Alfa 33: La Linea Del Successo

The 33 was intended as a slightly more premium proposition than the Alfasud, and it largely succeeded thanks to the creativity of the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo, headed by the great Ermanno Cressoni.



By the end of the 1970s, Alfa Romeo had new management with an ambitious plan to return the ailing firm to profitability. The Alfasud was to be replaced by two new models, one built in a joint venture with another manufacturer, the other designed in-house by the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo, headed by the great Ermanno Cressoni. Alfa did not have the resources to design a completely new car, but thankfully it didn't have to: the Alfasud's lines had undoubtedly aged, but its lusty boxer engines and sharp handling had not. Launched in 1983, the Alfa 33 owed its name to the legendary sports-prototypes that raced in the 1960s and 70s, but underneath it was very much are-bodied Alfasud, the main difference being its braking system. The front discs were moved from the previous "inboard" position close to the differential to the wheel hubs, making servicing easier. The rear discs were replaced by drums, because cheap!

It's only in 1989 that Alfa Romeo decides to use the 4WD system to enhance the handling and safety of the fastest 33, the 1.7 16v.

The 33 was intended as a slightly more premium proposition than the Alfasud, and it largely succeeded thanks to the creativity of the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo. Cressoni's team "two-and-a-half" volumes solution made the 33 very unique and gave it a more upmarket image that genuinely resonated with customers, making the Alfa 33 an overnight success.

Another very inspired move on Alfa Romeo's part has been the introduction of the 33 Giardinetta, styled by Pininfarina and later known as "Sport-Wagon." Its blend of elegant style, compact dimensions, and performance made it a very unique market proposition, especially once four-wheel-drive became available too!

By 1990 the 33 was starting to show its age, but, as its eventual replacement was still way off, the 33 received a significant makeover, enough to warrant the model a new chassis code.

At this point, it's essential to understand that not all 4WD 33s are created equal. The system was initially intended as a way to improve mobility on unpaved roads, as the lack of a central differential made it unsuitable for use on tarmac. Therefore traction on the rear wheels had to be manually selected by the driver, much like a Panda 4x4. It's only in 1989 that Alfa Romeo decides to use the 4WD system to enhance the handling and safety of the fastest 33, the 1.7 16v. On the 33 "Permanent 4," the two axles are joined by a Ferguson-type viscous coupling, which automatically redistributes torque between the two axles according to driving conditions.

By 1990 the 33 was starting to show its age, but, as its eventual replacement was still way off, the 33 received a significant makeover, enough to warrant the model a new chassis code. Both ends of the car were redesigned, accentuating the 33's sporty wedge shape, but I believe the end result looked more convincing on the higher trim levels, which benefited from color-coded bumpers and larger wheels. I have to admit that my favorite 33s are the earlier models, built between 1983 and 1986, with their sleeker style, neat flush-fitting door handles, and the cool "pod-type" dashboard with separate instrument binnacle.

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