Alfa Romeo's small car projects before the birth of the Alfasud
Many people believe that the Alfasud was the first Alfa Romeo below
the today called "middle class" cars.
a first prototype was completed. It had a 1000 cm³ four-cylinder inline
engine in the classical Alfa Romeo layout with a
which was mounted transversely in front of the front-axle. The car was
equipped with a four-speed gearbox and front-wheel-drive. With its 52 hp at 5500 rpm it was able to run 130 kph. According to
Luigi Fusi, the well known Alfa Romeo-chronicler, three engines were
built. The four-door body was designed to be relatively roomy and anticipated
the design of the Giulia, in whose favour the project was suspended. The
blue prototype and several design-and aerodynamic -studies have found their
way into the into the Museo Storico at Arese, Italy. Regarding the Renault
8, one can see that it takes up the design of Tipo 103. In thetime when Tipo 103 was under construction Alfa Romeo and Renault were co-operateing.
Alfa built the Dauphine and R4 which were destinated to be sold on the
The Alfasud Project
Seven years later chief-executive Giuseppe Luraghi
reflected again about
the possibility to build a smaller car in order to get a larger piece out of the
fast-growing car sales volume.
After Giuseppe Luraghi had decided to build a small Alfa Romeo, things went on very quickly. He arrived to convince the government of Italy to give financial support. But the government insisted on the fact that the new car had to be produced in the poor South of Italy to stop the emigration of young people who did not see any chance to survive there. People who wanted to be successful had to move to the richer and industrially more developped North of Italy. Therefore the new car could not be produced anywhere in Milan or its surrounding area. Quickly Alfa Romeo now opted for the old Alfa Romeo Avio plant in Pomigliano d'Arco near Naples. On this old Alfa Romeo property they began to plan a completely new plant for the now called Alfasud project. The former airport of Alfa Romeo Avio was replaced by a test-track. 240 hectares and 300 billion Lire were placed at Alfa Romeo's disposal. Another 60 billion Lire were thought to be needed for the development of the car. 6 % were directly made available by the government, further 44 % should follow later.
For Italian circumstances, the planning now got on very quickly. Alfa
Romeo had to select 16.000 workers out of 130.000 applicants who wanted to work
in the new factory. But the South-Italian workers were not qualified enough
to cope with the new technologies so that Alfa Romeo had to convince North-Italian
workers to move to Pomigliano d'Arco. The subcontractors also had to adapt
to the new situation. Before Alfasud, they were used to send their products
only to the North of Italy.
The conflict was even enforced by the winning over of Rudolf Hruska, who was - from the beginning on - the engineer in charge of the whole project. With him 27 specialists partly recruited from Fiat but also from Alfa Romeo in Arese entered in the hot phase of the project .
Planning very precisely, Hruska could - completely unexpected - keep the costs of the project below the expected 300 billion Lire. With 276 billion Lire he kept the expenses about 10 % below the expected amount. During the whole time he was even able to show every little progress in the building of the plant and the car to the Italian officials who controled the finances.
In the end, it took four years instead of the planned 48 months. In
fact this is not a very long period of time to develop a completely new
and technically path-breaking car (think of the Citroën DS-story).
The Fathers of the Alfasud
Everything began at Hruska's bureau in Milan, where only two people
worked with him. After the quickly finished planning stage more people
of Hruska's trust joined the project.
At the end of 1967 the engine-developed was finished. The 10th
of July 1968
was the first day when it ran on a test block. The body-development was
finished in September and Rudolf Hruska could make the first test-drive at the
November. At the same time, the contruction workers in Pomigliano d'Arco were still levelling
The Alfasud became the sensation of the 1971 Turin Car Exposition, but with the beginning of the production of the first cars on th efirst of April 1972 the problems seemed to begin at all. Strikes, malice and delays stopped the production again and again, then the quality of the car was a sheer catastrophe - as a result of the South-Italian work mentality. Productivity was even worse. Alfa Romeo had planned to produce 500 cars a day. Later on this number should be at 1000 cars a day. But production numbers never reached these numbers. At the beginning of the Alfasud production only 70 cars a day were made. When the ti was launched, 78000 four-door Alfasuds had left Pomigliano d' Arco although 175000 had been planned.
Due to the very bad quality of the Alfasud's bodywork, the good reputation of Alfa Romeo began to suffer. Every Alfasud which was delivered to its new owner made it worse. The great problem of these days were cars which rusted in an unbelievabley short time. People now also started to project the situation on all other Alfa Romeo models, which had in fact the same quality as the German BMWs. At this time also BMWs and other companies had serious problems with the very bad quality of the used steel.
Meanwhile Rudolf Hruska's job became
the hell on earth, the production was interrupted
by many strikes. One time, a paintshop-worker refused to continue to spray
primer, because of sanitary concerns. He refused to be exchanged
by another worker. So the still unpainted bodies had to stand outside of the
production line in a stream of salty wind coming from the near sea and
began to rust before they got their first coat of paint. At the end there
had been more than 700 strikes which stopped the production. To stop the
rust-problems, the engineers now tried to fill all box-sections of the Alfasud
with a special synthetic foam. The result was even more disastrous - after
a certain time water entered into the structure of the foam. The foam became
a kind of sponge and rust was pre-programmed.
When the production of the Alfasud ended in 1984, one could say that the Alfasud was a commercial disaster for both, the government which had to pay about 25 EUR for every sold car and for Alfa Romeo.
Last Update: November,12th 2006 Created: January 2000
© Layout and Text by Tim Rauen.