Text by Richard Jones and Tim Rauen
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.
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 in 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 of 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.
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 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 of 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
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 bottomcorners 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.
Mechanically these cars are tough, utilising excellent materials and low production tolerances, but electrically are inferior to cheap cars such as Ford etc.
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).
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.