Trojan Mule?

Was the Alfa Romeo Arna one of the ‘worst cars ever’?

Hybrid, of sorts: the 1983 Alfa Romeo Arna

At the beginning of the 1980’s Alfa Romeo was in grave trouble. Its reputation had been marred by the problems that afflicted its C-segment Alfasud. Built at the behest of the Italian government in a new factory in Pomigliano d’Arco near Naples, it was riddled with faults, the most serious of which was its tendency to dissolve into ferrous oxide at an alarming rate.

By 1980, the Alfasud’s build quality had improved noticeably, but not so Alfa Romeo’s reputation. A replacement model, the 33, was in development and would be launched in 1983. The 33 would be a somewhat larger and more expensive car, growing by just 20mm (¾”) in wheelbase, but by a more substantial 185mm (7¼”) in overall length. This left room for a smaller and cheaper car to replace the entry-level Alfasud. It is a moot point as to whether or not Alfa Romeo actually needed such a car in its range, unless it was really determined to Continue reading “Trojan Mule?”

Secret Sister

Even amongst the more rarefied universe of Portello’s competition cars, there are the outliers, the runts, the ugly sisters. Today, we briefly examine one of this less than happy breed. 

Image: The author

Pretty, lovely, delicate. Three words that immediately spring to mind whenever one envisions an Alfa Romeo coupé of the ‘Sixties: Giulietta Coupé, Sprint Speciale, Sprint GT as well as the more rarefied sisters, the Giulia TZ 1 and 2 to name just a few. There does however exist a third Giulia TZ sister, but she was relegated to a dark corner and kept out of sight at AutoDelta for decades.

Ludovico Chizzola, AutoDelta’s co-founder, designed and built the Giulia TZ Prototipo Berlinetta (also known as the TZ 1.5) after a
request by Alfa Romeo to Continue reading “Secret Sister”

An Alfa Less Loved

The 2005 Alfa Romeo 159 had a tough act to follow in the delightful 156. We examine how it fared.

2006 Alfa Romeo 159. Image: pruebatucoche.es

The 1997 Alfa 156 was the first Alfa Romeo for many years that was greeted with near-universal praise for its styling. The company’s designers had spent the previous couple of decades playing with their geometry sets and producing rectilinear designs that were, to say the least, rather challenging in their appearance.

Under the styling leadership of Walter de Silva at Centro Stile Alfa Romeo, the designers of the 156 looked further back into the company’s past and produced a shape that was organic, lithe and sinuous, one that was regarded by many Alfisti as the most authentic expression of the marque’s qualities in years.

Those alluring looks did not come without some penalty, in this case limited accommodation for passengers and their luggage(1) and that old Alfa Romeo bugbear, poor reliability. Premature cambelt and tensioner failures were common on the Twin-Spark engines, forcing the company to Continue reading “An Alfa Less Loved”

Under the Knife – Southern Belle

The rise and fall of the Alfasud Sprint. 

Alfasud Sprint. favcars

It has been said before, but bears repeating: no single European car designer has done more to shape the modern everyday motor car than Giorgetto Giugiaro, either during his time working for Bertone, Ghia or later for himself at ItalDesign.

The design for the 1971 Alfasud berlina was not only formative for the design consultancy founded by him and Aldo Mantovani in 1968, but something of a transitional one for the designer, who would later Continue reading “Under the Knife – Southern Belle”

A Farmer in the City

Alfasud reflections. 

The author’s 1979 Alfasud 1.2 Super. Image: Paul Doyle©

The 1971 Alfasud was a game-changing car, not only for what we would now call the C-segment, but for Alfa Romeo itself. Unfortunately, while the ‘Sud was to become the conceptual template for an entire generation of similarly sized (if not as technically ambitious) cars from rival manufacturers, it was something of a disaster for il Biscione. Not a brand-killer by any stretch, but nevertheless the case against the ‘Sud is not inconsiderable.

By re-orientating the carmaker’s centre of gravity to the crowded and heavily contested free-for-all of the compact C-segment the Alfa Sud programme placed the Milanese carmaker squarely in the gunsights of the mighty Fiat Auto group. It also had the effect of lowering Alfa Romeo’s average transaction prices, driving down its image as the builder of superior motor cars – a matter its subsequent reputation for slapdash build and premature corrosion would only serve to amplify.[1]

By the early 1970s, the Italian economic miracle was unravelling in a spiral of politically-motivated industrial unrest and violence amid growing inequalities between affluence and economic stagnation. Terrorist atrocities, assassinations, strikes and stoppages became the daily news headlines as Italy’s position as posterchild for post-war reconstruction and prosperity faded.

Its much-vaunted motor industry too was struggling to Continue reading “A Farmer in the City”

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 Continue reading “Going South (Part Two)”

Going South (Part One)

More than merely a car, a state-sponsored project in political and social engineering. Celebrating the Alfa Romeo Alfasud on its 50th anniversary.

1971 Alfasud. Image: classicandsportscar.com

In the years that followed the end of the Second World War, successive Italian governments faced a seemingly intractable problem. Northern Italy had become increasingly urbanised, industrialised and prosperous, but the south remained largely a rural backwater. By 1950, income per capita in the south was roughly half that in the north, and the gap was widening. Much of the south’s agricultural land remained in the hands of large landowners and was poorly managed and often unproductive. Many unemployed young people simply migrated north, robbing the south of much of its potential labour force.

Acknowledging this economic and social divide, the Italian government established the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno (Southern Development Fund) in 1950. Its initial purpose was to Continue reading “Going South (Part One)”

Stelvio!

What use has DTW’s South Yorkshire correspondent, Andrew Miles for hairpins?

Quotidiano.net

Once a border between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian empire, nowadays oft-frequented by those choosing to wear multicoloured Lycra® whilst pedalling a two wheeled carbon fibre device. Also, for powered vehicles seeking hairpin heaven, the Passo dello Stelvio has, for practically two centuries, delivered. 

Carlo Danegoni’s original pass contains over seventy hairpin bends, but suffers extended closure due to winter snows. In the Great War, fierce battles were pitched here in the Alps at practically 1900 metres above sea level. And of course it has now lent its name to that most bulbous of the Biscione’s range – the Stelvio SUV. It’s a decent moniker; trips off the tongue a little better than the Stilsferjoch for language-averse Brits, though how many Continue reading “Stelvio!”

Under the Knife – A Kiss of the Blade

The 2004 facelift of Alfa’s 147 was of the light-touch variety. We check for residual scarring.

2004 Alfa Romeo 147. Image: bipedia.info via occasion-automobile.fr

It wasn’t possible to know it at the time, but the immediate pre and post-Millennium period would represent the final creative and commercial flowering of FIAT Auto (as then known), a statement which is particularly apt when it comes to matters surrounding the fabled Biscione of Milan.

Part of FIAT’s sprawling auto group since 1986 and in the wake of a somewhat chequered start in product terms, a cohesive and (from a purely design perspective at least) credible strategy had been formulated for Alfa Romeo; matters taking a decidedly more upbeat tone with the Enrico Fumia-helmed 1993 Spider and related GTV models. Continue reading “Under the Knife – A Kiss of the Blade”

Domo Arigato Zagato

Win on Sunday…

Alfa 155 TI.Z Image: H Nakayama

The Autech Stelvio and slightly less challengingly styled Autech Gavia were not the only specials for the Japanese domestic market produced by the Italian carrozzieri: meet the Alfa Romeo 155 TI.Z. Zagato’s aim appears to have been to Continue reading “Domo Arigato Zagato”

(Gandini) Late Cretaceous

Amateur palaeontologist, Andrew Miles unearths a rare fossil. 

(c) Christopher Butt

79 to 75 million years ago (not that we’re counting), dinosaurs walked the Earth. Known as the Late Cretaceous period, one example to roam the area we now recognise as Canada was the Panoplosaurus or the “fully armoured lizard.” A herbivore growing to some seven metres in length; although vegetarian, that suit provided protection from the king himself, Tyrannosaurus Rex. A survivor of its time – akin to a car shown to the world, itself now a quinquagenarian.

1967, Montreal, Canada. The Universal Exposition is held over a six month period with millions of people witnessing the fruits of man’s labours alongside celebrating world nations days. In the pavilion named “Man The Producer,” the Expo’s stipulations called for the very pinnacle of automotive endeavour at that time. A request was made to Continue reading “(Gandini) Late Cretaceous”

Keeping the Seat Warm

The 1984 Alfa 90 was to all intents and purposes something of a placeholder. But does it deserve a better epitaph?

Alfa 90. Image: viaretro

The early 1980s were difficult years for Alfa Romeo. Having abandoned its patrician pre-war roots for a more populist reimagining throughout the 1950s and ’60s, this once successful market realignment had started to unravel; partly due to its own failings as a business, both internally from a product, management and labour perspective, and also externally, owing to its close proximity in market terms to Lancia.

Unlike its Borgo San Paolo rival, who was by then reliant upon the financial support of the Fiat car giant, Alfa Romeo depended upon the largesse of the often reluctant Italian IRI state body for funding, while battling a depressed home market, ageing model lines and by consequence, little by way of genuinely new product.

What there was, fell very much into the make do and Continue reading “Keeping the Seat Warm”

Under the Knife – When You Should Just Let Things Be

When it comes to facelifts, it’s best to know when to stop. 

(c) autoevolution

Assuming one was in possession of the requisite grasp of Italian, it would have been fascinating to have sat in on the product planning meetings at Portello, when Alfa Romeo’s strategists were initially scoping the 1972 Alfetta saloon. Because, looking at it from the distance of close to half a century, it’s difficult to ascertain where this model was intended to fit into the existing model hierarchy. Sitting above the by then rather elderly 105-Series Giulia, but below the latter’s closely related 1750/2000 Berlina sibling, the Alfetta was an entirely new model, with the potential to Continue reading “Under the Knife – When You Should Just Let Things Be”

Under the Knife – Racing Certainty

Despite being an all-conquering touring car champion, the Alfa Romeo 155 wasn’t the commercial or critical success its masters intended. But a subtle, if significant facelift salved its reputation.

1992 Alfa Romeo 155. Image: pistonudos

Despite its long-in-the-tooth underpinnings and carryover passenger compartment, the Alfa Romeo 75 became a relatively successful and well-regarded sporting saloon until its commercial demise in 1992. The ultimate evolution of the 116-series which made its production debut with the 1972 Alfetta, the 75 excised many (if not all) of the earlier models’ inherent design flaws – most notably a lengthy, tortuous and unwieldy gear linkage owing to its rear transaxle layout.

In 1986, Fiat Auto acquired the Alfa Romeo business from the state-owned body who had been administering it in ever-decreasing circles, and with a successor to the 75 by then a priority, the 167-series 155 model was hastily developed, entering production in 1992 at the former Alfa Sud plant at Pomigliano d’Arco in Campania. Continue reading “Under the Knife – Racing Certainty”

“Sit thysen down fur a bit: hev a glass o’ cowslip wine!”

It’s Sunday. Again.

Mk 2 Renault Espace**

Today’s text has nothing to do with the Espace (above). I wrote a whole other article and scrapped it after Eóin had gone to the trouble of deleting the expletives and formatting it for consumption. What I decided to do with this version of the article was to Continue reading ““Sit thysen down fur a bit: hev a glass o’ cowslip wine!””

Dreams Made Flesh

“The stuff of which dreams are made”, said the advertising copy in 2010. Ten years on, is the dream over for Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta?

(c) Alfa Romeo Press

Some matters in life are immutable. The changing of the seasons, Elon Musk’s twitter-happy thumbs, General Motors in retrenchment, Alfa Romeo in crisis. Because in an automotive landscape where virtually every once-certain nostrum seems on the cusp of being upended, the embattled Italian heritage brand nowadays appears an almost reassuring presence as it continues to tear at its own hem.

Certainly, that time-worn cliché suggesting that the darkest hour is just before dawn holds little succour for the Biscione of Milan, given that for Alfa Romeo, dawns have been about as frequent as they have been false. But even taking all this into account, the screw appears to be taking a further turn.

Last week, a number of news outlets reported that having already seriously scaled back production of the Giulietta hatchback at FCA’s Cassino plant, the decision has been taken to Continue reading “Dreams Made Flesh”

When Alfa Romeo Beat Bosch

The tale of CEM, Alfa Romeo’s in-house electronic engine management system, which redefined what was ‘state of the art’ in engine technology, outdoing Bosch with a fraction of its research budget. To no avail.

The 1983 Alfetta 2.0 CEM (c) wheelsage.org

The history of tailpipe emissions regulations started, as many may know, with the USA’s Clean Air Act of 1966. Alfa Romeo’s share of the US market was minuscule, but the engineers at the Milan HQ could see the writing on the wall: it was now just a matter of time before similar measures would be enacted in Europe as well.

The Italian company needed to find ways to Continue reading “When Alfa Romeo Beat Bosch”

Too Pretty To Race

We owe the existence of the gorgeous Giulietta Sprint Speciale to the racing career it never actually got.

alfa-romeo-giulietta-sprint-speciale-1
From 1960, the slightly restyled Giulietta SS was marketed as a GranTurismo (wheelsage.org)

From the moment the Giulietta Sprint was unveiled in 1954, it was clear that its technical specification made it a phenomenal contender for class wins in both circuit and road racing.

Alfa Romeo knew this well, and in 1956 the Sprint Veloce was born: power from the 1290cc twin-cam four was up to 90HP, while bonnet and doors (which got Perspex sliding windows) were aluminium instead of steel. Nevertheless, Portello was considering a Giulietta variant aimed even more explicitly towards motor racing, based on the short-wheelbase platform made for the Giulietta Spider.

The success of the Sprint made Nuccio Bertone a trusted partner of Alfa Romeo, so it was up to his designer, Franco Scaglione, to Continue reading “Too Pretty To Race”

How I would fix FCA

As an Alfista, the recent news about my beloved brand’s sales performances struck me hard, prompting some reflections about how FCA’s European arm could be ‘fixed‘. 

Junked 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 – Picture by Murilee Martin (c. AutoWeek)

The genuinely awful sales numbers posted by Alfa Romeo lately have once again placed the European side of FCA, best known as the one that burns the revenue generated in North America by Jeeps and trucks, under the spotlight. FCA’s current management seem somewhat unwilling to manage the clay-footed automotive giant created a decade ago, thanks to Sergio Marchionne’s opportunism and dealmaking ability.

The focus now seems to be mostly about maintaining the status quo until the sale of the whole shebang: Needless to say, such a non-strategy can last only so long, and mainly hangs upon Jeep and RAM sales in the USA: turmoil there would send the whole construction crashing down in no time.

The heart of the matter lies with the fact that FCA doesn’t generate nearly enough cash to Continue reading “How I would fix FCA”

The Alfa Romeo Experimental Wankel Engine Programme

Tales from futures past: the Alfa Romeo engine you’ve never heard about.

Display parts leftover from the Alfa Romeo Wankel programme (picture from the Author)

During the entire Sixties decade, the rotary engine as conceptualized by the German inventor Felix Wankel and developed by NSU became something of the auto industry’s darling: compact, light, powerful yet smooth, and made of few moving parts, it looked like the future.

No car company wanted to Continue reading “The Alfa Romeo Experimental Wankel Engine Programme”

Opus di Busso

Further to last week’s dissertation on the 1979 Alfa Six, we examine the contemporary reception to Giuseppe Busso’s Alfa Romeo 2.5 litre V6 unit, through the acerbic eye of LJK Setright.

The Busso V6 as fitted to the 1979 Alfa Six. (c) movitcars

Some engines arrive fully formed, others however, enter the world imperfect, but through a process of development and retrospective correction evolve to defy their early criticism.

A fundamental element of Alfa Romeo’s iconography was intrinsically linked to its engines, especially its pre-war thoroughbreds, those patrician in-line fours, sixes and eights which powered the carmaker into history books, not to mention the hearts and minds of all those with the blood of Portello coursing through their veins. Continue reading “Opus di Busso”

The Forgotten Alfa

Among the cars that turn 40 this year, there is the most misunderstood and underappreciated Alfa Romeo ever: the Alfa 6. It’s about time to set the record straight on Arese’s failed ammiraglia.

“Series 1” Alfa Romeo Alfa 6 (picture from the Author)

Presented to the international press on the shores of Lake Como in the spring of 1979, the Alfa Romeo Alfa 6 (that is its actual name) has been mostly forgotten by everyone bar the most hardened Alfisti. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that in period the Alfa 6 was mostly ignored by its target market.

Alfa Romeo planned to sell 10,000 Alfa 6 models each year, of which 7000 were expected to be absorbed by the Italian market. However, the company eventually managed only to sell 12,000 over an entire production span of seven years! Continue reading “The Forgotten Alfa”

Was That Leslie Crowther Over By The Bar?

Northern Europe’s largest classic race takes place over this weekend, from 17th to the 19th. I sneaked into the race paddock to look around. For once, DTW has something like news, in the form of this sketch of my snooping around the race paddock yesterday evening.

The event is called Classic Race and attracts an impressive number of classics sports cars. I noticed Ford, Alfa Romeo, Triumph and BMW vehicles made up a disproportionate number of the participants. Of those, Escorts, 2002s and Giulias and GTVs dominated. As well gazing at some expensively prepared cars I also had a chance to Continue reading “Was That Leslie Crowther Over By The Bar?”

The Shoeshiners Dream of Sweeping Chimneys

This is one of 6,999 examples made, an Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint. Bertone takes the credit for the admirable styling.

To engender inner calm
Alfa Romeo 2600 Bertone coupe

Bertone did the coupé, Touring did the Spider and, I suppose, Alfa Romeo did the handsome saloon one sees very little of. In 1962 this must have been certain to make the neighbours sit up and notice, especially in the UK and Ireland where the British marques had such a dominant presence in the market. It would have cost more than three times the price of Cortina or Austin 1800. So if you wanted to Continue reading “The Shoeshiners Dream of Sweeping Chimneys”

Denied: Alfa Romeo Brera (2002)

To try and understand what exactly went wrong with the proud Alfa Romeo brand over the past 15 years, there is no better example than this ItalDesign concept car. 

2002_alfa-romeo-brera-concept_03
Alfa Brera, as imagined by Giorgetto Giugiaro, photo (c) leblogauto.com

Admittedly, there is a production car by the name of Alfa Romeo Brera, of which 21,661 units were built between 2005 and 2010 at Pininfarina’s Grugliasco factory. It even shares some visual traits with the 2002 concept car of the same name. But little of its character.

For the Brera, as originally envisaged by Giorgetto Giugiaro, was a genuine halo car. Which isn’t as far-fetched a proposal as it may appear at first, for Alfa had commissioned quite a few of these over the decades: From the outdated-yet-pretty 33 Stradale, over the charming-but-ill-conceived Montreal to the bold-for-boldness’-sake SZ. Continue reading “Denied: Alfa Romeo Brera (2002)”

Our Love to Admire

With no regard to the risk of either opprobrium or canine displeasure, we stop to appreciate a flawed rarity.

(c) DTW

While it could never be considered an outright penance, Alfa Romeo ownership could nevertheless be classified as something more akin to a calling, much like medicine, the religious orders, or perhaps, care work. Certainly here at Ireland’s Southern tip, the Biscione tends to be regarded with dark suspicion and their owners with a mixture of pity, mystification and at times, outright horror. In previous, less secular times, some might even have Continue reading “Our Love to Admire”

Today’s Challenge: The Answers

Earlier today I presented a little challenge. Here are the answers.

1973 Audi 100S: source

There were quotes under various categories such as roadholding, engineering and ashtray capacity and I asked whether the quotes related to the Ford Capri 3000 Ghia, the Alfa Romeo Alfetta or the Audi 100 S (all 1975 cars). If you want to Continue reading “Today’s Challenge: The Answers”

Saying Goodbye on Stroget

Dear goodness. This is a poignant reminder of the days when Alfa Romeo was a full-service car company: the convertible Alfa Romeo GTV or Spider.

1998 Alfa Romeo Spider: source

In 1998 Alfa Romeo had the 146, the 147, the 156 (as saloon and estate), the GTV and Spider duo and the 166 saloon. All of them were pretty decent cars and all of them offered something other brands didn’t have.

If we Continue reading “Saying Goodbye on Stroget”

In Between Dawn and Daybreak

Today we take another look at the world of 1998, or at least one small part of it to do with car reviews. We end up considering the problem of judgements.

classics.honestjohn
1998 Alfa Romeo 166: source

I should put my cards on the baize here and say I don’t remember reading this review, from Car magazine 1998 so I am digesting it for the first time tonight (it took two hours to read carefully). Isn’t that odd? This article has sat around for two decades before I noticed it the other night How did I miss it?  In the late 90s I would keep a close eye out for Car in the newsagent shop and would devote a good evening to reading it more or less entirely along with a nice cigar or a few bad ones.

After than initial inspection the magazine would float around the kitchen or sitting room to dip into when, say, I had to Continue reading “In Between Dawn and Daybreak”

In The End It Ends In Tears That Mark The End

It’s high time to quench the thirst for all things Citroen that I know smoulders among the denizens of this little corner of the World Wide Web.

And Jaguar comes into the story too, so that’s another little need satiated. If I push it I can also mention Lancia*. First we’ll start with the source. My reading today is Autocar & Motor January 30 1990 Vol. 187 No 5 (4901). A delightful little snippet about A&M is that in those days a certain Mr James May acted as the chief sub-editor.

And Jesse Crosse served as the technical consultant; now there’s a journalist whose work I always like to read because he has a knack for explaining things with concision and clarity.  With those preliminaries out of the way we can now
Continue reading “In The End It Ends In Tears That Mark The End”

Between Two Shadows Smoke Curls Like A Caress

It’s back to Denmark’s COTY exhibition. We’ve had a look at this car before yet it’s always pleasant to meet again: the Alfa Romeo Giulietta

1978 Alfa Romeo Giulietta

The Danish COTY committee described it as an “uncompromised sports car for saloon drivers”. It won by garnering 76 of 250 possible points in 1978. The Simca Horizon and VW Golf diesel took second and third places respectively.

The Danes tend towards tightfistedness (or parsimony) and some jurors resented the AR’s high price, the highest of the ten contenders. In a way it was somewhat surprising that the Alfa managed to Continue reading “Between Two Shadows Smoke Curls Like A Caress”

This Night Has Opened My Eyes

The Alfa Romeo MiTo dies next year and to be frank, Driven to Write is neither happy nor sad.

Image credit: (c) uscarsnews

So the dominoes continue to fall. A little over a week since FCA announced the UK withdrawal of the Grande Punto (as a prelude to its ultimate demise), there comes the latest slaughter of the innocents.

Speaking to Autocar earlier this week, Alfa Romeo Head of Brand (EMEA), Roberta Zerbi confirmed the MiTo’s imminent appointment with the eternal, telling the Haymarket weekly’s Rachel Burgess; “Mito is a three-door and people are choosing more and more five-door cars,” which is a nice line in marketing spin, albeit one which Continue reading “This Night Has Opened My Eyes”

Ashtrays: Alfa Romeo Alfetta 1.6

Imagine Helmut Newton coming back from a shoot and discovering he’s managed to omit the model.

Alfa Romeo Alfetta 1.6

A little of that level of carelessness applies here since I left out a big part of the main focus on the car’s key feature.  My only defence is that these are holiday photos and, anyway, when did you last see one of these in the metal? If you did maybe you’d be too mouth-smashed to keep your head clear too.  I was bowled over and perhaps my critical faculties fell out of the window. So we must make of this what we can so will have no choice but to Continue reading “Ashtrays: Alfa Romeo Alfetta 1.6”

Re-1998 : Introduction

The summer is here and DTW’s offices become ferociously stuffy, a maelstrom of dandruff, cigar ash and wine-label dust dancing in the shafts of half-light.

1998 Alfa Romeo 166 rear view: Wikipedia.org

Simon Kearne, the editor, moves his collection of sherry and cooking marsala to his summer residence (location: secret) and Myles Gorfe’s padded rally jacket disappears off his swivel chair. We never see him, or him taking it. He has gone, like a swallow in September.

So, this writer is also fleeing DTW’s dusty, cramped, byzantine, magazine-clogged rooms on the ninth floor for a summer pause. However, I am not going to display complete dereliction of duty and so have left a trove of articles on automotive life in 1998. which I have tagged Re-1998. They will appear over  the coming weeks.

To see what I might have picked out you don’t need to do much more than Continue reading “Re-1998 : Introduction”

Culture Club

Alfa Romeo stared success in the face with 2003’s Kamal crossover concept, but opted to pursue MINI instead. Was this Fiat Auto’s worst product planning decision ever?

2003 Alfa Romeo Kamal. Image credit: carttraction

Product will only get you so far in the auto business, but it certainly does help. It helps a great deal more when it is the right product, preferably at an opportune time. Successful product planning is a subtle art and a rock many a car company have stumbled messily upon, for exact science it is not.

In the immediate post-Millennium period, Alfa Romeo was in serious financial trouble, losing millions of Euros a day, despite having Continue reading “Culture Club”

The Circle Game

The Arese merry-go-round has a fresh face in new CEO, Tim Kuniskis. Will he enjoy better fortune than his predecessors, or will it simply be more of the same?

Tim Kuniskis. Image credit: thenewswheel

Who’d take on a basket-case like Alfa Romeo? A marque with almost boundless potential for greatness, yet equally one with an unimpeachable aptitude for tragi-comic reversals of fortune. A state of affairs which is rooted in successive management failures – from those amid the semi-state Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale who oversaw Alfa’s affairs until 1987 and subsequently, the individuals Fiat Auto appointed to Continue reading “The Circle Game”

No Sleep Till Arese

Reports have surfaced of Alfa Romeo readying a two-door version of their Giulia saloon later this year. As aficionados of the coupé, we should be delighted, so why is Driven to Write more troubled than pleased?

Image credit: Autocar

While not entirely immune from hyperbole’s more strident notes, Autocar can normally be relied upon to swerve outright speculation. However, last week, Richard Bremner – a respected journalist who these days seems reduced to penning listicles for their online edition – reported (citing ‘sources’), that FCA are at work on a Giulia-based coupé, said to employ the Sprint nameplate. “The Giulia coupé could appear towards the end of this year and go on sale in 2019”, his Autocar piece suggested.

While sharing some external panelwork with the Guilia berlina, mostly ahead of the bulkhead, the coupé will according to Bremner, Continue reading “No Sleep Till Arese”

Two Cities, One Car

A clumsy name for a rather clumsy car. Ten years ago, Alfa Romeo took aim at the MINI (and its ilk) and missed. We plot the MiTo’s wobbly trajectory.

Image credit: autokult

Alfa Romeo has throughout its long history enjoyed a distinctly patchy relationship with small cars. Pre-War, such a notion would probably have been laughable but even in the latter half of the 20th century, despite the occasional prototype, the smallest car Portello actually got round to sanctioning was the troubled Alfasud, a programme which proved aberrant insofar as it was what we would now class as a C-segment vehicle and was, by a Neapolitan country kilometre, a dynamic front-drive benchmark Alfa would never again match. Continue reading “Two Cities, One Car”

German Ambassador – Karl-Heinz Kalbfell

The history of the motor industry is littered with lost causes and alternative realities. Today, we look at one of the more poignant examples.

Karl-Heinz Kalbfell. Image credit: speedweek

Even in automotive terms, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell is not a household name, although perhaps he ought to be. The late German engineer and product supremo enjoyed a stellar career at BMW and in 2004, landed what appeared to be not only a dream job, but one which promised truly great things.

Kalbfell, an engineering and marketing graduate, joined BMW AG in 1977, gaining responsibility for such programmes as Continue reading “German Ambassador – Karl-Heinz Kalbfell”

The Company You Keep

Alfa Romeo’s choice of ‘brand ambassador’ is inspired – and telling, maybe in more ways than intended.

966902901522383941
The new face of Alfa Romeo, in front of a non-Alfa Romeo, photo (c) Kinja

Unlike so many brand spokesmen, Giovanni Giorgio (or Hansjörg, as his mother referred to him) Moroder isn’t someone who caught the public eye for all the wrong reasons. He never starred in his own reality TV show or featured in any programme of this nature as a guest, nor did he enjoy a public, tabloid-filling affair of the romantic or other variety. Giorgio Moroder is merely a pop music legend. Which makes his appointment as ‘brand ambassador‘ for Alfa Romeo’s still relatively new Stelvio SUV appear rather canny.

Few people can lay claim to have not merely been part of popular culture, but to Continue reading “The Company You Keep”

Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Bertone Delfino

It’s been a while since we did one of these, and while today’s candidate might appear a little tenuous at first sight, look beyond the scudetto and there are chevrons galore.

Alfa Romeo Delfino concept. Image: old concept cars

First shown at the 1983 Geneva motor show, the Delfino was an attempt by carrozzeria Bertone to update the classical luxury gran turismo after almost a decade of decline. Alfa Romeo’s relationship with Bertone was long-standing, but had entered a prolonged period of stasis, with Portello forging a closer relationship with Ital Design when they were not Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Bertone Delfino”

Little Fluffy Cloud

Heralding a stylistic revolution to follow, the 1996 Alfa Romeo Nuvola would underline in the most eloquent fashion the power of the past.

Image: autodesignmagazine

Alfa Romeo’s mid ’90s output was a mixture of the sublime and, if not entirely ridiculous, the at least unconvincing. On one hand we had the ageing, but still elegant 164, the sharp-looking 145, and the strikingly handsome 916-series GTV / Spider, while on the other, there was the 146 and 155 – hardly Alfa designs for the ages.

But change was in the offing, with both the 936-series 166 and 932-series 156 nearing completion; both designs Continue reading “Little Fluffy Cloud”

Beauty Stab

Commonly regarded as the most beautiful Alfa Romeo saloon shape of recent times, the Alfa 156’s svelte lines remain a credit to its designer. But questions remain as to its authorship.

alfa 156
Image: cars data

Over the past sixty-odd years, Alfa Romeo berlinas and the notion of ravishing beauty were (for the most part) mutually exclusive. Now of course this doesn’t necessarily mean Arese wasn’t home to some very fine and finely wrought motorcars, but it’s difficult to avoid the view that the habitual centro stile fare hasn’t exactly been an art curator’s dream.

The 1992 Alfa 155 certainly wasn’t. Based on the Tipo-derived Type Three corporate platform, its tall, narrow-looking silhouette combined with skin surfacing endowed with an over-abundance of character lines, and clumsily placed shutlines was a clear evolution of its 75 predecessor, but hardly a car to Continue reading “Beauty Stab”

Anniversary Waltz 2017 : A History of Lessons

A decade ago, Alfa Romeo wowed the faithful with the 8C Competizione, a car which ultimately amounted to less than the sum of its parts. But weren’t we here before?

8C Competizione. Image: autocar

The philosopher, Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás once essayed the line, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Following this logic, amnesia clearly runs as deeply within Alfa Romeo as blind optimism. The perennially crisis-ridden Italian car brand seems locked into a habitual cycle of hope and despair, with each new dawn promising that this time all will Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017 : A History of Lessons”

1980 Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.8 Road Test

“Another new Alfa Romeo!” – Renowned motoring correspondent, Archie Vicar, takes a cursory look at the 1980 Giulietta 1.8 in what appears to be a verbatim transcript of period review.

1980 Alfa Romeo Giulietta: source

Original photos by Douglas Land-Winbermere (sic). Due to damage in storage, stock photos replace the actual ones (which were damaged in storage). The article first appeared in the Canterbury Weekly Post June 2, 1980.

Introduction

The performance race continues unabated in these increasingly competitive times. Alfa Romeo have decided to add a 1.8 litre engine to their range of roomy family saloons. As if good looks and capable road-holding were insufficient, the famous Milanese firm has taken the decision to Continue reading “1980 Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.8 Road Test”

I’ll Second the Third

The Thinker’s Garage might be a blog you have heard of. If you haven’t it’s worth a little look. The latest post shows a proposal by designer Andrew Marshall for a new Alfa Romeo Giulia.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia 2 door concept: source

The proposal draws quiet inspiration from the 1974- 1987 GTV while using the running gear of the current rear-drive Giulia. Marshall’s proposal eschews the production car’s soft shapes for something more angular (in some ways). The sideglass is a bit deeper than is fashionable – which is a good thing, lending the car a welcoming feeling many modern sports cars lack. Continue reading “I’ll Second the Third”

About Really Nice Cars and Boring Ones Too

Today I’ll ask why the 164 is ace and why the 2017 Mazda Vision Coupe is like a naked lady.

2017 Mazda Vision Coupe: source

An article and a comment by our colleagues on the Alfa Romeo 164 constitute the launch position of this particular rocket aimed into Inquiry Space. The article can be found here for your review but I will cite part of S.V.Robinson’s follow-up comment as it suggests the direction of this piece today: “I remember one commentator stating that the 164’s styling had that same balance and immediate sense of effortlessness as the Supermarine Spitfire and, oddly, it stayed with me as a very left field but accurate point if view…. I see a beautiful red 164 V6 regularly and it still Continue reading “About Really Nice Cars and Boring Ones Too”

When the Poets Dreamed of Angels

Fiat received most of the credit, but the 1987 Alfa Romeo 164 was a genuine Alfa Romeo, despite what some might retrospectively suggest.

Fumia’s masterpiece. Image: favcars

In 2014, then Alfa Romeo chief, Harald Wester illustrated the marque’s latterday decline with an image of the 164, stating that by making it front wheel drive, it had diluted the carmaker’s bloodline. But instead he demonstrated both an eloquent disdain for his forebears and a blind ignorance of history. Dismissing the 164, perhaps the most accomplished and rounded product the troubled Milanese car maker had produced since the 1960s, not only made Wester Continue reading “When the Poets Dreamed of Angels”