Alfa Romeo 90 flashback

By: Dr John Wright

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alfa romeo 90 alfa romeo 90
alfa romeo 90 front alfa romeo 90 front
alfa romeo 90 rear alfa romeo 90 rear
alfa romeo 90 interior alfa romeo 90 interior

Dr John Wright goes into 90 how many times? Ah, that would be plenty...

From Unique Cars #320, Jan/Feb 2011 

Alfa 90

I hadn’t fallen in love with Alfas when I made my first trip overseas for the 1984 Turin Salon, one of two Australian journalists on a Fiat junket. But one of the stars of that spectacle was the Alfa 90 and it took my eye. The promise of the GTV6 engine in an Alfetta somehow got mixed up with excitement about being in Italia, its magnificent unfamiliarity.

Perhaps you’ve never seen an Alfa 90? Or you may have seen one and not marked it as anything special. Actually, you’d be right. Even when this narrow-gutted, upright sports sedan lobbed in Oz the following year, it looked somehow dated. The handling was ordinary and the performance far from electric. But it was enmeshed with my memories of Italy and I couldn’t resist the urge to purchase.

alfa-romeo-90-front.jpgRear drive, transaxle gearbox and injected V6 failed to make the Alfa 90 exciting, but Wrighty owned six!

Some of the colour schemes were novel. The bright solid red came with dark grey or bright blue interior. Of the latter, that genius PR man Enrico Zanarini said knowingly, almost conspiratorially, "the latest Italian fashion". But blue velour looked good in a solid navy car.

Before finally deciding to buy, I organised a drag race from 80-160km/h between a test 90 and my own Malachite 5.0-litre VB Commodore SL/E. There was not a metre between them.

| 2019 Market Review: Alfa Romeo 1963-1992

This should have told me to keep the Commodore but my buyer’s heart chose to think of this result as confirming the Alfa’s speed – equal to a standard seven-year-old automatic V8. Half the capacity, I reasoned, and how about that V6 soundtrack? (Or how about the 308 with its air cleaner lid inverted?) There was something about the perverse formula of the 90. There must have been or I should get back on the psychiatrist’s couch. I owned six of ’em between 1986 and 1997. Two were even turned into race cars. I especially liked the combination of a rollcage and the in-dash, lift-out briefcase...

alfa-romeo-90-rear.jpgNarrow body simply a reskinned '72 Alfetta

Some years ago I rang in response to an ad. "Has it still got the briefcase?’ I asked. Pause… "What briefcase?"

The Alfa 90 was, as my old friend and then Holden PR man, Marcus McInnes said, "a V6 Alfetta". It could even be made to handle almost as well, despite the extra weight up front.

alfa-romeo-90-interior.jpgZero Alfa romance in digital dash

I loved the sheer Italianate zaniness of the interior – all digital instruments and green lights and plush velour, and the briefcase (many of which were lifted out and never returned, per comment above). I thought of it as a GTV sedan until I decided the coupe was more desirable in almost every way. Funny thing, everyone else seemed to have always thought that!

In my opinion, the 90 was better than the front-drive 164, despite being nowhere near as plush. The desperately over-rated Alfasud was an OK front-driver by mid-70s standards but the 164 was a shocker. I’ve only had one of those.

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