Alfasud Sprint – A Most Glorious Folly

I’ve got a new guest in my front yard πŸ™‚

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It’s a 1982 Alfa Romeo Sprint Veloce. Also known as an Alfasud Sprint. It’s basically an Alfasud – it shares the exact same chassis and mechanicals – with a small Alfetta-like body thrown on top.

Regular readers would know that I have one of these on my automotive bucket list but no, I didn’t buy this car. It belongs to my mate Gavin, who’s written on this site a few times. He needed somewhere to park it for a few weeks and I was happy to oblige – so long as I got to take it for a spin once in a while.

So here’s a quick review….

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Exterior

As previously mentioned, the Sprint has a body that mimics the Alfetta, better known as the GTV of the mid-70’s to mid-80’s. Some will remember that I used to have a GTV6 so I’m fond of the shape already. To me, though, the shape looks better in these shorter proportions that what it does on its bigger brother.

This is the earlier, more elegant silver-bumper model. Gavin’s removed the bumpers from the front and the rear and replaced the rear bumper with a pair corner bumpers from another car.

The other modifications are the wheels and wheel arches. The car is now sitting on some very wide 8-spoke minilites from Performance and shod with Kuhmo Ecsta tyres. Very grippy.

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The wheels and the flared arches divide opinion. I’ve come to like them, though I wish the car was lowered 30-40mm. It’d look a whole lot better.

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Interior

In October 2012, the Australian government implemented plain packaging laws for cigarettes. All cigarette companies have to sell their product in the same package – a drab greenish-brown specifically selected because a survey of thousands of people determined it to be the most unattractive colour – in the world.

The colour is Pantone 448C and as you can see, it fits in perfectly with the greenish brown interior of the Sprint.

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The seats are quite possibly the most uncomfortable seats in motoring. They have something – a steel bar or maybe a brick – in the seat squab right where your butt wants to be. As a consequence you sit several inches forward from the seat back, positioned as some sort of apprentice hunchback.

The driving position is classic Italian – short legs and long arms. And the pedals are made with ballerinas in mind. Here’s a shot with my size 10 Florsheim on the accelerator to lend some perspective.

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In a wonderful piece of Italian design, the small rear hatch has no exterior button to open it. The only way to open it is from a cable-release located inside the car. And in RHD markets like Australia, the cable release is on the passenger side of the car.

Brilliant.

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The Drive

The car’s sitting too high. It’s got a hatch you can’t get into very easily from an interior that matches the most unattractive colour in the Pantone palette. That interior wants to turn you into a cripple with its back-breaking seats and freaky pedal and wheel position.

On the driving side, I have to say up front that it doesn’t have much power. And the guys who designed the 1.5 litre boxer engine didn’t learn about torque until they made the 16-valve version of the engine that graced my old Alfa 33’s.

I haven’t quite figured out yet whether the friction surfaces that comprise the brakes are made from suede or cotton. It might be cotton.

But none of that matters.

The Sprint drives like a hormonal teenager with a personality disorder. The secret to getting the most from it is the tachometer, keeping the car one gear lower than you’d expect to. Keep the revs low and you’ve got a grumpy, sleepy teen that’s disinterested in everything around it.

Get it above 4,000 and you’ve got an ADHD wunderkind with an insatiable lust for life, keen to attack every corner in its path. The car comes alive in such a wonderful way that you can forgive every one of its design and execution faults. The sound from the little boxer is almost cartoonish and totally addictive. The pop and crackle on the overrun is just magical.

Put short – the Alfa Romeo Alfasud Sprint Veloce is more fun than a sack full of puppies.

There are a million reasons to walk away from an Alfasud Sprint. There are two compelling reasons to drive it, though, and that sparkling engine along with its magical handling will keep you coming back again, and again, and again.

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My dream of inserting a 16V engine in one of these is alive and well. Slot in some decent recaros, some decent brakes, reduce the weight a little more and maybe convert the 16V to run on carbs and you’ve got a recipe for endless weekend fun.

Love it.

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19 Comments

  1. What is wrong with the suspension? Looks like an off-road rally car on street wheels. Did he change the wheel diameters? Just wondering?

  2. The Sud is one af the most enjoyable saloons I ever had in my garage. The only one to compare is a Gr2 tuned Saab 96 “short nose”.

    1. I don’t think it’d be a problem. There’s heaps of clearance right now and the short wheelbase on these cars makes the hump less of an issue.

      Check out the low-ness of my 33. Same size vehicle, much lower, but never a humping problem.

      Alfa Romeo 33

      1. is there a post somewhere about your 33? I’ve developed a fondness for them and would love to know what you thought about yours.

        1. I don’t think I’ve done one, Dan. Not like this, at least.

          I’ve had two 33’s. One was good and one was not so good. I owned the good one when I was writing about Saab and people occasionally got a little sick of me talking about it. So this type of post was never written.

          Maybe it’s time. There was plenty to talk about. As long as you get a good one, it’s amazing affordable fun.

          1. There’s definitely something about them, and it’s not just the 16V. They look fantastic dressed up in racing colours, a little awkward in day-to-day clothes, but hot as the metaphorical cat-on-a-tin-roof’s paws from certain angles (mostly the rear) when they’re in good shape.

            I’d like one. But i’ve probably just seen too many pictures of the Sifredi show-car and race-spec versions. Mine would be ratty.

            Tell us about yours when you have the time.

  3. Nice bit of ‘hand brake block’ happening there! I do recall it was a job and a half to do the handbrake adjustment.

  4. Granddad had an early 80s Alfasud. Lovely car that he swore was the best he’d ever driven. Unreliable though (not surprising to most). I have some pics somewhere. His fondness for it stuck in my mind, hence my Alfa when it was time to move the Saab on.

  5. One of my most missed cars is my ’88 Alfa Sprint Green Cloverleaf. I loved that car. It had oversized wheels and a nice ANSA exhaust and drove a dream! I should never have sold it. I wonder where it is now….. πŸ™‚

  6. Don’t forget the 1.7 8v twin carb motor. I have one in my Sud with the earlier shorter ratio gearbox. It’s great. Has good torque and its peak is at a much lower rpm than the 16v so its very tractable. Decent power too – 84kW. Considering the Sud / Sprints weigh about 890kg thats a decent power / weight ratio for a small car.

    Notice you have a nice silver Saab 9000 there. I have a 1993 9000 Griffin. Guess Saab / Alfa ownership is common!

    1. Is that the mechanical tappet engine? I’ve heard that’s the one to get. I’d love to put one in a Sprint, one day. They’re pretty rare, though, right?

      Yeah, that’s our Aero. Not so great, but doing it’s job. And yes, there are a few people who have the Saab/Alfa connection. It’s a nice combination.

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