CC Capsule: 1975 Alfa Romeo Alfetta – Broken Promise

Almost forgot; we have an Alfa sub-theme this week, which so far is pretty Alfetta-rich. We covered the seductive Alfetta Coupe on Monday, and here’s the sedan it shares its underpinnings with. As is commonly the case, the sedan appeared first, and the Alfetta made quite the impact when it arrived in 1972. Its superb chassis promised to be the best balanced in the world, other than an exotic. The Alfetta had BMW centered in its gunsight, and it seemed at the time that it would give them a real run for the money. But it all came to tears, and BMW cleaned up that segment of the market. If only…

Alfa Romeo’s brilliant Gulietta series, which dated to 1954 – 1955, was always praised for its fine handling, even though it sat rather high on its coil-sprung but excellently-controlled solid rear axle.

The basic chassis (and engine, of course) had “legs”, and was continued with little change for the 1962 Gulia, as well as the coupe and spider variants. And its offshoot, the 1750/2000 Berlina also shared the same chassis. For over twenty years, it was the the Alfa Romeo recipe, and a very tasty one.

In order to top it, the goal for the Alfetta was a perfect balance weight distribution, and the way to accomplish that was by mounting an additional spare on the trunk locating the transmission to the rear, by the differential. This of course necessitated that the differential could no longer be part of the live rear axle.

But rather than go with a independent rear suspension, Alfa chose a De Dion real axle, where a solid hollow tube connects the rear wheels, and to the locating members. It’s essentially a very well-located solid axle, but minus the un-sprung weight of the differential. Since most irs setups at the time were still rather crude and over-steer happy, the de Dion was a popular solution for high performance and racing cars.

The result was as intended, and the Alfetta was praised for its perfect balance and fine manners. There was no better handling sport sedan at the time. And in Europe, the 2 liter Alfa four delivered more than adequate power. The challenges with ever-tightening emission regs in the US hit the Alfetta where it counted.

But the biggest problem was Alfa’s disastrous decline in quality during the seventies. Alfa’s once enjoyed a rep for robust design and build. That now all went to hell in a rusty hand basket. Alfa wouldn’t fully recover from its misdeeds of the seventies and eighties until it was too late, in the US anyway. So here sits the only Alfetta sedan I’ve seen in decades, in very august company.