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Italo Disco Inferno

Antti Kautonen November 2, 2011 Cars You Should Know, Finnish Line 16 Comments

Alfa Romeo Alfa 33, 1988. Accompanied by a crumpled Fiat.

I recently came across a triptych of increasingly rare ’70s-’80s Italian hatches. I took the time on a chilly weekday evening to go grab some photos of them; to be honest, it doesn’t look like any of them is moving anytime soon. One of them has been for sale on the car service forecourt for ages, the other seems to have faced a large, immovable object; and the third is stuck in registration limbo for possibly all eternity.

So, with a post-Halloween chill in my bones, I figured these three cars must currently reside in the Waiting Room of Hell for Italian Hatchbacks.

Can you imagine the fruity, rorty boxer exhaust note?

Grippable three-spoke wheel right there.

The first one of these three is a 1988 Alfa Romeo Alfa 33 1.7. Finished in a graphite grey hue, it sort of resembles a grey terrier, wagging its tail at the possibility to dive into serpentine corners. It is rather old and weary by now; the Italian Tin Worm has left some marks on it but with reasonable work it could very well be rescued. It has received a factory fresh heart transplant 80 000 km ago, but instead of a more creative swap it sports yet another 1750cc boxer engine producing 125 hp.

The car is a featherweight, though, and sitting in the (rather icky) replacement Recaro seat one could very well experience some motoring con brio.

Correct wheels.

Fuel and rust enter here.

Chatting to a service tech while having an oil change done, I heard it has been put up for sale by an Alfa Romeo enthusiast. Why he no longer feels enthusiastic about the 33 is anyone’s guess; despite being offloaded the Alfa has had a comprehensive brake overhaul, carb adjustment and some cooling work and is described to be in full working order. Even the inspection is valid for all of 13 months from now.

It also features some aerodynamic adjustments in the form of aerofoils in both front windows and on the aftermarket sunroof; the latter of which has sadly had the paint lift on its edges. Other rust spots are down low at the wheelarches, waiting to be rectified. The plates, though, mark it down as a Lapland car originally, and up there they do not pour salt on the road as much as down south – definitely a factor that has contributed to the Alfa’s reasonable condition. If it were a Helsinki car, it would be a cube of brown bits by now.

Let’s move on to the olive green one.

3/4 of a 127.

“Yo, Adrian!”

The next car in line is a late-’70s-early-’80s MkII Fiat 127. It does seem to have been a well-kept car, since it’s actually really clean inside out and is definitely not a rust victim (if you don’t mind a few token bubbles). However, its fate lies unknown as the front of the car has been mangled beyond repair in an offside crash. A real shame; these little Italians are fun to toss around and have real character. I originally learned to drive in one, an end-of-line 1984 5-speed example that currently lies in a rust-induced coma in the countryside, under a tree.

The 903cc engine is simple to work on and despite the compact measurements, these cars actually have a good amount of cabin room thanks to good packaging. As a downside, the driving position is classic Italian Ape Standard – long arms, short legs – and crash protection is probably at the same level as a Yugo’s.

Brink.. of destruction?


Car number three is a rarity anywhere outside southern Italy: a facelift model Alfa Romeo Alfasud. I don’t know if these were originally imported here since you absolutely never see any here. This 1.2-litre five-door in deep, deep chocolate brown is a predecessor to the 33, and they share common mechanicals. A German import, it stands in fine condition, isn’ t rusty and would very well make an Italian car show condition example if it only got out of the forecourt.

The tech I talked to said it belongs to the same guy who owns the 33 and due to a registration squabble it hasn’t yet made it between plates and has nowhere else to go. I’m sure it will be picked up by another Alfa enthusiast at some point; despite looking more like a Saab than an actual Alfa Romeo, these cars are so rare in this condition that it will most likely be saved. It’s just a question of “When?”

So, despite being on a Bosch Car Service forecourt instead of a , none of these cars are anywhere close to a twisty back road heaven. 1200 euro brings the Alfa 33 home; while it is not a lot, it seems to be too much for an Alfa with bubbling paint since the car hasn’t left its spot. It hasn’t marked its spot, either, which is rare for a youngtimer Italian.

The 127 would make a great parts car for someone restoring a similar one. While Fiat parts are relatively easily obtained here, non-rusty doors or trim pieces are harder to come by, let alone a complete good-condition interior. It just needs a chance to donate its precious bits for a project in need.

And the Alfasud? Only time will tell. 
Brace yourselves, fratelli, winter is coming.


  • dukeisduke

    Is that some kind of trailer hitch on the 127? I have to say, I did a better job of exterminating a Fiat back in 1979:

    The rust stain trails down the side of the 33 are certainly interesting.

    • julkinen

      I hope that's just rubber reviver that's running down due to it having rained.

      • dukeisduke

        I dunno, looks like rust to me. Too bad it's not a white car; then we could tell for sure.

        I wonder if the 127 was repainted – there's a different ugly shade of green under the hood.

        Just get all three running, and hold an impromptu demolition derby.

    • Manic_King

      Yes it is a trailer hitch, on a 903cc very small car, I wonder what kind of tow capacity it could have, 2 bags of mulch?

      When soviets created 5 door version of Lada Samara, owners noticed soon that after some towing doors wouldn't close properly anymore. Car was that soft and weak. This green Fiat looks also a bit fragile.

      • I'd tow with it, but that is admittedly a low standard.

      • navelboxaren

        I am a bit late to the party here, but my dad had a Fiat Tipo with a Uno engine. Cheapskate special. 1.4 liters of the finest carburetor technology Italy had to offer in 1988. Manual choke and everything, very advanced. Used to have three bikes on the roof, a full trailer and three kids in the back seat. It managed the 80kph that is allowed with a trailer, though it took all afternoon to get there.

  • Alff

    I'll swap you a couple of GM x-body cars for those Alfas.

  • tonyola

    While Alfasuds might or might not have been imported where you live, the sad truth is that there aren't many left in running condition anywhere. Besides the usual iffy Alfa reliability, the bodies quickly got a reputation for being water-soluble and what should have been a great little car ended up being a near-disaster for the company.

  • Number_Six

    I'm really digging the letters from Finland. Nice work, Antti!

  • dukeisduke

    I always kinda liked the funky styling of the Alfasud.

    Antti, what kind of place is this where the pictures were taken? It almost reminds me of an airport.

    • I wonder too, the hitch is Dutch (Brink Staphorst near where I was born) but licence plates not,

    • julkinen

      It's a district just outside town with businesses, garages and whatnot. The cars are on a car service's forecourt, and that curved wood-paneled building in the distance is a car dealership (M-B, Opel, Chevrolet et al).

      The trailer hitch cap can be from something commercial fitted with a Dutch hitch.

  • Syrax

    They probably didn't change much when they made the Zastava Koral so I guess the crash protection really IS the same level.

  • Van Sarockin

    Trifecta! For the right price (so, how much will you pay me?) the Alfas should be pretty sweet. Drive them for a little, then sell them quick to a bigger fool. I've looked at a bunch of Milanos that sounded good, but turned out to be fright pigs in person. At least you know what you're buying into.

    The 127 is now a 121. It's been improved by the addition of the Outlaw dirt track spoiler, considerately located over the driver wheels, and provided with enough stagger to really help you around the ovals.

  • My dentist used to have a 33 Cloverleaf Sportwagon 4×4. I have never seen another one in the UK since.

    He later owned an NSX. A lesson to kids everywhere; looking after your teeth and brushing regularly helps to prevent dentists from buying ever cooler cars.

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