The car in our possession today was produced sometime in the autumn of 1978 and registered for the first time in Ravenna in December of the same year. (Since the registration of cars in Italy at that time was handled differently than we know it today, this first registration can also only mean the issuing of the official vehicle documents).
In March 1979, the Sprint was registered to its first owner in Faenza. This was probably a dealer, as the Sprint would be sold and registered to another person in Faenza in June 1979.
Then its trail is lost until, in the course of time, the vehicle ends up in the hands of the last Italian owner in Potenza.
He put the vehicle up for sale on Ebay Italia at the beginning of 2004.
Martin Kruse from Pinneberg, looking for a first series sprint, discovers this ad.
He described his buying experience in an Alfa forum in the following words:
“[After arriving at the airport in Naples…] …at 10 pm, it was still warm, I met the salesman in the car park and examined my `red Mauritius’ by torch.”
The car did not come close to the full-bodied descriptions of the seller. The Sprint had already been repainted, had scrap tyres and was generally used up and ridden down.
So as not to have made the long journey in vain, “Euros were handed over, licence plates were mounted on and off I went on the Autostrada direction Hamburg. 2000 kilometres of road lay ahead of me. The bad tyres didn’t make me feel good – I can tell you, one of the last adventures in our civilisation…“.
„After one (only one!) puncture near Kassel (repaired with on-board tools and the spare wheel from 1978), I reached home.“
After this adventurous transfer, the car was disassembled.
The bodyshell was repainted and the mechanic was extensively overhauled. Except for the gearbox, everything that could be bought new at the time was replaced.
The only change from the original condition on delivery was the replacement of the exhaust with a contemporary accessory and on the rear axle the, only standard for Scandinavia, brake disc plate covers were retrofitted to prevent rusting of the inner side of the rear brake disc.
The seats were re-upholstered and the faux leather replaced.
In summer 2006, the restoration was completed and the vehicle got a German registration.
Since Martin Kruse originally acquired the vehicle as a gift for his wife, but she hardly ever drove the car, the Sprint was sold to a new owner in Flensburg in April 2009. This owner only moved the vehicle in good weather. When he moved to the vicinity of Rendsburg for work and family reasons, there was no suitable accommodation for the Sprint and he advertised the vehicle.
This is where we come into play. At the beginning of 2014, we decided to buy another vehicle besides our Spider. While looking for a 1750 Berlina, I stumbled across the ad for the Sprint in March.
Not only the look and appearance were interesting, but also the fact that it would cost less than half of a good Berlina makes it an interesting proposition.
Furthermore, the vehicle had the smallest engine offered in the Sprint with 1277 cc and 65 hp. (This engine was hardly offered for the Sprint outside the home country, not at all in Germany). Thus, the foreseeable maintenance costs would also be far cheaper than for a Berlina.
The seats were upholstered in a fashionable brown check fabric and faux leather, the dashboard and other interior trim came in matching brown plastic. Nice to look at.
The only extra, obviously from the early years, was a radio – which turned out to be non-functional. The loudspeakers in the doors also presumably dated from this time, as the paper membranes were only rudimentary in existence.
The speedometer reading was close to 40 thousand km. Based on the condition of the vehicle as determined by Martin Kruse at the time of purchase, it is more likely to be 240 thousand.
As I did not trust myself to be able to assess the technical condition as well as the driving behaviour correctly, I asked Andreas Päsch from Balocco-Motors (who had looked after our Spider since we had moved to Lüneburg) to check the vehicle. He examined the vehicle and took it for a test drive with a positive result.
The purchase was then sealed and Mr. Päsch drove the vehicle to his workshop in Hamburg for a technical inspection and overhaul. In addition to checking all fluids, the oil was changed and the timing belt and tension rollers were replaced. Furthermore, a battery master switch was installed.
The trip meter turned out to be defective, so in July 2014 I acquired a (functioning) instrument unit and replaced the speedometer’s innards. This changed the speedometer reading from 45,255 to 15,508 km.
Since our Spider had to stay in the garage over the winter – we had a seasonal licence plate from April to October – the Sprint was actually intended as a year-round vehicle and should also be driven in the cold season. And to be prepared against rust damage, we had Lokari retrofit inner mudguards in the front wheel housings. An unnecessary expense.
We never drove when it was cold because the Sprint has a virtually non-functioning heater. Even the purchase and installation of a new heat exchanger (amazing what exotic parts you can still find on the internet) did not bring more heating power.
Our fleet in summer 2014:
In November 2014, the Sprint was one of the stars for a commercial (…not for Alfa Romeo).
Bad news announced itself in December 2014: Suspected connecting rod bearing damage. During the subsequent engine overhaul, the connecting rod bearings, main bearings, valve stem seals and crankshaft were replaced or reconditioned.
In spring 2015, I removed the old, non-functioning radio and replaced it with a self-made cover for the radio slot, which resembled the part that was installed without the radio when it was delivered.
Between 2015 and 2017, the Sprint received further new parts. Brake discs and calipers on the front axle, ignition cables, radiator fan, speedometer cable, brake caliper and brake discs and wheel bearings on the rear axle were replaced. Some rubber seals in the doors and on the windows were also replaced.
In 2017, a minor rust treatment was necessary, during which the sills and jacking points on both sides were repaired. In addition, the front left floor panel was repaired and sealed. The drains for the rainwater underneath the tailgate were also cleaned and made functional again.
The previous owner had replaced the original 5 inch Cromodora rims with 5 1/2 inch Ronal rims (see photo at the beginning of the article). I found these not quite suitable, a too much 80s look.
We could have fitted the original Cromodora ones again, as they were included with the purchase. But I wanted to keep the current tyre width (185). With the Cromodora, only tyres with a width of 175 were possible.
So I went in search of rims that corresponded to the delivery condition of the Sprint in the late 70s. In July 2018, I acquired four alloy wheels from Campanatura in size 5 1/2, which I had reworked by a specialist company.
At that time we received a request if we would make our Sprint available for a 3D scanning. The result was a 1/18 scale model car from the company OttoMobile. Unfortunately, we never received a thank you in the form of a copy – and also always forgot to order one at our own expense, now it is sold out…
Two years ago we had some chassis parts derusted and sealed. The radiator as well as the radiator fan were renewed and Mr. Päsch from Balocco-Motors made us new guide bushes for the gearshift linkage.
Apart from smaller day trips with the Sprint, we made three larger tours with this car.
The first big trip was to Malmö for a long weekend to follow in the footsteps of “Saga Norén”, the film character from “The Bridge” (the original TV series from 2011).
The second trip was in spring 2016 when we decided to move the office from Lüneburg to Grimaud in the south of France for a few weeks. The Sprint was loaded with all the office equipment and we drove to our first stop: the Cité de l’Automobile in Mulhouse, a museum that emerged from the Schlumpf Collection.
Through Switzerland we went to Milan and on to the Asti area, where we knew a hotel from our trips to Cannes in the 80s/90s. From there we drove to Grimaud. On the way back, we stopped again in Milan and took the opportunity to visit the Alfa Romeo Museum, which was reopened a few years ago.
From Arese, we headed back through Switzerland towards Germany. On the way south, we drove through the Gotthard road tunnel (Galleria stradale del San Gottardo, at almost 17 kilometres the longest tunnel in the Alps), much to the displeasure of my better half, but for the way back we decided to take the route over the Gotthard Pass (2100 metres above the sea). Our sprint, fully loaded with the office equipment plus the extra boxes of wine we had bought, drove smoothly up the mountain road, past all the new-fangled vehicles parked on the side of the road with smoking radiators and other defects. When we took a little break at a rest stop on the other side of the pass, I could swear he was grinning.
The third major trip was in 2022 when we decided to do our own little Tour de France. As I wanted to deliver some promised books, our first stop was in the Netherlands. From there we went to Vézelay in Burgundy (the place where Richard the Lionheart started his first crusade and the beginning of the Way of St James).
At the request of the lady beside me, we turned left after Lyon on the way south to Grenoble to drive along the Route Napoléon to Mougins, where we spent a few days at a friend’s house.
On the way to the Périgord, we stopped in Maussane to enjoy a wonderful dinner with some acquaintances at Le Bistrot du Paradou.
Then we went to Le Bugue, the setting for the novel series “Bruno, Chief of Police” by Martin Walker.
Further north, we stopped in Romorantin-Lanthenay to visit the Matra Museum.
After an overnight stay in a charming little hotel north of Paris, we headed back home. Around 4000 kilometres with the Sprint were pure pleasure. Which is why we decided to make another such automotive journey.
We just came back from a trip through the Sprints home country. From the north of Italy to the very south and back again, with a special stop at the gateway of its creation in Pomigliano d’Arco after 45 years.
I am currently writing a report about this trip. You will be surprised at what we experienced.
I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that this is the only Alfasud Sprint COAL we will ever have.
Fred, I’m impressed by your absolute devotion and commitment to these two Alfas you’ve written up. You deserve some sort of award from Alfa Romeo.
I’ll echo that – great tale of looking after something properly but using and enjoying it as well. The Afasud is sometimes overlooked, maybe as rarity (through relatively small numbers sold and some limited longevity, limits sightings, but it cannot be overlooked.
Perhaps the best compact saloon from Europe in the 1970s, which as it was launched in 1971 tells you something about parts of the European industry at that time.
Great story, beautiful car ! Shame they did not come to North America, but then they wouldn’t have helped Alfa’s reputation. I appreciate originality, but would be tempted to retrofit a a carburated 1.5L or fuel injected 1.7L engine from the later Quadrifoglio Verde.
Yes, I too wish these little Alfa coupes had been brought to the US, true Alfisti are willing to put up with the typical issues, mechanical and body-wise. Having owned a ’66 Duetto 1600 (boat-tail) I always felt it was worth the effort. GTVs are now so expensive, these would be a nice alternative.
Didn’t the Alfasud’s have the flat 4 engine? I’d like to hear that Subie-like growl! lol
Randerson, YouTube is your friend here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiWLKsGcwmk
An Alfasud would be in my fantasy garage, but here in the USA it would have to be a hobby car.
I must say I envy you your ownership of the car and your residence in Europe. I’ve taken road trips, but of course I didn’t have multiple countries close by as you do.
Very nice written.
I know the friend in France very well… 🙂
looking forward to part 2.
What a great story. I found the Alfasud intriguing from the first time I read about them. Unfortunately it seemed as if the execution did not match the quality of the design. I find the comments about Alfa heaters interesting. I had a 1750 Berlina for several years in the 70s. I was living in Toronto and the heater seemed OK, but my previous cars were English (Austin and Vauxhall) so my standards were probably pretty low. What I did have a problem with in cold weather was second gear. The synchro was weak but in warm weather it was fine (with double clutching on downshifts), but in cold weather it would not go in for the first couple of kilometers, either up or down. Unfortunately, although it was a wonderful car, it succumbed to terminal rust.
Great read – funnily enough, the ‘Sud Sprint popped into my head a few hours before I read this…that sort of thing seems to happen a lot, lately.
Just like the 2002 I saw the other day. On which note:
Just one tiny point – Sonia Delaunay wouldn’t have known how to spell the Four-cylinder in Milbertshofen in 1968 – it was opened in 1972! Sorry to spoil the alliteration.
Thank you for your kind comments.
And yes, a small mistake has crept in, a intended wording error.
The Vierzylinder was indeed inaugurated in 1972, until then the board was still sitting in Moosacher Straße in Milbertshofen. BMW’s first Art Car came in 1975.
What I wanted to make clear with my statement: Matra made the 530 with Sonia Delaunay in 1968, 7 years before the first BMW Art-Car. Mr Poulain and Alexander Calder were not the first with “art on cars”.
(Presumably, Ms Delaunay was not the first either…)
Beautiful car. Always liked these. Regrettably they became quite rare pretty soon – we all know why.
I had a ride in an Alfasud (so not exactly the same car) and found it a marvellous car. Never had the guts to buy one.