In the second half of the 1960s, Alfa Romeo’s range, also sought after as a veteran, consisted of the Giulia limousine and coupe, or the Spider, which, with their design and technical construction, strengthened the brand’s sporting bloodline to the delight of contemporary buyers.
However, this period was about courage, creativity and innovative spirit, so it is no coincidence that Giuseppe Luraghi, the current president of the state-owned brand since 1933, longed for a revolutionary new construction that could gain new customers for Alfa Romeo and the backward southern it can also play its part in catching up. After accepting the idea of setting up a new factory, he asked the best professionals to carry out the large-scale project. Internationally renowned Rudolf Hruschka was solely responsible for the car and the factory, an engineer known as Ferdinand Porsche’s right-hand man who had previously designed several Fiat and Alfa Romeos. The Italians were so confident that after the southern manufacturing site, they were given a free hand in designing a structure called Alfasud.
Giorgetto Giugiaro also attached strong threads to Alfa Romeo, who, sensing the importance of the invitation, opened a new design studio with Fiat’s former production manager, Aldo Mantovani. Founded in 1968, Stidi Italiani SpA Realizzazione Prototipi was renamed Italdesign that year.
While the factory was under construction, Hruschka and Giugiaro set out to reform Alfa Romeo’s image. The biggest novelty was the front-wheel drive. Although the company tested a smaller front-wheel-drive prototype than the Giulia, production of the Tipo 103 was not launched because it was considered risky, as in 1964 Fiat first introduced the then unusual drive formula in its less dominant Autobianchi offering. Hruschka found front-wheel drive to be advantageous not only for its safe handling but also for its smaller footprint. He sought to come up with an Italian car in which four, like him, grown-ups could comfortably travel. Together with Giugiaro, the overhangs were shortened at the front and rear, allowing a wheelbase of 2455 mm in addition to a length of 3890 mm. The hatchback, an important novelty of the era, could have been much more practical, but like its contemporaries, such as the Citroën GS, the Alfasud was a four-door. Not only did the hood go low, he also chose the small boxer engine to keep the center of gravity as low as possible and of course the weight. The latter remained between 810 and 865 kg!
He paid close attention to the driving experience expected of Alfa Romeo. For the rack-and-pinion steering gear, he designed a rigid axle chassis with a MacPherson system at the rear, complete with a Watt rod at the rear and a Panhard rod at the cross. It increased rigidity, reduced engine noise with a second firewall built into the engine compartment, and used the negative wheel tilt characteristic of racing cars at the front to reduce understeer resulting from front-wheel drive and increase cornering speed. The 1.2-liter, 63-horsepower engine and top speed of 153 km / h were dynamic in this category, which justified the four disc brakes, and fixed the first ones to the inside of the half-axles to reduce unsprung weight.
When it was exhibited at the Turin Motor Show in 1971, both in terms of its technical background and design, a pre-age Alfa Romeo stood in front of the public, 3 years ahead of Giugiaro’s Volkswagen Golf, which also institutionalized the compact category. It may have been eye-catching, with customers looking strangely at the front-wheel-drive Alfasud, but the unanimous recognition of Italian and foreign magazines lured many people to the test, where not only its spacious and ergonomic interior but also its outstanding handling convinced them. Although its material quality lags behind that of its larger brands, it was offered as an entry model at a particularly reasonable price.
What was the grain of sand in the machine after all? Just the environment you got your name from! The southern mentality left a mark on Alfasud’s manufacturing quality, careless assembly caused reliability problems, but the biggest concern was rust. Steel from the Soviet Union, which was already of inadequate quality, did not receive the necessary corrosion protection, and due to frequent work stoppages, it was not uncommon for raw bodies to be left in the yard for days, in the salty air, so rusting began before painting. The early specimens were best characterized by this stormy destruction, some of which did not pass the first technical examination after 4 years! The situation was further exacerbated by the special sound-insulating foam, which absorbed moisture like a sponge, thus embedding the rust. Due to the mass complaint, the handling of complaints did not go smoothly either, Alfa Romeo suffered a serious loss of prestige. Nonetheless, it was said goodbye in 1989 as the most successful car in the brand’s history to date, with 1,017,387 units found owner due to its favorable price, multiple body styles, and more or less repaired imperfections. If the production quality had only approached the standard of construction, we would not have found only a few – miraculously – surviving specimens in the fan collection…
Energy saving concept
At the Automotive Conference held in Kyoto in 1982, the Italians built a prototype tuned for economical operation called ESVAR (Energy Saving Vehicle Alfa Romeo). The weight of the 1.5-liter Quadrifoglio Oro version was reduced by 76 kg, modified on the transmission, and then improved on air resistance with custom bumpers, rims and air deflectors. The operation of the box engine was optimized with a special injector and an electronic engine controller (Controllo Elettronico del Motore), which increased the compression ratio from 9.5: 1 to 10.2: 1 and switched off two of the 4 cylinders at part load. It consumed around 5.0 liters less at 90 km / h, while accelerating from 0 to 100 km / h in 9.8 seconds instead of 10.7 at an unchanged 95 horsepower, and its top speed increased from 174 to 185 km / h.
Source: Autó-Motor by www.automotor.hu.
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