Buyer's Guide
                      Text by Richard Jones and Tim Rauen
 
Preface

True reality....The first thing to bear in mind when looking at an Alfasud or any of the Sprints is that they are old cars. The youngest variant - the last of the Sprints ceased manufacture in 1989 - so most examples are unlikely to be perfect.
If you can come to terms with this fact and accept that modern cars (even the ordinary) have made huge advances in performance, roadholding, comfort A very badly rusted Alfasud Superand build standard you are probably in the right frame of mind to start looking. The fact that Alfasuds can still be compared to modern cars is testament to the huge advance this car represented when it was designed over 32 years ago and then released to the market around 30 years ago, however some of the things to look for when buying one of these great cars can be attributed to the knowledge and technology of the time-insight is a marvellous thing...
 
The most common problems
 The most common problems
 
Body

Most of you reading this article will be aware the first thing to look for when looking at any Alfasud is body condition. I have seen models from the early `70`s with no rust in my own part of the world which enjoys a temperate dry climate (and is away from salt air) but inA rusty rear wheelarch The sills of an Alfasud series III after seven years of all-year use.general the earlier the car the more likely it is to be seriously rusted and I can remember as a youth reading 70`s road test reports from UK commenting on rust in their new test examples- generally in the boot and on the edges of the doors. The reality is sadly that most of the early examples have long gone - rusted away in damp Northern Europe or humid climates and because they were overshadowed by the more powerful, more luxurious, and better built series 2`s and 3`s - they were largely forgotten about and probably were less well cared for by subsequent owners - but an early car is certainly worth retaining for it`s design purity and historical interest. If you come across one treasure it. In all the variants there are areas of the body that are more consistent in their ability to rust than others-if you can get the car on a hoist life will be a lot easier because you will need to look underneath first. I would suggest a torch / inspection light and a screwdriver because you will need to poke at one or two places, especially if there appears any newish underseal. Have a look at the chassis rails in the engine bay and look for any signs ofNasty surprises... serious rust or poorly repaired accident damage. This is essential structure for both strength and an integral part of Alfa`s crumple zone in case of frontal collision.

If this is faulty think very, very seriously about buying or retaining the car - it can be fixed but only by a proper panel shop with all the right gear. If this area passes the test next look to where the steering rack is mounted and check for rust-this area can be repaired more easily .

Next area to check is the bottom rear of the front wheel arches where the sill begins-up until the later Sprints this area was not fitted with plastic wheel arch liners and copped all the road muck thrown up by the driven front wheels. It is small and narrow - ideal to trap and retain anything thrown its way and is a great place for rust to start. 
Look next at the floor particularly where it joins the wheel arch and the sill, then the brake lines running down beside the sill / floor join, then the fuel tank, An A-pillar after seven years.then the chassis outriggers at the rear of the car, especially around the suspension links for obvious reasons. Above the car on the upper body the most common place for rust even on quite tidy cars is the base of the left hand A pillar around the bottom corner of the windscreen-lift the rubber to check (for some reason this side seems more prone to rust than the right side but nonetheless check that side also). If there is rust, the screen has to come out.

While you are around there lift the rubber (with the bonnet open) that seals the well in front of the windscreen – there is usually rust under this rubber just where the front guard joins. 

While the bonnet is open check the well in front of the screen especially around the battery as battery acid spillages often have removed the paint and allowed rust to take hold, or spillages of brake fluid below the brake master cylinder have removed paint and allowed rust to develop there also. While the bonnet is open look at the area within the well just under where the front guard joins Don't image who it will look under this front fender!the side of the well –there is a grommet around the area you should look at - this is in fact the inner edge of the top chassis rail-most important to the structure of the car and if heavily rusted my comments about the bottom chassis rails apply - if you have the luxury ofRust wherever you look... time unbolt the front guards (not a big job) and have a proper look - it is one of the most likely places to find rust-and is so important yet is one of the most difficult places to see properly without removal of the guards – it’s a foam filled box section which probably absorbed atmospheric moisture from the day the car was built and on the outside was bombarded by all the grit, salt etc that the roadwheels could throw at it. In many of the markets the Alfasud was sold, it wouldn`t have stood a chance. Sprints for some reason up until the introduction of the wheel arch liners seem worse in this area. The rear edge of the front guards is also prone to rot on all the Suds, plus pre wheel arch lined Sprints but generally this is obvious and only cosmetic. Sprints for some reason seem to rust on the door pillar under where the top hinge is mounted and if left unchecked can be serious but check any Sud there. Look then at the outer sill panel and if a series 2 Ti or series 3 with the plastic protectors see if you can take the protectors off and check the panel as for some reason paint adhesion wasn`t great in this area and often around the holes for the plastic clips the paint has come off in clips the paint has come off in big clumps exposing bare metal to all the elements with consequent rusting - again this is an important structural part of the car and it is critical these panels
This is how it looks when the rust has come through from below the front fenders

Rusty tailgate of an Alfasud Giardinetta (Photo by Achim Maier)maintain their structural integrity, but they are accessable and reasonably cheap and easy to fix if not too far gone. Next place to look is on the two door cars is underneath the rear side widows-open them up and have a good look as I`ve seen many tidy looking cars rusted there. On Sprints this window opens down and rusting is obvious because this area isn`t hidden. Finally onto the back of the car - if it`s a series 3 hatch check the bottomA rear panel of a 1988 Sprint.corners of the rear window (common to all metal tailgates whatever the brand), if pre hatch check around the boot hinges where the hinges join the body and the seam where the rear panel joins the rear side panels, then lift the carpet and check the spare wheel well and boot floor. You will also be able to pick up whether the car has been involved in a serious accident and whether the car has been repaired well. Often the source of rust comes from poorly carried out repairs from an industry under pressure from the Insurance Industry to cut costs and get vehicles back on the road as quickly as possible so if you find the car has been involved in a decent crash go over very thoroughly.

 
Mechanics and electrics

Mechanically these cars are tough, utilising excellent materials and low production tolerances, but electrically are inferior to cheap cars such as Ford etc.

Electrics
Check to make sure all the electrics work. I always check the multi-function steering column switches first as these control lights, blinkers, horn, wipers, washers, heater fan, and headlamp flashers. If something is not working and the switch is not broken (they are easily broken by the clumsy and unsympathetic) suspect dirty contacts in the switch or poor earth or poor contact at the fuse block. These switches I understand are hard to come by now and as they control so many functions it is important they still work or at least aren`t broken-they can be carefully taken apart if need be, although Alfa 33 switches can be adapted with a little rewiring for fan function.

Brakes
Next to check are the brakes, an all disc system ,being inboard at the front. The Sprints which were built from 1984 to 1989 adapted theHinterradbremse eines Sprint mit vier Scheibenbremsen. brake system of the 33 which means that there are outboard front discs and drums at the rear. There seem to be three problems most often struck:

  • The handbrake is either not working or not releasing fully.
  • Oil from either the engine or gearbox is getting onto the discs themselves with subsequent loss of braking efficiency.
  • The rear discs do not work effectively due to under use. 

Many of the front brake problems are caused by “fiddlers” not following the appropriate procedures when adjusting after installation of new pads or trying to adjust a handbrake they think is ineffective. Follow the specified procedures, use the brakes hard at least once a day when driving the car to keep the pad / disc clearance up, use the brakes hard in reverse so that the rears get a good workout and bring pad / disc clearance up and you will find the brakes are superb being both highly effective and maintainance free. Oil contamination is obvious and must be fixed immediately - you may avoid remedying the source of minor leaks and maintaining serviceable brakes by cleaning with engine cleaner around the brake discs/calipers and leak source and then whenever you wash the car give around the brake area a good strong jet of water. (Make sure to spray the handbrake levers on top of the calipers with light lubricant to avoid them sticking).

Transmission
The gearboxes on these cars are robust with second gear synchromesh being the most common fault but you can generally live with this if not effecting the reliability of the car and is a great time to learn the art of double declutching ,or just change gear slowly - wait till the clutch needs replacement unless you choose to do a gearbox overhaul which involves both motor and gearbox coming out from below. There is one other more common problem with the gearbox / diff unit – broken spidergears generally showing up as noise on the move and can be repaired without taking the gearbox out. Remember these gearboxes are noisy normally when the car is idling at rest and your foot is off the clutch pedal. The first time I noticed this was after a hard drive in my 6 month old 1981 Alfasud Ti when I got out of the car to open the gates to my drive, I thought the conrod bearings in the motor had gone - it does a marvellous impression and it wasn`t until I put my foot on the clutch again to move that I realised the noise had gone. Since then I`ve come across technical articles explaining why these gearboxes make this noise but basically it is the way the gears are cut .
Driveshafts are also robust and do not require any special checks from the normal of boot inspection and driving the car at full lock in both directions to check for wear.

Engine
The boxer engines like all the Alfa Romeo engines are bullet proof providing they have had the appropriate oil and filter changes and the corrosion inhibitor replaced at the manufacturer`s schedule. They are extremely stiff, well made with generous bearing areas, the materials used are above average quality , they have strong crankshafts and best of all the maximum piston speeds even at high engine speeds are low resulting in excellent bore, piston ring and piston life. Wear usually is shown in valve guide wear with some oil smoke on startup especially when left overnight and a puff of blue smoke between gearchanges when the car is driven hard. The multi carbed versions can suffer from poor idle sometimes Weber carbed cars in particular being more prevalent and this can be through poor adjustment ,or as often the case from blocked idle jets, especially the rear left cylinder (# 4). The motors are usually quiet especially in comparison to Alfa`s twin cam 4 so if a rumbling noise is heard from the front of the motor stop the motor and grab the water pump pulley - located beneath the alternator and check for play. If there is any, replacement is the only option. Finally like any belt driven overhead cam engine make sure the cambelts (there are two - one for each bank) are in excellent condition - if there is no documentation proving that the belts have been changed according to the manufacturer`s schedule assume they need to be changed. Broken belts cause real damage

 
Summary

In summary they are a simple motorcar compared to modern cars and were specifically designed to be both easy to service and enjoy long service intervals. Apart from servicing the front inboard disc brakes on the later twin carb versions they achieved that objective. Get a good one and they are still a car capable of being used daily in modern traffic but most of all bringing the “grin factor” back to your motoring.


Last Update: November, 1st 2005        Created: January, 24th 2001

© Text by Richard Jones and Tim Rauen. Layout by Tim Rauen. Photos by Dietmar Kristandl, Jordi Brunet, Achim Maier and Tim Rauen.