We hear that the future generation of Alfa will be reverting to RWD, after a long fling with FWD. That first started way back in 1971, with the brilliant Alfasud. A highly advanced FWD sedan engineered by Austrian Rudolf Hruska and styled by Italian Giorgio Giugiaro, it was a cornucopia of all the most technically leading edge engineering concepts: a spirited water-cooled boxer OHC four driving the front wheels, inboard front disc brakes, and a very light but roomy body. Alfa took a big step into the world of smaller FWD cars with the Alfasud; unfortunately it was not exactly one without a few issues.
Alfa Romeo was solidly entrenched in the middle of the market with its line of popular sporty RWD sedans, coupes and spiders. But it had been mulling the idea of a small car since the 1950s. The government subsidized the giant new factory deep in Southern Italy (Pomigliano d’Arco) because industrialization and employment lagged there. The new plant was actually a joint-venture, with Alfa Romeo owning 90% and the government owning 10%. Union issues and plant morale were recurring problems.
The Alfasud’s ohv boxer four initially had only 1186cc, with 63 hp, but performed well given the times. A continuous expansion of engine size and output kept the Alfasud and its Coupe variant, which looked quite similar to the Scirocco, also penned by Giugiaro. Engine size eventually reached 1.7 L, and 118 hp.
Many cars from this era were poorly rust-proofed, but the Alfasud developed a rep for being perhaps the worst. This has been attributed to poor quality steel from Russia, as well as that raw, unprotected bodies were exposed to the elements before they were primed and painted.
The Alfasud was replaced by the Alfa Romeo 33 in 1983 (above), and which was a direct evolution of the Alfasud. It also acquired a rep for iffy quality. But both cars were held in high esteem for they dynamic qualities, and certainly paved the way for the acceptance of FWD in an Alfa without loss of its essential sporting character. But they did ding Alfa’s rep for building quite solid cars in the 50s and 60s.