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 – 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”

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”

Estate of Arese – 1986 Alfa Romeo 75 Sportwagon

Missing Links and lost causes – in search of Alfa Romeo’s elusive estate.

1986 Alfa 75 Sportwagon. Image: Alfaroma.it
1986 Alfa 75 Sportwagon. Image: Alfaroma.it

The recent announcement by Alfa Romeo’s Harald Wester that the Italian manufacturer has no plans to introduce an estate version of its latest Giulia saloon was hardly a shock, given that the forthcoming Stelvio crossover will henceforth fulfil that role, being to all intents and purposes a jacked up Giulia hatch. As we know, the European market for upmarket estate cars is shrinking to the crossover contagion and what is left of it is dominated by the German hegemonic trio and Volvo, so it probably makes little sense now for FCA to throw good money after bad. Continue reading “Estate of Arese – 1986 Alfa Romeo 75 Sportwagon”

Transitory Twins – 1986 Alfa Romeo Vivace

Alfa Romeo really ought to have made these lovely Pininfarina concepts – well maybe not…

Pininfarina Vivace Coupe. Image: oldconceptcars
Pininfarina Vivace Coupe. Image: oldconceptcars

By the mid-1980s, Italy’s Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale had run out of the two crucial components necessary for their ongoing custody of Alfa Romeo: patience and money. Having come bitingly close to selling the ailing motor company to Ford in 1985, Fiat swooped in and made the Italian government agency a far more palatable offer, both financially and politically. With the storied marque now a part of the sprawling Fiat empire, carrozzeria Pininfarina were quick to see the potential, and for the 1986 Turin show, prepared twin concepts for a new coupé and spider derivative, called Vivace. Continue reading “Transitory Twins – 1986 Alfa Romeo Vivace”

Tipo 156 – The Last Alfa Romeo

No, not the one you’re thinking of. This is the last rear-wheel drive Alfa saloon. Or is it?

156.Alfabb.com
A fibreglass styling model of Tipo 156, circa 1983. Image via Alfabb

By 1980, government owned Alfa Romeo was in trouble. The Alfa Sud experiment was unravelling amidst chronic labour unrest and the deteriorating reputation of the model that took its name. In addition, its expensive engineering couldn’t be recouped by its low price and paltry volumes, meaning Alfa was haemorrhaging Lire at a prodigious rate. Continue reading “Tipo 156 – The Last Alfa Romeo”