THE ALFASUD was Alfa Romeo's first challenger in the small car market, a distinct departure from the Milan company's previous offerings and to produce it a new factory was created at Pomigliano near Naples.
In Italy the front wheel drive
"Alfa for the masses" was a relatively cheap car, but the same was not the case for exported examples. On the credit side the Alfasud had a sophisticated flat-four engine
, superb handling
and road-holding, it was surprisingly spacious (the four-door body being capable of carrying five people with adequate luggage), and the car was astonishingly quiet and comfortable.
Once inside it was easy to see where Alfa were trying to save the pennies, the appointments being cheap and tasteless. While acceleration figures of 0-60 in 14.9 sec. and a top speed of over 90 m.p.h. were extremely creditable for such a small engine
, they failed to reveal the real drawback of the Alfasud, a dissappointing lack of low speed torque and throttle response leading to the need for far too many revs.
To move the 16.3 cwt. car from rest and continual rowing of the precise gear-change, the lever being surrounded by the usual Alfa bellows and linked to the gearbox by a rod system. Performance dropped considerably with a full load.
Once under way at reasonable speed on the open road the sophistication of the Alfasud was apparent in its quietness and ease of cruising up to maximum speed. Early examples had troublesome single-choke Solex carburetter which sat on top and in the middle, of the one-piece, cast iron engine
block and fed the mixture through two very long, water heated, alloy inlet manifolds, one to each bank.
Those inlet tracts were extraordinarily long, surrrounded by hot water and directly in the rising heat from the engine
block. The size of the carburetter managed to restrict the power output, though it didn't seem to help economy. Thankfully this was addressed with the Ti.
The boxer engine
sat ahead of the front wheels, its configuration allowing for a low bonnet line. Drive to the front wheels was via an all indirect four-speed gearbox behind the engine
, contained in the same alloy casing as the hypoid differential and the selfing, 7 in. single-plate, hydraulic clutch. The driveshafts had deuble constant velocity joints.
Though the engine block was iron, the cross-flow cylinder heads
were alloy. Combustion chambers were in the pistons plus a small part of the cylinders. There was a single overhead camshaft to each bank, activated by toothed belts from the steel crankshaft and easy tappet clearance was provided by an Allen-key operated screw pad on top of each valve stem, accessible through holes in the camshaft. A four-branch exhaust
manifold, two pipes per bank, merges into a single system.
The front-mounted radiator
was aided by a thermoostatically controlled electric fan and an alternator was standard. Within a sort of sub-compartment between the windscreen and the engine
were housed the top mountings of the McPherson struts, a Varta battery
, a screenwasher bottle, fuse box, tandem brake master cylinder, reservoir and optional servo, and the steering rack and pinion
. This double bulkkhead, together with liberal use of sound deadening materials insulated occupants from engine
noise very effectively.
The front suspension was McPherson strut type
and the rear was equally simple, employing a beam axle controlled by a Panhard rod, Watts linkage and vertical dampers/coil springs, a system which kept the wheels effectively vertical at all times.
It consumed very little space, too, enabling an 50 litre (11 gallon) fuel tank to be fitted under the flat boot floor, along with the spare wheel. The track was very wide, which, combined with the fat 165/70 SR 13 Ceat tyres
, giving the Alfasud a pronounced "glued to the road" squat appearance.