Perfect ’70s Italian design, a characterful flat-four engine and outstanding handling even with front-wheel drive: This is the Alfasud. History kind of overlooks Alfa Romeo’s compact car as too undependable, lost when the VW Golf debuted a few years after it.
I, though, can’t help but wonder about the Alfasud. Alfa Romeo built a new factory on the edge of Naples for the thing, part of an economic development project for southern Italy. A big problem for the car was that they were remarkably rust-prone, even for the time. In contrast to the 1974 Golf, the 1971 Alfasud didn’t make a ton of sense.
Still, I’m very intrigued if the rust ruined each and every Alfasud, or if some people relished their little front-drive Alfas for many years. Classic and Sports Car noted in a buyer’s guide that the rust problem was not exactly as bad on later cars, but maybe was never gone:
Rustproofing was improved in ’77 and ’78, but the cars still suffered because of using poor steel. Motor noted in its November ’77 test of a 1.3Ti that corrosion was already appearing on the doors. The recycled Russian metal would delaminate in months, with shells beyond economic repair in as little as three years. Only Series IIIs from 1980 had barely acceptable rot resistance.
I also wonder if the car was actually as wonderful to drive as people say it is. Included among those are Tiff Needell, the F1 driver-turned-TV-presenter best known for driving my coworker’s Scion.
They’re funky cars, Alfasuds. The water-cooled flat-four sits all the way in front of the front wheels, with its own little firewall running from strut tower to strut tower. Plenty of space inside, beautiful styling around it. Giugiaro penned the thing, though curiously it wasn’t initially a hatchback. It just got a little trunk flap thing. Weird, inconvenient, charming. A little bit like the car.
Have you owned one of these cars? Let me know, and please include a picture of your Alfasud.