percent) coincided with the tomato harvesting campaigns in the Naples area.

    The corrosion problems were not related to materials because those were the same as used in Milan whose cars did not suffer from such problems (remember that the Giulia was known as a quality product). Pomigliano had more modern production equipment and processes and therefore should have been able to produce at least to Milan quality levels.

    It was all down to inadequate compliance to production processes. Some examples were listed:
    Because Alfa Romeo didn’t trust their own people they subcontracted anti-corrosion treatment of the sills to a company specialised in industrial corrosion proofing. The official procedure would have been to push a probe of two metres length into the sill from the rear, switch on the wax and slowly pull out the probe. Of course the probe then would be dirty with wax and of course nobody could be bothered to follow this procedure. Instead a wire hook was made up, the probe was inserted only a couple of centimetres and then fixed with the hook. Wax was switched on and a cigarette’s length later the probe was pulled out. The result was an unprotected sill and a lump of five hundred grams of wax a the entry hole.

    One big problem was the paint shop.
    When bodies came from the welding line they were covered with oil which is necessary for stamping the panels. Bodies were then dipped into a bath of solvent to get rid of the oil. To wash off the solvent bodies were dipped into distilled water. To get rid of the water bodies were heated up.
    The result was an extremely humid atmosphere that no amount of ventilation could prevent. Every time the paint shop went on strike (which was very often, it was the area with the highest number of strikes) the first thing workers did was to switch off the ovens. The humidity then condensed on the coldest objects in the room which of course were the unprotected bodies that were standing around. Water collected on them, sometimes several litres when the interruption was long enough.
    Corrosion then set in and the corroded bodies were simply subjected to the standard paint process.
    (I remember the infamous “white series” of the late facelift models. There had been a production stop of two or three weeks with hundreds of cars standing around. When production resumed they were simply treated as if nothing had happened. These cars were all painted white and I’ve seen a number of them where only fragments of the bodywork were still in existence after a mere four years. In some of the cars the windscreen fell out when the brand new car was driven off the transporter in front of the poor dealer)
    End of summary of report.

    Some more fun facts.

    The bonded screens worked perfectly on the pilot line in Milan. In Pomigliano the designed process wasn’t followed and after several changes to the original design engineers gave up and switched to rubber mounted glass.

    Alfasud engines originally were produced with five tolerance classes for the pistons and three for the bores. This didn’t work and three tolerance classes for pistons and two for bores were specified. This also didn’t work and target tolerances were adjusted so that any piston could be thrown into any bore. The resulting engines were noisy because of piston clatter, they consumed oil and ninety percent of them didn’t have anything even remotely near the official performance numbers.

    On our own 5m the rear bulkhead didn’t fit the car because it was one centimetre too short. It was welded to the car on the left side, the right side was attached to the surrounding bodywork using blobs of body sealant. In one particularly fast corner this body sealant came off with an almighty bang and the car was very sloppy afterwards.

    1. Good morning Dave. Thank you for the additional information and your recollections. Regarding the photo, well spotted, and caption amended. I was aware of the different sill heights, but my eyesight let me down. I should also have noticed that there was no shut-line surrounding the rear window. Here’s a three-door hatch:

      Incidentally, I’ve always disliked that Alfa Romeo badge on the C-pillar, which looks awkwardly placed and interrupts the flow of the pillar into the roof. It looks like it should be covering a seam between the roof and rear quarter panel. I wonder if there is a seam in that position, but it was originally filled (lead-loaded?) to be invisible before a cheaper and more expedient disguise was adopted?

    2. The pictures of the old blue ‘Sud and of the ‘family’ show that original cars had no sticker or badge.
      There’s seam that was lead-loaded in the beginning. On the unions’ suggestion workers refused to work on the lead loading station and Alfa offered to install additional ventilation equipment. This offer was turned down and the result was the removal of the lead loading station and introduction of a sticker as shown on the red car in the picture at the bottom. With the facelift the stickers were abandoned and those plastic badges were introduced. Standard cars had badges with the serpent, Tis had a cloverleaf.

    3. Thanks, Dave, just as I suspected, and an interesting explanation too.

  4. All I can say about the practicality of the Sprint is that we travelled with it to the south of France for a 4-week stay, with all sorts of personal luggage, half the office (computers, monitors, servers) and an espresso machine – there was still enough room for some wine boxes and a work of art for the way back.

    A fold-down rear seat is overrated. You can always use a stiff body, but a folding rear seat is needed maybe a couple of times a year.

    Regarding the rust problem of the Alfasud, it has to be said that Alfa Romeo at that time were not the only ones to have a whole series rusted away. Many car manufacturers at that time had problems with the steel quality. Ford and Opel also had problems, and Volkswagen’s first Golf and Scirocco series rusted away in no time at all.
    One reason was certainly the inadequate rust prevention at the factory. Another explanation is that the steel industry began to produce recycled steel at that time. Initially, this recycled steel was too contaminated, which is why the chemical process became noticeable after a certain time due to the impurities.

    However, some of the Alfasud’s rust problems were homemade. The front steering knuckles, for example, were foamed out at the beginning. As a result, the crawled-in moisture held on and the beams rusted from the inside out.

    In addition, there were the conditions – let’s not call them “production processes” – that Dave wrote about the paint shop and other departments.

    1. The wide spread corrosion problems of the car industry (remember Scirocco Mk1, Golf Mk1, Audi 100 C2, early Mercedes W123, BMW E21 and many more?) had nothing to do with the quality of the steel. That famous ‘Russian steel’ is nothing but an urban myth.
      During the Sixties manufacturers had learned to use unitary construction and started to optimise it by using as little steel as possible and bending it into ever more complicated forms to generate rigidity by structure instead of by material thickness. CAD and finite elements design methods helped a lot there.
      These newly introduced hollow sections were perfect rust traps and cars corroded away in record time. Manufacturers knew exactly what they should do to prevent this – remember all those Dinol and Teroson stations that applied corrosion protection wax and bitumen on the aftermarket? They got their working instructions from the manufacturers.

    2. A folding rear seat is never over rated. No matter how often you actually use it, the lack of said feature means it could never be used for anything else ever.

    3. The early ‘Suds didn’t have a fold-down rear seat. But their rear bulkhead had an enormous hole and the rear seat backrest was attached to it by four large knurled nuts made from black plastic. By undoing these nuts you could take out the back rest in about three minutes and at least could store long objects in the boot.

  5. Am I the only person to think that the Giardinetta is so very close to being a rather useful device which could have sold well? As it is, the Allegro equivalent (at least in profile) looks better…..
    Another excellent story, Daniel – as always, told impeccably.

    1. Thanks, John, much appreciated. Coincidentally, I had exactly the same thought about the Giardinetta, wondering how it might have looked with an Allegro estate style upswept rear side window line?

      My crayons await…

    2. Actually, this rather smart example of the Giardinetta is quite appealing from this rear three-quarter angle:

      Maybe I should leave well alone?

    3. Needless to remark, I couldn’t leave well alone. Here’s a nice alternative reality Alfasud Giardinetta five-door:

      Not all my work, I must confess. I came across the image while searching for a Giardinetta to play with. All I had to do was add the radiused rear lower corner to the rear side window. (The severely angular rear side window on the production Giardinetta sat uneasily with the curves elsewhere, I think.)

  6. So Alfa Romeo could have theoretically produced as much as 4.38+ million Alfasuds over a 12 year period, potentially a lot more had plans to produce it in Brazil been successful (provided it could be converted to Ethanol / Flex-Fuel) and in tandem with the long production runs of various locally built cars (as well as the association with Ayrton Senna)?

    Did wonder if a 2/4-door three-box saloon and 5-door estate would have further expanded the Alfasud’s appeal had it been schemed into the programme (despite recalling the platform was not capable of producing additional spin-offs)?

    In some ways Alfa Romeo would have been better off entering into an alliance with a competently managed Citroen, which is soon followed by Subaru (in place of Nissan) as all three looked at Boxer-powered front-engined FWD cars yet each marque could cater to different audiences without too much overlap (unlike say Alfa Romeo with Lancia).

    Would like to know more about the seemingly 33/75-replacing 433 (C-Segment) / 434 (D-Segment) Project under the 43 chassis name that was originally conceived in the mid-1980s (as part of a product plan stretching up to 1994) and planned for introduction in 1990 (for 433) and 1991 (for 434), with engine longitudinal boxer front (Subaru style) with front / all-wheel drive.

    The 434 apparently being known as “Albertina” at Pininfarina and to be equipped with a 1.7 boxer engine and new 2-liter boxer (from which to obtain also a diesel as requested to Chirico from Ing.Innocenti) or 4-cylinder in-line “sub-horizontal” (rotated by 80 °) and the possibility of a 6-cylinder boxer (obviously 6-speed gearbox).

    https://www.autopareri.com/forums/topic/30865-mai-nate-alfa-romeo/?do=findComment&comment=2280154

    Alfa Romeo progetto 433 e 434 ta e ti sinergico con Alfasud con motore longitudinale suborizzontale e boxer anche 2 litri
    https://images.app.goo.gl/etwHcY8LsWxWNTpc9
    https://www-autopareri-com.translate.goog/uploads/monthly_2020_04/1602675977_Alfa145-146progetto433CSAlfa7-1986.jpg.168bb3b6d657575c89da1a3307ae3f5b.jpg?_x_tr_sl=auto&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en-GB&_x_tr_pto=nui

  7. Much thanks Daniel, for your work with the Sud.
    I’ve always preferred the three door saloon to the
    Sprint, but had never known of the Giardinetta –
    now that I really love! Thank you. And thanks
    Dave, for yet again sharing The Knowledge.

  8. Congratulations on the couple of Alfasud articles, my experiences mirror several other fellows here.
    After my Fiat 1283p was torched one cold November night on the back streets of Sheffield I “needed” another car asap. After being brought up on a diet of CAR only Italian would do, and I quickly settled on an Alfasud as my favoured choice. In those primitive days it was well known that the Alfas rusted but common wisdom was that those post 1980 were OK.

    By January I’d found a cheap enough example and handed over several hundred pounds for a cream 1981, 4 door 1350cc example. I wasn’t so bothered by the slightly holy wings, but I should have been a bit aware about the cans of WD40 in the glove box. No matter …I had an Italian classic …the legendary Sud.
    In the damp Sheffield winters I soon learned to park the car facing downhill to a) stop the rain coming into the footwells and b) to assist when the beast wouldn’t start. My new girlfriend wasn’t too impressed when it wouldn’t start in the snow outside her house one night so I had to stopover! She was more impressed the next morning when I whipped out the spark plugs and warmed them through under the grill. Starting was no problem, at least till the next damp period.
    Being an electrical engineering student, I soon traced the failures to a weak coil and a stupid design feature. The Magnetti Marelli 12V coil was located in the “dry” compartment under the windscreen, connected to the engine mounted distributer by a 3ft long ignition cable! Whatever volts made it out of the coil were lost on the way! A ballast resistor, relay and a bright red 8V Bosch coil mounted on a homemade bracket on the engine solved all the starting problems, easy!
    One interesting issue was the missing rear suspension link … normally there were two links locating the rear axle fore and aft on each side. On my car a link was missing on one side. A quick trip to one of the many scrap yards yielded the correct link, which didn’t fit! Forcing it in jacked up one side of the car way too high so off it came. I never did figure out why it didn’t fit, there didn’t appear to be any damage and the wheel sat in the right place.

    Rust was another issue…after 9 months of reliable operation I decided I had to do something about it. Both front wings more or less fell off, then the rusty mounting rails came off easily. The horror of finding rust holes between the windscreen pillars and sills meant it had to go, but I couldn’t afford to just scrap the car, so it had to be tarted up. Wings and mounting rails were surprisingly cheap so after a bit of welding and careful application of plastic padding under the bonnet it looked fine. Other rust holes were found under the rear lights and in the rear door, where a stone chip in the paint had rusted though in just a few months. After a quick spray and good bit of polishing it actually did look like the photo in Pt 2 of the article.
    It passed its MOT, with just a bit of welding on holes in the rear suspension axle, the tester didn’t notice the missing link and a poor sap bought it a few weeks later.
    I was great to drive though and had plenty of interior room, especially after I put a couple of spacers under the front seat rails. It made many trips over the Pennines between Sheffield and Manchester and it left my friend’s 1.6 Cavalier a smoking wreck during a trip up the M1 from Reading. Happy memories.
    Several years later I met a young neighbour who was restoring a white Sud Ti with black wheels. He claimed to have poured gallons of Waxoyl into the car, I wonder if it survived…

    Many thanks for the articles, driven to write indeed.

    Cheers
    Andrew

    1. Hi Andrew. Thanks for your kind words, and for sharing your Alfasud reminiscences with us.

      Your mention of putting spark plugs under the grille reminded me of our next-door neighbour when I was a child. When he retired, he bought a new Fiat 124 to replace the family Cortina. From the off, the Fiat was a very reluctant starter in wet weather, of which there was an awful lot in Ireland. The supplying dealer made many futile attempts to find the fault. My neighbour was a lovely and endlessly patient man, and I often saw him removing the spark plugs to put them on a pan over the gas ring, which was the only way to get the wretched car going on a damp morning!

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