Alfa Romeo Alfetta Sedan Review

By: John Wright

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Alfetta Sedan Alfetta Sedan Alfetta Sedan
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Alfetta: John Wright gets misty eyed about an early italian encounter

Alfa Romeo Alfetta Sedan Review
Alfetta Sedan

 

Alfa Romeo Alfetta Sedan

It now seems strange that I got through to 1984 before I drove any Alfa Romeo. By then, I'd owned more than 30 cars and had been road testing new ones for 18 months. The Alfetta Gold Cloverleaf (GCL) perplexed me with its heavy manual steering, strange gearchange and flashing lights issuing false warnings. But I loved its engine note, beautiful wooden steering wheel and Alfa logos. The positives were too few.

Oddly, it was the 90, launched locally the following year, that tripped my fuse. Its blend of operatic V6 and weird Italianate luxury convinced me I had to buy an Alfa. A 1974 Alfetta 1.8 in Beech (a very dark maroon) with split-beige vinyl trim and a pricetag of $2700 (compared with $30K for a new 90) came home.

Then in 1987 I decided to go street sedan (read: budget production cars) racing, largely under the influence of my friend Charlie Cox, whom I came to know through doing a radio program at 2GB. He had ordered a purpose-built RX-3, the weapon of choice in the 2.0-litre class. One bloke ran a Dolomite Sprint. But I figured the Alfa with its discs all-round (inboard at the rear) would out-handle and out-brake both of them. We had to run on 78-series rubber, which we buffed down to minimal tread. I pumped about 52 pounds into the front tyres and
48 into the rears.

Charlie and I competed in our debut race and I finished close to last, with him two cars ahead. The best I ever did was to qualify fifth at Oran Park (57.7 seconds), only to be about 10th by the first corner, out-dragged by the Mazdas and Triumph. Passing them under brakes and through the corners was great and I usually finished mid-field. Amaroo, with its uphill start, was more difficult.

The original 1.8-litre Alfetta had been a standout in 1972 (two years later in Oz) but by the time it arrived at GCL status more than a decade later, it was an anachronism, as I guess that first test told me. In 1984, you could buy an injected VK Calais for less, but no sane person could have rated an HQ 202 ahead of an Alfetta!

Didn't the 1.8 love to rev? I regularly saw 7200rpm in second. But the subsequent 2.0-litre engine offered much more mid-range torque, at the expense of top end.

By then the lovely timber veneer had given way to the faux stuff and the styling had been tidied up too much. So the 1.8 was my favourite.

I should mention that when I finally got an Alfa 90, I still had the (ex) street sedan. The over-tall gearing and lack of mid-range oomph in the V6, plus the extra weight, meant the four-cylinder car was easily quicker at Oran Park.

 

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