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It was 1990, my 1979 AlfaGTV had been destroyed by a truck, (OK, so it only cost me £300 a few months earlier, and the looming MOT meant she was to visit the scrap yard soon) and I had £600 in my sweaty palm to find another car. A quick look through the local gossip rag's motor section revealed an advert for an "Alfa Romeo Alfasud Sprint Veloce 1.5". I bought the car, and she was a beauty, with no rust (the whole front end having been swapped for fibre glass) and typical Alfa running gear that goes on for ever. About 3 days later a drunk pulled out in front of me, the result being a short wheel-base Alfasud sprint, and thankfully no-one was injured, a credit to the strength of the car in days before airbags and side impact beams! So with having made two Alfas into collectors? items within a matter of months, I didn?t buy another until.... I was browsing the Autotrader web-site, and as a flight of fancy I searched for Alfa Romeos and nothing in my price bracket appeared within a 30 mile radius, and then I tried 50 miles, and there was a shiny red Alfa Romeo Alfasud Ti, 3 door, 1983, in red and two words that made my heart jump - "no rust". Within five minutes of seeing the ad' I had an appointment to view the car the next morning at 10am (it was a Sunday and about an hours drive away or I would have been there earlier!). It was all my other half could do to stop me falling out of our car throwing crisp £20 notes at the owner, but I held my decorum and even managed to force myself to haggle £100 off the asking price! The chap I bought the car off had owned the Alfa for the last 17 years and the stack of history was unbelievable and going back to 1987, and the car was garaged and maintained by good Alfa-friendly folks! The "no rust" line was a small discrepancy as there was some bubbles in the usual places (see below under body), but nothing major worth worrying about. What
a joy she is to own. I have owned her now for about 4 or 5 months, and Alfa lust has been rekindled by the sweet chassis, beautiful lines and a wonderful engine, all made into a combination that gives more grins per mile than any other car I have owned. Even the exhaust note is a joy to listen too, and best put into words by a friend who said "You don?t need the radio on in this car - you have Alfa FM - why listen to anything else". Engine 1.3 unit pushing out around 86bhp and can push her along comfortable at the (ahem) speed limit, but comes into her own with the precisely geared box that gives pull anywhere above 2000rpm, and to be honest, you cant go below that. Typical Alfa engines giving that sweet exhaust note ('Alfa FM'). Only problem is electrics - older Alfas suffer terribly with dodgy electrics, and in the rain she stutters on occasion. I am yet to clean all the contacts, earths and terminals, but sure it is nothing that a few hours can?t sort. Chassis A wonderful design, that only Lotus or Ferrari could equal and gives great handling in wet or dry. Front wheel drive is unusual for an older Alfa, but works well. The brakes are a little unorthodox with the handbrake being connected to the front brakes, which are inboard (not on the wheel end but next to the gearbox), and a little complicated to work on, but are as sharp and precise as the handling. The suspension on mine was lowered by the last owner and it has had no adverse affects whatsoever, and gives the 'corners like its on rails' sensation! All in all this car comes alive when you take it into the twisty stuff, and in South Somerset there is plenty of that! Body Oh dear, oh dear, the brown Alfa-eater (RUST!) is always a worry for Sud owners, to the extent that I have found a garage to store her in over the winter, and I will buy a banger to scrap come April n
ext year when the Sud comes out of her hibernation. Places to watch for rust: windscreen surround (I have just had mine sorted there for less than £200 at a good body shop), bottom of the doors, front of the rear arches and also check for leaks that come in via the door surrounds if the rubbers are not sealing properly (floorpan). Sum up A wonderful car to drive, but I am now paranoid about rust so as said earlier, she will be stored over winter, and enjoyed next year. If you can find one - buy it, but beware of rust, and for that reason, they are harder and harder to find. Fun to drive, and still turns heads!! Oh, and I can get the kid and shopping in it!
I lived my twenties with this car - to be precise with 3 of them as one could never have lasted 10 years. It was a beauty of a car in so many ways that just wasn't built right. A real shame.. But first some history. The Alfasud was born in the very early 70's as a four door or 2 door saloon - this is depsite its very modrern hatchback looks. It was styled by Giguaro, who unusally used curves - other creations of his at that time were the very original VW Golf and Lotus Esprit - both using just straight lines. If you have never seen a Sud (and there are precious few around), it is closest in profile to the second generation Vauxhall Astra. Profiles say little - whereas the Astra looked dumpy and clumsy, the lines of the Sud were just so simple and so "right" - even to the rather strangely cut off back end. The sud was also a touch wider and lower than the Astra so had a better stance on the road. The four door saloon was more practical, and lower powered as extra carburation was fitted to the 1186cc and 1286cc engines (you remember such strange numbers!) to make "ti" versions with two doors. Nothing to do with fuel injection - I think "turismo internationale". The two doors were also spoliered and given twin round headlights. Fitted to all suds was the famous ALfa boxer engine. This had two pairs of cylinders horizonatlly opposed - facing each other like the fists of two boxers. This is a much better balanced engine than any other four cyclinder, and most others as well. I always like to think of it as 1/3rd of a Ferrari boxer engine. An advantage of this was that it was very thin - top to bottom - and was fitted quite low down. This helped handling, and Alfa improved matters further by some clever design. Front brakes were moved inboard to minimise unsprung amss - allowing the wheels to move quicker relative to the body and improving ride and handling.
These brakes wore unevenly and were very difficult to service being right next to the gear box and matters were not improved by the handbrake also working on the front brakes as the rears were also disc brakes which tended to seize due to underuse! A standard anti-roll bar was used at the front, but the rear suspension was rather clever where movement of a wheel up or down twisted the wheel hub. the hubs were both attached to a torsion beam axle so resistance to twist of this axle reduced roll in cornereing very significantly. I got a lot of time to study this as under an early sud was where a lot of time was spent. Despite lovely engines and clever engineering they were put together appallingly, both in built quality and rust protection. As the name sud implies, these cars were built in the south of Italy , where there is little rain. Reportedly too, a high percentage of scrap steel was used, so these cars just rusted from the inside with no reason. Paint was so thin, and Alfa had also, in their wisdom, filled box sections with foam which ended up absorbing water. Inside the build was little better, with door trims a mess and door handles always working loose. My first sud therefore had loads of welding doen to it, I spent hours with a Waxoyl can and old engine oil underneath it, yet it still was just about fit for the scrapheap at 8 years old! But it cost so little to buy, it was quite reliable, apart from minor irritations like leaking fuel pumps, clogged up fuel filters etc. And it was so fun to drive. I think it only had around 70bhp, yet was so chuckable. In a treasure hunt in Hertfordshire we came home an hour ahead of the field as it just loved those lanes. Despite its five gears being very close ratio only giving about 17mph/1000 revs, I had this car up to 110mph once (back when the A303 was quiet). It loved to rev and sounded so good doing it. If only Alfa could have built this car properly, it may have been wha
t the Golf was. They weren't helped by appalling paint coulurs such as slime green, orange, and russet brown - yes russet, even though it was very useful in hiding rust. I was bitten - to suds and as you can tell, to Alfas in general. It was a close call - i almost bought a Fiat Panda ! The sud developed as most cars with more ccs and more bhp, though still keeping the distinction between a practical now 5 door (the hatch was obvious to have), and a sportier 3 door. These went to 1490cc and had two twin barrel Delorto or Weber carbs positioned right above each cylinder head (again - 1.3rd of a Ferrari Bxer!). Horsepower went up through 95bhp to 105bhp at the end. But whereas my first sud - an S reg lasted 8 years, my second a W reg fared little better. Again it just rusted whenever it saw water, and try as you might it could not be stopped. Each car lasted me 3 years, but was cheap motoring as the rust anmd reputation made them so cheap in the first place - indeed we wannabe and real Alfa drivers should thank the sud for a reputation that Alfa are still fighting and still makes their cars depreciate more rapidly than many leading to wonderful second hand baragins. The third sud I had - an A prefix - at last seemed to be reasonably built - apart from the top of the front wings that still wanted to rust given the chance. Alloys also appeared, and an A reg - or a very rare B reg may be all that will still be seen on the roads today. The sprint version - a fastback/coupe version, was built for a bit longer. About then, Alfa obviously worried about market share anywhere else apart from Italy replaced the sud with the 33. And as they wanted to go mass market, they detuned the car in a criminal fashion. But more of that if you step over to my 33 review, or if you have already waded through it. I want to remember the sud for what it was - a really fun way to spent ones youth - a masterpiece of styling and des
ign. It has to get 5 stars - if only because that man of great taste (ie he loves Alfas), Jeremy Clarkson, has included the usd in his best cars of all time book.