This Auburn Boattail Speedster replica is by no means an Italian. But it is red and outlandish in these surroundings and hopefully it caught your attention. It is also very far from a typical Berlin CC. That would rather be the case with the T3 photobombing this image.
I’d like to invite you to join me on a little walk across Berlin’s hipster neighborhood – Neukölln – where I live with my family and the bourgeois quarter of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf where I ride my bike to work to afford to live in a hipster neighborhood! Please excuse the sometimes subpar framing (many shots where taken in traffic from my bicycle) and resolution (my phone is a proper CC by now…). But here we go: wagons, Italians, camper vans, and a good dose of Euro strangenesses that you have come to expect from my CC outtakes.
I can’t believe how long it took for the 164s design to grow on me – a good 20 years. But now that I can finally see its beauty, I can’t believe how blind I was. I pass this one every day on my way to work and I always slow down.
One size below the 164 the 155 slotted into the Alfa range of the early 90ies. The initial disappointment upon its reception was maybe even greater than for the 164, but at the time the 155 hit the market, it was also true the 75’s exterior looked very outdated 80s in an increasingly round world. Did Alfa straighten its new midsize offering out according to the fashion trends? They did not!
How influential the 75 was in Alfa’s design language – and maybe as the last true, i.e. independently developed Alfa Romeo – becomes obvious in the 155 which did as much as possible carry over the very high deck, general boxiness and proportions of its predecessor, as much as that was possible with the switch from RWD to FWD.
Now that these vehicles have sadly all but disappeared from the roads around my parts of Europe (I could not even remember when I saw one before this specimen) I was surprised to find the interior a lot nicer than I had remembered.
Yet another class below the 155 slotted the 145.
And it’s five door sibling the 146. While these vehicles may seem entirely unremarkable to some, they are a rarer sight than any Ferrari produced past 1990 on Berlin’s streets. And it still had a Boxer engine!
Needless to say, I was not the only one whom it took a good quarter of a century to appreciate the 164 and 155 designs and in the mid-nineties Alfa was in a near-death state. And then this car came along a saved the brand single-handedly:
The 156 looked amazing – as a sedan and even more so in wagon form – and everyone agreed. And it drove even better. Alfa found some very fiery 144 horses from the 1.8 liter engine which equaled the E36 320i’s performance while undercutting its price very significantly. There were more four-bangers, a last roaring of the Busso-V6 in 2.5 and 3.2 litre GTA versions and Europe’s first common rail diesel engines as options. My father had one of these – the 2.o twin spark – as a company rental and took me and my mum out in it one night to the twisties of the hills behind my home town of Heidelberg. The Camuffo multi-link front axle did wonders – my mother emptied the contents of her stomach after 45 minutes of very hard driving – until it didn’t and my father lost control of the car, thankfully in a deserted intersection. When we came to a stop he gave me a little speech of how to never let your emotions take over while driving.
The 156 wagon also had a very significant impact on the emerging segment of the life style wagon. While one could argue it had originated with the Mercedes S123 and the Audi C3 Avant, gained more traction with the E30 and E36 wagon and the Audi B4 Avant, at least in the European perception it took the beauty of the 156 wagon to disperse the last doubts that a wagon could be a beautiful car that was not just build for additional cargo space. And the 156 – like the B4 and E30 and E36 wagons before it- certainly didn’t fulfill the promise of a wagon as a car for people with a hauling need.
What it did, though, was bring in the cash to keep Alfa going. And eventually come back to building those RWD cars that everyone had come to love Alfa for in the first place.
Here’s a final tribute to the brand.
My research lets me understand this is a Fiat Nuova Campagnola (produced between 1974 and 1987) which was the successor to the original Campagnola that first appeared in 1951. This one sports Italian plates and has been parked and kept in very good shape in my neighborhood for a good two years now.
The German “Notruf 112” (emergency 112) and the fire protection helmet decal on the passenger door with the indicated location of Gries-Bozen point towards this being a decommissioned fire fighting vehicle from Trentino – Alto Adige/Südtirol/ South Tyrol – the Northern province of Italy where (Austrian) that used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918 and where German still is the first language 64.2 percent of the population.
A parting shot of that Auburn. Part 2 follows tomorrow.